Is this true?
Well, not exactly. One can’t just simply go out and purchase an American passport (at least not legally). Yet, under the fifth employment based visa category (better known as the “EB-5 program”), with a minimum of $500,000 USD, foreigners can invest their way to a Green Card (permanent resident status), and put themselves on the fast track to U.S. citizenship.
How does this work?
Starting in 1990, in an effort to encourage foreign investment and create jobs, the U.S. government began setting aside 10,000 visas each year for foreigner investors. The provisions of the EB-5 program allow foreigners to obtain a visa to enter the United States, apply for Green Cards, and become conditional permanent residents. To qualify, the EB-5 applicant must agree to invest $1 million USD in a business (“new business enterprise” or “troubled business”) that will benefit the U.S. economy by either creating or preserving at least 10 full-time jobs in the U.S.
After two years, provided: 1) the foreign investor can show evidence of a $1 million USD business investment; 2) 10 jobs have been created or preserved (family members don’t count); and 3) the business is still a “going concern”, the foreign investor can apply to have the conditions removed from his permanent residency status. If granted, he will receive a Green Card, unconditional permanent resident. Then, after five years as a Green Card holder, he may apply for U.S. citizenship.
What are the requirements for the $500,000 USD minimum investment?
Of the 10,000 visas set aside each year, 3,000 are designated for "targeted employment areas". These are rural areas, or places with unemployment rates greater than or equal to one-hundred fifty percent (150%) of the national average. For these visas, the minimum investment threshold is lowered to $500,000 USD.
In addition, another 3,000 of these visas are set aside for investments in "regional centers" – various areas or industries throughout the country designated by the states.
Is it difficult to obtain an EB-5 visa?
It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. And, surprisingly, relatively few foreigners have taken advantage of this program. In fact, applications for EB-5 visas have never even come close to reaching the 10, 000 per year allotment. However, of those that have applied, the vast majority have been approved.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in 2007, there were only 776 EB-5 visa applications. Of those, 485 were approved (nearly 63%). In 2009, EB-5 applications increased to 1,028. Of those, nearly 94% (966) were approved. In fiscal 2010, the number of applications and approvals have risen sharply to 1,727 and 1,271, respectively (nearly 74% approved).
Can my family travel to America with me?
Yes. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of EB-5 investors may be permitted to accompany the investor to the U.S. during the two-year conditional period. After two years, provided the investor is granted unconditional permanent resident status (Green Card), the investor’s spouse and children will also receive Green Cards. As lawful permanent residents of the United States of America (Green Card holders), the spouse and children of the EB-5 investor will be eligible to work and/or attend school in the U.S.
How can I get more information on the EB-5 program?
For more information on the U.S. EB-5 visa program, including “new business enterprises”, “troubled businesses”, “targeted employment areas”, “regional centers”, and/or to begin the EB-5 application process, please contact BROSS & Partners Advocates & Solicitors to schedule a consultation with one of our Investment Lawyers.
By Ryan Alan Rogers
BROSS & Partners