The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administers the EB5 Visa. Also called the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program, this type of Visa category allows qualified immigrant financiers to become permanent residents of the United States and be informally called as green card holders.
Understanding EB5 More
Not everyone is qualified to get the EB5 Visa. This particular visa program was established to improve the economy of the United States. Created in 1990 through the Immigration Act of 1990, this particular program only grants a visa to investors provided that they invest a certain amount of money to back a business in the United States that will eventually employ at least ten American employees. Investors need a new commercial enterprise established after November 29, 1990, in order to be eligible to apply for this particular visa. A commercial enterprise refers to any for-profit activities as a result of the lawful business venture. It can be in the form of a sole proprietorship, joint venture, partnership, or corporation. Moreover, their enterprise should have a 40% increase in net worth since its conception.
Since its inception, many rich immigrant investors have shown interest in applying for the EB5 visa program. In a report released in 2011, around 69% of those who were granted the EB5 visa were Chinese nationals. The number of Chinese nationals who have applied for this visa program has increased up to 85.4% in 2014. The increase in the number of Chinese nationals applying for this visa program stems from the fact that the economy in China is flourishing and creating self-made millionaires every year.
In fact, the influx of rich immigrant investors in the United States through this visa program led to the financing of big projects like the Hilton, Marriott’s, and Hyatt Hotels to name a few. The thing is that this program provides a mutualistic relationship between the United States and the visa grantee.
Capital Investment Requirements
The investors who are eligible for the EB5 visa program invests in a particular targeted employment area that is defined by the government as an area with a high unemployment rate. The purpose is to improve the economy of said area. An immigrant investor who opts for these depressed areas can lower their investment threshold to $500,000 instead of $1 million. A rural area should have a population of no more than 20,000 based on the recent census of the United States.
It is important to take note that the capital requirement does not only mean cash, but it can also be in the form of equipment, property, assets, inventory, and other cash equivalents that can easily be liquidated by the immigrant investor. The capital shall be valued in US dollars at a fair-market price. It is essential that the investor should establish or provide a proof that the capital invested into US soil legally belongs to them. Any capital gained through unlawful means such as criminal activities or drug peddling shall not be honored based on Section 203(b)(5) of the Act.
EB5 Visa Timeline
It is important to note that each EB5 investor is unique so there is really no fixed timeline on when the EB5 visa will be granted. But as a general estimation, it usually takes about 18 months to achieve the green card. It is also important to point that there are several steps to applying for the program and each step may require a certain timeline.
The most important step to get the EB5 Visa is to file the Form I-526 (Immigration Petition by Alien Entrepreneur). This report contains the performance data on the immigrant petitions of an alien entrepreneur. It also contains the number of petitions received, approved, denied or pending. Once you file the I-526, you can submit it to USCIS. The USCIS processes the cases in the order that they receive them, and they update their page every month (every 15th). But technically, the average processing time for the I-526 petition is about 12 to 18 months but with an assumption that you do not get a request from USCIS to provide further evidence of your documents that can further delay the processing of your application. Following the approval of the Form I-526, you either file the Form I-485 (Application Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status) or DS-260 (Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration).
Breaking Down the Steps When Applying for EB5 Visa
Applying for an EB5 Visa may sound very easy but it requires a lot of paperwork. Included in the filing of Form I-526, there are still many other things that you need to do to back your application. Below are the easy steps to processing your EB5 Visa and ensuring that you get the visa faster.
- Confirm your eligibility: It is crucial that you confirm your status as an accredited investor as mandated by the Regulation D of the US Securities Act of 1933. Thus said, you will need to divulge information about your personal finance in order to build your eligibility.
- Choose the type of investment you will make: Once you have confirmed your eligibility, you need to choose the type of investment that you can to bring into the US. You can pour in money in the US securities or establish a business. Choose the one that you are comfortable with.
- Prepare your documents: Prepare all required documents to process your visa petition. Such documents include birth certificates, tax returns, and many others. This step usually takes 3 to 5 months to complete. Perhaps one of the documents that are hard to collect is the proof that the source of the investment you are planning to pour into US soil is earned legally. You have to work with your accountants and tax attorney for that matter so that you can trace your money back to at least 7 years ago.
- File the petition: You can file the application through the I-526. If it is approved, you can file for your dependents to enter the United States as well. Your application will be in a queue and this usually takes the USCIS approximately 15 months to complete everything.
- Interview: Once your petition has been approved, you will get a notification so that you can make an appointment at your country’s consulate or US embassy. Once approved, you will be provided with documents to present to the US immigration that you need to present on your arrival in the United States. Approval of the interview usually has a waiting period of 3 to 8 months.
- Confirm your visa responsibilities: Two years after your approval, you need to have a second filing by accomplishing the Form I-829. This will be used by the USCIS to review your case so that you can be awarded a permanent green card instead of a conditional green card. It usually takes about 9 months for the Form I-829 to be approved.
- Complete your investment: As promised to the USCIS, you need to complete your investment in the United States as part of your payment for being granted with the green card. Make sure that you work within five years to complete your investment. You need to show proof that you have created 10 new jobs and that your commercial enterprise was in the targeted employment area.
Immigration Attorney: Do You Need One?
The complexity of filing for the EB5 Visa is so huge that doing it by yourself is something that you will never be able to do. This is the reason why it is so crucial to hire an immigration attorney who will help you prepare the documents, make arrangements, and assist you as you file a petition for this particular visa program.
Although the legal fees of an immigration attorney can take anywhere between $12,000 and $25,000, this is a small price to pay compared to the help that they will be able to provide to expedite your visa application. Aside from helping you file and assist you with all the paperwork preparation, they can also help you manage your investment so that you will be able to fund your business venture in the US. They can also provide you with regular reports on the status of your project and also help you with the legalities that are involved in setting up a new business in the United States. They can also help in improving your status as an alien investor in the United States especially when USCIS conducts audits on their EB5 visa holders.
The thing is, applying for the EB5 visa is not a leisurely walk in the park. It is a complex process and you are not allowed the liberty to commit mistakes otherwise you risk not having your application granted. Thus, hiring an immigration attorney is really crucial if you are applying for an EB5 visa. They are very knowledgeable, and they can help you expedite your application. For more information about applying for an EB5 visa, visit Pride Immigration today.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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