EB-5 Investment Visa: A Tutorial

What is the EB5 Visa?

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program was started in 1990 by the United States to spur economic growth by allowing foreign investors to invest in businesses in the United States.

In return for the investment and subsequent job creation. Investors are granted permanent residency in the United States. Permanent residency is commonly known as the green card. The program has undergone many changes since then. In it’s current form, the rules require an EB5 Investor to invest $900,000 or $1.8 Million into TEA/Rural or Non-TEA projects respectively.

The job requirements portion of the program stipulates the creation of 10 direct or indirect jobs per investment. Successful fulfillment of these conditions will lead you on the path to permanent residency.

How many EB5 Visas are available?

There are  roughly 10,000 EB5 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 EB5 visas per year. After allocation of visas to all countries, any leftover visas will be allocated to the earliest approved applicants waiting for an EB5 visa, irrespective of per-country limit.

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

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

What is the Conditional green card?

The conditional green card (CGC) is issued after your I-526 petition is approved and you have completed the Consular interview abroad. Or if you are already in the US on a different visa, you would file your AOS by filing Form I-485. The CGC 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 CGC is valid for 2 years only. Before the end of the 2 years, you need to file form I-829, (removal of conditions) to receive a permanent 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.

When do I get my Permanent green card?

Conditional green card holders can apply for the permanent green card by filing Form I-829 90 days before the conditional green card expires, i.e., 21 months after receiving your CGC. USCIS is taking almost 2 years nowadays to process form I-829s. But like previously mentioned, this should not be an issue. Filing the I-829 gets you an 18 month extension of your CGC. You can also visit a USCIS service center and get a I-551 stamp in your passport extending your CGC status while the 829 is in process.

How do I prepare to apply for the EB5 visa?

You should 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 your I-526 petition along with proof of your investment and the source of your funds.

What qualifies as a good, safe EB5 project?

A good project is one in which you can invest $900,000 and expect your return of capital in 5-7 years. The project should also create a minimum of 10 jobs per investor. Track record of the Regional center, the developer of the project and the sponsor of the project matters a lot when looking for EB5 projects. But of utmost importance is the Project itself. Even a great company like Google had a massive project failure like the Google Wave. When you are investing your $900,000, the Project is the most important thing you need to research about.

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 EB5 project.

Do I need an Immigration attorney to file my EB5 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 EB5 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 EB5 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 do his homework to ensure that a project that he/she is recommending would be the best one for the EB5 investor’s stated requirements.

How do I evaluate an Investment advisor?

Whether you search online or get an email from an EB5  advisor/agent, one of the first things you should look for is, whether the advisor is a qualified EB5 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 EB5 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.

If you have a question about the EB5 process and your specific situation, I am available anytime for a free chat or talk, get in touch with me.

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