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Who Is Eligible for a U.S. Green Card under the EB-5 Program?


The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is one of the quickest and easiest ways for foreign nationals to gain permanent resident status in the United States. Established in 1990, the program continues to be a popular option for foreign investors, with thousands obtaining U.S. green cards through the program throughout its 30 years.

The program was introduced to stimulate the U.S. economy and create new jobs by bringing in foreign capital. To incentivize foreign investment, the program promises investors U.S. green cards for themselves and their immediate family members as long as they meet certain requirements, including a minimum investment amount, proof that all their capital was obtained lawfully, and the creation of at least 10 new full-time jobs for U.S. workers.

EB-5 investors can invest in an EB-5 project in one of two ways: either directly or through a regional center. While both pathways lead to the same outcome—a U.S. green card—as long as the EB-5 investor meets all the requirements, their preferences will dictate which is more suitable for them. Investors with substantial managerial experience who wish to have more control over their investment may prefer to opt for direct investment, which generally entails active involvement in the day-to-day management of the new commercial enterprise (NCE).

Conversely, EB-5 investors seeking minimal managerial involvement in the NCE and who do not wish to be tied to a particular location may prefer investing through a regional center. Regional center investment, by far the more popular EB-5 investment route, offers additional benefits, as well. Regional center projects are more likely to qualify for targeted employment area (TEA) status, allowing the investor to invest only $900,000 in the project, as opposed to the $1.8 million otherwise required. Additionally, regional center EB-5 investors can count indirect and induced jobs toward their EB-5 job creation, making the requirement far easier to satisfy.

Key Requirements of the EB-5 Program

The EB-5 program is open to all foreign nationals with the fiscal means to invest. The minimum required investment amount is $1.8 million, unless the project is in a TEA, in which case it is halved to $900,000. A qualifying EB-5 project is a for-profit commercial enterprise conducting legal business activity. To be eligible for a U.S. green card, an EB-5 investor must show, at the end of their investment period, that their capital resulted in the creation of a minimum of 10 new full-time jobs for U.S. citizens or residents.

Another factor of eligibility is the requirement to provide proof-of-funds documentation to prove the lawful source(s) of the EB-5 capital. EB-5 funds can come from any number of sources as long as the investor can present a preponderance of evidence that they were obtained within the law.

While most EB-5 projects are new business ventures, in certain cases, troubled businesses may also qualify for the program. In these cases, the EB-5 investor’s job is to save at least 10 full-time jobs. It’s okay if jobs are lost as long as enough new jobs were created to offset the losses—the total number of jobs at the business must not be lower at the end of the investment period than it was at the beginning.

Green Cards for Investors and Their Families

In many cases, EB-5 investors have a spouse and children they wish to move to the United States with. Throughout the EB-5 process, the investor can include their spouse and unmarried children younger than 21 on their petitions and obtain U.S. green cards for them, as well.

First, EB-5 investors must file Form I-526. Upon approval, they may apply for two-year conditional permanent resident status for themselves and their family. Then, within 90 days before their conditional permanent resident status expires, they must file Form I-829 to remove the conditions. If they can demonstrate their investment met all the requirements, including the job creation (or maintenance) requirement, they are granted unconditional permanent resident status.

U.S. green cards offer EB-5 investors and their families numerous advantages, including the freedom to live, work, study, and travel freely within the United States. After five years of permanent resident status, EB-5 investors and their family members may even apply for U.S. citizenship.