In 1990, Congress was looking for ways to boost job creation in the United States while pumping money into the economy. The result was the EB-5 immigrant investor visa category. Designed to lure wealthy foreign investors, the visa offered a path to lawful permanent residency for entrepreneurs and their families. Each year, the Immigration and Nationality Act provides EB-5 investors with approximately 10,000 visas, 3,000 of which go to Regional Center Program investors who devote resources to targeted employment areas (TEA).
What Is the Regional Center Program?
Created in 1992, the Regional Center Program, also known as the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, allows eligible foreign entrepreneurs to invest in Regional Centers instead of commercial enterprises. One of the benefits of investing in TEA Regional Centers is that the investment requirement is lower: $500,000 instead of $1 million. The reduced rate stems from the fact that these areas tend to be in greater need of employment opportunities. Not only can Regional Centers combine resources to achieve larger goals, but they also have different job creation requirements, making it easier for investors to meet EB-5 standards.
EB-5 and Regional Center Program Eligibility Requirements
To qualify for the traditional EB-5 Program, every foreign investor must provide financial support to a business that directly creates or maintains a minimum of 10 full-time jobs. One of the benefits of the Regional Center Program is that investors can meet the requirement by creating 10 direct, indirect, or induced jobs. It’s worth noting that the amount of capital investors can raise is limited by the number of jobs. For example, a project manager for a TEA project expected to yield 30 jobs can raise a maximum of $1.5 million in EB-5 capital from three foreign investors.
Choosing Appropriate Investments
Not all investments qualify foreign entrepreneurs for entry into the EB-5 Program. In order to be considered for this type of immigrant visa, individuals must invest a sum of $1 million (or $500,00 for a Regional Center project). Capital may be in the form of cash, equipment, property, inventory, or loans. Note that administrate, attorney, and management fees do not count toward the investment requirement. Additoinally, foreign investors should be able to demonstrate that they are the legal owner of all relevant capital.
To qualify for a visa, individuals also have to show that they already placed funds in an “at-risk” investment or that they are in the process of doing so. The “at-risk” distinction indicates that there is no guaranteed return on investment. Further, investors should be able to demonstrate that funds have been made available to the business venture in question.
Important Forms for Immigrant Investors
Aspiring immigrant investors need to fill out a number of forms before securing an EB-5 visa. These include:
I-526 Petition by Alien Entrepreneur – This document is used as evidence that an eligible investor has made or is currently in the process of making an investment in a suitable project. To meet the requiements, individuals must show that they intend to manage the investment’s daily activities or serve as a policy advisor. Additionally, investors must provide a buisiness plan demonstrating that their project will result in 10 jobs.
I-485 Application – This form functions as an application to register permanent residence or adjust an applicant’s status. To become a conditional permanent resident of the United States, individuals must provide the following: birth certificate, marriage certificate, passport, non-immigrant visa, vaccination records, and medical examination documents. Additionally, aspiring investors should be prepared to supply a form I-797 C, an approved I-526 petition, fingerprints, current photos, signatures, and any criminal history documents.
I-829 Petition – This form removes conditions on investors and allows them to become full, lawful permanent residents of the United States. Requirements to file include a conditional green card, evidence of investment, evidence of job creation, photos, and fingerprints.
Questions to Consider When Selecting an Investment Project
Prospective applicants should take care to choose a project that meets their needs and goals while adhering to the program requirements. Here are some questions to ask yourself before investing in a commerical enterprise or Regional Center:
• Do I want to manage the investment on my own or leave that up to the Regional Center?
• How open am I to taking risks in this investment?
• How much do I know about the industry in question?
• Have I conducted due dilligence on the projects I’m considering?
When embarking on the EB-5 journey, it’s crucial to find a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in immigration and business law. Ready to get started with the EB-5 investment process? Call today or send us a message!