Understanding the EB-5 Program

USCIS EB-5 Program for Foreign Investors and Immigrants

With the current situation at the Southern border hurting the prospect of asylum requests, and other immigration options taking up to ten years to process, a foreigner who feels persecuted or whose current living situation could be greatly enhanced if they had access to the resources the United States has to offer, can become extremely frustrated and discouraged. However, a lesser-known option, known as the EB-5 program, offers individuals the chance to bypass all the rigmarole and earn lawful permanent residency within two to three years.

The EB-5 Program (or Employment-Based fifth preference) was set up in 1990 to allow foreign nationals to become lawful permanent residents by investing capital in qualifying commercial enterprises and stimulate the economy. Investments made through the program must be a minimum of $1,000,000 unless invested through a regional center — entities managed by third-parties centered in and around targeted employment areas (TEA), including impoverished communities and rural areas with high unemployment — at which point, the minimum investment is lowered to $500,000.

In order to be approved, an investor must show they are using at-risk funds based on current capital and assets (no loans or illegitimate funds) and prove they will be able to create full-time jobs for at least ten U.S. citizens within two years. There are other regulations currently in place, the biggest of which is the requirement that investors engage in day-to-day management of the businesses (with the exception of passive investors who have invested in regional centers).

Currently, there are 10,000 visas available per year and each country is only allowed up to 7% of those visas. Provisions allow family members to be counted as part of this 10,000 limit.

As of February 15, 2019, President Trump has officially signed a bill to fund the program through the end of September with no alterations, but due to concerns that the program is riddled with fraud, officials are calling for major reforms that include:

  • Raising the minimum investment from $500,000 to $1.35 million, and $1,000,000 to $1.8 million to account for inflation;
  • No longer counting family members as part of the 10,000 Visa cap and removing the per-country cap;
  • Termination of Regional Centers that fail to promote economic growth;
  • Fixing loopholes in the regional centers that allow funds to be funneled into richer areas;
  • Eliminating passive investments (all investors would be required to manage their businesses on a day-to-day basis).

To be considered for the EB-5 program, you must first file Form I-526 — Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Because the application process is extremely arduous and paper heavy, it is best to hire a good immigration attorney to put together petition paperwork, prepare for the investor interview, establish lawful permanent residency, and keep the investor appraised of any changes that may occur as legislation continues to update regulations and make changes to the program.

Visit the USCIS website for additional information.

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