Interested in forging a new life in the land of the free? The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program makes it possible. Tens of thousands of immigrant investors and their families have already set up house in the United States after completing a successful EB-5 investment. Investors need only make a largely passive investment of $900,000 (if the project is in a targeted employment area, or TEA; otherwise the minimum investment amount is $1.8 million) and satisfy certain program requirements, such as the creation of at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers. Upon successful completion of an EB5 investment, the investor and their immediate family members are eligible for U.S. green cards.
Step 1: Read Up on the Program
The first step to an EB-5 investment is ensuring the EB-5 program is the right choice for you and your family. Understand the key EB-5 requirements: an investment of $1.8 million or $900,000 (depending on the TEA status of the project), the creation of at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers, comprehensive documentation proving the lawful sources of the investment capital, and the maintenance of the capital at risk for the duration of the EB5 investment. Investing through a USCIS-approved regional center can facilitate some of the requirements, such as the creation of 10 full-time jobs, and make it easier to obtain an EB-5 visa.
Step 2: Conduct Due Diligence to Select a Project
Once you decide to undertake an EB-5 investment, you’ll have to carefully select the right EB-5 project for you, which requires meticulous due diligence. Unlike a typical investment, when you make an EB5 investment, you have to consider not just financial risk but also immigration risk. How likely is it that a prospective project will create enough jobs to account for all participating EB-5 investors?
To protect your finances, it’s also important to consider the conditions of the investment, the exit strategy, and other financial considerations. However, investors must ensure their EB-5 investment capital remains at risk throughout the entire investment period, which may even involve redeploying the capital, depending on United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing speeds. Failure to maintain the capital at risk can jeopardize an investor’s immigration eligibility.
Step 3: Make the Investment and File Your I-526 Petition
After choosing a suitable EB-5 project, it’s time to commit your capital to the designated escrow account and start compiling your I-526 petition, which is the first form an EB-5 investor formally files with USCIS. Putting together an I-526 petition can be difficult and time-consuming, and EB-5 investors are advised to seek immigration legal counsel as they navigate this process.
For those making an EB5 investment through a regional center, the regional center will generally provide the project-side documentation. However, investors are also responsible for demonstrating the legal sources of their EB-5 investment capital, and depending on the sources and country, this process can be tricky. Working with an EB-5 immigration lawyer can dramatically facilitate the process and reduce the likelihood of receiving a request for evidence (RFE) from USCIS.
Investors making an EB-5 in a TEA project must also provide documentation justifying the project’s TEA designation. The necessary documents will depend on the type of TEA at hand: a rural TEA or a high-unemployment TEA. USCIS outlines strict rules for the TEA designation documentation procedure, but again, regional centers will generally provide their investors with the necessary papers.
Once an investor submits their I-526 petition, they receive a priority date. For investors from high-demand countries, who may face backlogs, the priority date determines eligibility to receive (or even just apply) for an EB-5 visa.
Step 4: Apply for an EB-5 Visa
Once an investor receives I-526 approval on their EB5 investment, they’re finally eligible to apply for a U.S. green card. Investors residing overseas must file a DS-260 with their local U.S. embassy or consulate and undergo an in-person visa interview. Investors who already live in the United States on a different visa have an easier process, as they may simply file an I-485 petition to adjust their U.S. immigration status.
Investors from backlogged countries—as of April 2021, China and Vietnam—will have to keep an eye on the final action dates and dates for filing in the monthly Visa Bulletins. Given the excessive demand for EB-5 investments among Chinese and Vietnamese nationals, supply is insufficient, and investors must wait until an EB-5 visa becomes available for them. When the date for filing moves ahead of their priority date, they may submit their EB-5 visa application, and when the final action date moves beyond their priority date, they are finally eligible to receive their EB-5 green card.
Step 5: Live in the United States for Two Years and File an I-829 Petition
As soon as an investor and their qualifying family members receive their green cards, they may relocate to the United States and reap all the benefits of U.S. permanent resident status. However, initially, they are residing on two-year conditional permanent resident status. Throughout these two years, the investor must keep their EB-5 investment capital at risk, and within the final 90 days of their conditional permanent residency period, they must submit an I-829 petition to remove the conditions. On the I-829 petition, they must demonstrate that they kept their EB5 investment funds at risk for the entire two years and created the necessary 10 new jobs for U.S. workers. Investors are encouraged to work with an EB-5 immigration lawyer at this stage as well.
Step 6: Obtain U.S. Permanent Resident Status
Upon approval of the I-829 petition, an investor’s EB5 investment journey is finally over, and they may live indefinitely in the United States with their spouse and qualifying children. As a permanent resident, a green card holder may live, work, study, and travel freely anywhere in the United States, and they may enjoy many of the same privileges that U.S. citizens do, such as in-state tuition savings for universities, access to state-of-the-art health care facilities, and free public education for their children. An optional additional step is to apply for U.S. citizenship, which is possible after five years of permanent residency (including the two years of conditional permanent residency).