EB-5 Investor Visa: A Tutorial

What is the EB-5 Visa?

The EB-5 investor visa was started in 1990 by the United States to spur economic growth by allowing foreign investors to invest in businesses in the United States. The program has undergone many changes since then and now in it’s current form requires an EB-5 Investor to invest $900,000 or $1.8 Million into TEA/Rural or Non-TEA projects respectively. The requirements include creation of 10 direct or indirect jobs per investment. Successful fulfillment of these requirements will lead the investor on the path to an EB-5 visa, which is also commonly referred to as the green card.

How many EB5 Visas are available?

There are  roughly 10,000 EB-5 visas allocated each year. There are also per country minimums every year. Currently, the per country limit is 7% per year, so no country can get more than 700 EB-5 visas per year. If after allocation of visas to all countries, if any of the 10,000 visas are still leftover, these will be allocated to the earliest approved applicants waiting for an EB-5 visa, irrespective of per-country limit.

How long does it take to get a green card after investment?

On average, it takes from 2 to 3 years for receiving the conditional green card after applying for an EB-5 visa via filing a I-526 petition. This timeline is not applicable for Chinese, Vietnamese & Indian born applicants as they have a waiting period as per the per country limits mentioned above.

What is the Conditional green card?

The conditional green card is first issued to the EB-5 investor after their 526 petition is approved and they have completed their interview/AOS steps. This card is valid for 2 years from issue and the holder is entitled to all the rights and benefits of a permanent resident. The only difference between a conditional green card and a green card is that the conditional is valid for 2 years only. Before the end of the 2 years, the EB-5 investor needs to file form I-829, removal of conditions to receive a green card.

Can I work/travel during the Conditional green card stage?

Yes, like previously mentioned, conditional green card holders can do everything that a permanent resident is entitled to do. There are no limitations apart from timely filing the 829 form before the end of 2 years from issue of the conditional green card.

How do I prepare to apply for the EB-5 visa?

The EB-5 investor needs to focus on two important aspects of the process. 1) Find a good project to invest in. 2) Invest $900,000 USD in the project and submit their I-526 petition along with proof of source of funds and path of funds for the investment to USCIS.

What qualifies as a good, safe EB-5 project?

A good project is one in which the investor can invest $900,000 and expect their return of capital in 5-7 years. The project should also create the required 10 jobs minimum so that the project can fulfill the jobs requirement portion of the EB-5 requirements. Track record of the Regional center, the developer of the project and the sponsor of the project matters a lot when looking for EB-5 projects. Investors should look into the developer’s leverage ratio to see if they are borrowing excessively to finance the project. Can the project survive a recession and still have the ability to pay back the investor their $900,000 at the end of the 5-7 years period. These are only a few of the questions that an investor can check on the project. Of course there are plenty more safety checks to apply before narrowing down to a good EB-5 project.

Do I need an Immigration attorney to file my EB-5 visa?

USCIS needs proof that the $900,000 USD invested into the project were indeed lawfully sourced funds. So they require documentation of proof for the origin of the funds and the transfer (path) of the funds to the EB5 project. A good immigration attorney can help the investor with documenting and cataloging the source of funds documentation required by USCIS. There are 3 steps in an investor’s path to permanent residency. 1) Filing of the 526 with source of funds. 2) After 526 approval, filing of the paperwork with NVC or the AOS process. 3) 829 filing to remove conditions.

Do I need an Investment Advisor to find my EB-5 project?

Yes, highly recommended, but make sure the Investment advisor is a registered advisor. A US registered Investment Advisor is bound by the rules of the SEC and is registered with FINRA and is subject to fines and penalties, if they do not act with their EB-5 investors best interests. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is an independent, nongovernmental organization that writes and enforces the rules governing registered brokers and broker-dealer firms in the United States.

Investment advisors have access to a lot of projects and a good advisor would have done his homework to ensure that a project that he/she is recommending would be the best one for the EB-5 investor’s stated requirements.

How do I evaluate an Investment advisor?

Whether you are searching online or got an email from an EB-5  advisor/agent, one of the first things you should look for is, whether the advisor is a qualified EB-5 advisor. Advisors outside the US are generally not registered by FINRA and do not have a fiduciary duty towards their client. They also do not have any repercussions when an EB-5 project they recommend is more for their own gain than for the benefit of the investor. Advisors in the US are prohibited from recommending EB5 projects to local or international investors unless they are registered with FINRA. So, you should always check whether an advisor is FINRA registered or not, because investing with an unregistered advisor can lead to SEC & FINRA violations.

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