EB5 PROGRAM OVERVIEW
In 1990, under section 203(b) (5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. Â§ 1153(b) (5), Congress created the fifth employment-based preference (EB-5) immigrant visa category for qualified foreign investors seeking to invest in a business that benefits the U.S. economy by creating or preserving at least 10 full-time jobs.
The initial amount required for foreigners to invest is $1 million, although that number is reduced to $500,000 if the investment is made in an area designated as rural or facing high unemployment. Approximately 10,000 green cards are available through the EB-5 program each year.
In 1992, U.S. Congress created the Regional Center Pilot Program in order to promote immigration and investment through EB-5 and further encourage foreign investment in the United States. The Regional Center Pilot Program allows for a portion of allowable annual EB-5 Visas to be set aside for foreigners who apply through a USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) approved Regional Center.
A Regional Center is a private enterprise, corporation or regional governmental agency with a targeted investment program within a defined geographic region. The Regional Center program in many ways mirrors long active and successful investment-employment based programs in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and other foreign nations.
An investor seeking an EB-5 immigrant visa through a designated regional center must make a qualifying investment of $1 million and demonstrate that at least 10 jobs were directly or indirectly created through the investment. However, certain rural and high unemployment areas (TEAs – Targeted Employment Areas) qualify for a reduced capital investment of $500,000. A targeted employment area is defined as an area that has 1.5 times the national unemployment rate or a population under 20,000.
Using a USCIS approved job creation methodology, EB5 develops and maintains detailed economic reports to measure and verify direct and indirect job creation for qualified projects.
Before participating in a Regional Center EB-5 investment program, each investor independently petitions USCIS for an EB-5 visa. Qualified investors investing through a Regional Center receive a conditional green card valid for two years. Upon receipt of conditional permanent resident status, the investor and immediate family are entitled to the same benefits as other lawful permanent residents.
Once the conditions are removed at the end of the 24-month period, the investor and his immediate family become permanent green card holders and can later apply to become U.S. citizens.