The EB-5 Investor Visa program is a program which provides a green card for foreigners who invest a large amount of money in the USA. To qualify for the visa, an individual must invest either half a million dollars in an area which is rural or has high unemployment, or $1,000,000 in other areas. They must preserve or create at least 10 jubs for workers in the US -not including the investor themselves and their immediate family.
The rules of the program have changed a little over the last few years. Initially, the program required that the investor create a new business as a part of the program. However, at the moment the investor can simply invest in an existing ‘troubled business’, or invest in some form of third party vehicle which will then create the required jobs. These vehicles are called regional centers, and they often charge an administration fee to the investor for taking care of their money in this way.
If the investor’s petition is approved, then they will be granted a conditional visa which will last for two years. They will then be required to submit evidence to show that the full investment has been made, and thatn ten jobs have been preserved, created, or will be created within a reasonable period after the two years are up.
The program has been in existence since the 1990s, but it has not been as popular as Congress expected. In 2005, a report was published by the Government Accountability Office, suggesting that the application process was too difficult, and that the program needed revision. In 2011, USCIS made several changes to the program, hoping to increase the number of applicants. This was successful, and there were more than four times the number of applications in 2011 than there were in 2007. In 2014, the program reached full capacity.
The EB-5 Investor program covers a number of ‘Targeted Unemployment Areas’, but it can be hard to find out where these are. Some state agencies do maintain lists of areas that qualify for the TEA investment, but in many cases investors will have to check for themselves whether the area they are investing in is considered rural, or if it has unemployment of 150% the national rate or higher.
Several major developers have defined their own regional centers. Silverstein Properties calls their Four Seasons Restaurant business an opportunity to earn an EB-5 for investment, and the Hudon Yards Redevelopment Project is another high profile project that has received funding from EB-5 investors.
In theory, any company wanting to open a large business in the USA could qualify, or a smaller business that will generate at least ten jobs, however it can be difficult to complete the paperwork and prove that you have the funds and the skills to sustain your business. The controls on EB-5 visas are tight, to prevent people obtaining visas and then taking the money back out of the economy almost immediately after their leave to stay is granted.