What Is an EB-5 Visa?
The EB-5 (employment-based, 5th preference) investor visa grants permanent resident status to investors who satisfy certain criteria. With this visa, the applicant’s spouse and unmarried children below the age of 21 may also receive a green card.
The visa, administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS’s) Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO), was first introduced in 1990 to help boost the economy by growing employment and attracting foreign capital.
In this guide, we’ll provide a broad overview of the EB-5 visa application process:
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Processing times for EB-5 can vary. The initial petition (Form I-526) can take anywhere from 47 to 71 months to process. From there, the applicant will need to check to see whether a visa is available. At the present time, there are no wait times for EB-5 applicants.
If the applicant lives abroad, it can take between 4 to 6 months for a green card to be approved via consular processing. If, on the other hand, the applicant lives in the United States, it could take anywhere from 7.5 to 45.5 months — depending on the service center — before a decision is made via the Adjustment of Status process.
For a more updated look at form-specific processing times you can use the USCIS online tool. You can also check the Visa Bulletin to see when green cards will be made available.
The total cost for an EB-5 investor visa is between $4020 and $4,900, depending on where the applicant is filing from.
To begin with, the applicant will need to pay a fee of $3675 to file Form I-526 (officially called “Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur”). If the applicant is applying from outside the United States (via consular processing), they will need to pay an additional $345 for the visa application processing fee — making a total of $4020, not including the cost of the medical exam, which varies depending on the country.
If the applicant is applying from within the United States, they will need to pay $1140 to file Form I-485 (officially called the “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status”) plus $85 for the biometrics service. In this case, the applicant will need to pay a total of $4900.
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There are two basic criteria that must be met to receive an EB-5 visa. The applicant must:
- Invest in a U.S. business: The investment must meet the minimum requirement, as determined by 8 CFR § 204.6.
- Intend to create, or maintain, at least 10 full-time jobs which can be filled by U.S. workers.
The applicant must invest in a company that was created after November 29, 1990. If the business came into existence prior to, or on, that date, then it must essentially be a new company, due to a purchase or radical restructuring, or the investment must result in a 40% expansion of overall worth or number of employees.
For the purposes of the EB-5 visa, the business must be for-profit and must be one of the following:
- Joint venture
- Business trust
- Sole proprietorship
- Holding company
- Other publicly or privately owned structure
The capital investment may come in the form of:
- Other property
- Secured debt
The value of the investment — which is to be determined by the fair market value — must meet certain minimums depending on the area of investment. If the petition was filed after November 21, 2019, the investment must be at least $1.8 million. That is, unless the investment is in a targeted employment area (TEA) — which is either a rural area or an area with high unemployment — in which case it must be $900,000 at minimum.
If the applicant filed their petition prior to November 21, 2019, the minimum invested is $1 million. If they are investing in a TEA, the minimum is lowered to $500,000.
If the business is located in a regional center in an area that is supporting economic growth, the investment must result in either direct job creation (in which case the company is the employer) or indirect job creation (in which case the jobs emerge as a result of the business’ activities). If, however, the commercial enterprise is located outside a regional center, then it must directly create the 10 new positions.
There may be some allowances for “troubled businesses” with economic difficulties. A troubled business is one which has existed for at least 2 years and has experienced a net loss — equal to at least 20% of the net worth — within 1 to 2 years of the filing date.
How to Apply
File Initial Petition
To successfully obtain an EB-5 investor visa, the applicant must first submit Form I-526 with evidence showing:
- That the applicant has invested in a for-profit venture satisfying the above-mentioned criteria
- That the area is indeed a TEA (if applicable)
- That the applicant will be involved in the business as a manager
- That the new venture will require 10 new employees, as described in the previous section
- That, for 2 years following the petition, the number of employees will not dip below the pre-investment levels (if investing in a troubled business)
For a more detailed explanation of the required documents, read pages 9 and 10 of the USCIS instructions for Form I-526.
Submit Green Card Application
Once Form I-526 has been approved, the applicant can begin the green card application process. This process will be different depending on the circumstances. If the applicant lives abroad, they will need to go through consular processing, in which case they will need to fill out Form DS-260 (officially called the “Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration”) and get a medical exam. They will then need to attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy or consulate, bringing with them the required documentation. If living in the United States, the applicant will need to go through the Adjustment of Status process, which requires filing Form I-485 and, in many cases, attending an interview.
If successful, the applicant — and any family members attached to the application — will receive a conditional green card, which will remain valid for 2 years.
Once the 2-year period has lapsed, the applicant will need to apply to remove the conditions from their green card, which means they’ll need to file Form I-829 (officially called the “Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status”) within 90 days of the green card expiration date. As part of this process, they must gather documentation pertaining to the status of the commercial enterprise, including information about the number of employees, the region where the business is located, and the total amount of capital invested in the company.
If conditions are removed, the applicant will be granted lawful permanent residence, which means they will have 10 years before they need to renew their green card.
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What is the EB-5 investor visa?
The EB-5 investor visa is a U.S. permanent resident visa program that allows foreign investors to make an investment in the United States and receive a green card in exchange. The program was established by Congress in 1990, with the intent of attracting wealthy foreign investors and stimulating economic activity in areas of high unemployment or rural areas, known as “targeted employment areas” (TEAs).
How can I qualify for the EB-5 investor visa?
In order to qualify for the EB-5 program, investors must make a qualifying investment of at least $900,000 in an approved commercial enterprise. Investors may also qualify by investing $1.8 million if their investment is located in a TEA. The investment must create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers within two years of the investor’s admission to the United States as a permanent resident on an EB-5 visa.
What are the benefits of the EB-5 investor visa?
The EB-5 visa program offers several benefits to eligible investors. These include the ability to become a permanent resident in the United States, the right to travel freely between countries, access to some of the best educational and healthcare systems in the world, and a long-term path towards U.S. citizenship if desired.
Does the Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) release updated data for available visas connected to Form I-526?
Yes, each month IPO releases country-specific reports — as part of the visa bulletin updates — containing the number of available visas for Form I-526.
Can I add a new derivative family member when filing Form I-829? If so, how?
If you would like to add a derivative family member when removing conditions, just send an email to USCIS.ImmigrantInvestorProgram@uscis.dhs.gov, and include the following in the subject line: “Request to Add Derivative to Form I-829.” IPO will respond with a cover sheet, which should be sent to the Dallas lockbox facility along with the following items:
- Copy of receipt notice for Form I-829
- Form I-829, specifying relationship to newly added family member
- Proof of relationship
- Evidence proving identity of newly added family member
- Form G-28, officially called “Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative” (if necessary)
- $85 for biometrics fee (if the new family member is between 14 and 79 years old)
What happens if my petition to remove conditions is denied?
The conditional green card will automatically expire, and the IPO will likely send a notice to appear (NTA), which means you will most likely have to leave the country.