When an immigrant investor wants to invest in the United States, they can do so via the EB-5 Visa program. This allows the investor and the immediate family to get Green Cards. It also fast tracks permanent residency in the U.S. However, there is a process for acquiring the EB-5 Visa and it has to be followed without fail.
Process for Applying for EB-5 Visa
1. Express interest in a business project
The immigrant investor has to express interest in investing in an EB-5 business project in the United States. This can be done by getting in touch with an approved regional center or via an attorney to start business as an individual. In a regional center, the investor will be provided with written material giving details of the various projects out of which they can choose one.
2. Prove financial capability
The investor has to show they have sufficient capital investment to invest in the project and this investment should be from verifiable and legal sources. To prove the money has been earned through legal means, the applicant has to submit records of foreign business registration or tax returns filed anywhere in the world in the last five years. In case, there is any other source of your investment funds, you would need to provide the documentation for the same.
3. Transfer money into an escrow account
Once the investor decides the project they want to invest in, they have to send $500,000 or $1 million to an escrow account from where it will be allocated to the project. If the investor goes through a regional center, the funding contribution is $500,000 ($500,000.00 minimum investment amount is extended and approved up until September 30, 2018); whereas as an individual, the capital contribution is $1 million.
4. Filing form I-526
The investor has to file an I-526 form with the USCIS Dallas Lockbox facility. This form is a petition requesting the USCIS to approve the applicant’s application and investment, so that they and the immediate family can apply for conditional permanent residency. The process can be handled by an immigration attorney. The USCIS informs the applicants within 12-18 months whether their application is accepted.
Once the Form I-526 is approved, the escrow agent releases the monies in the escrow account to the business or project. In case the petition is denied, the escrow agent returns the monies to the immigrant investor.
5. 2-year Conditional Permanent Residency
Upon approval of the I-526 form, if the immigrant investor already resides in the United States, they are allowed to change their residency status to conditional permanent residency. They would need to file a form 1-485 to ensure their status is changed to conditional permanent resident.
On the other hand, if the investor resides in a foreign country, they must prepare documents for the EB-5 Visa. They would need to submit for a DS-230 at the National Visa Center and proceed with the formalities at the U.S. Embassy or consulate. The embassy or consulate will then call the applicant and immediate family in for an interview.
Once the immigrant investor arrives in the U.S., they are free to live anywhere. During this period, the investor needs to prove they have a physical presence in United States. He cannot be away from the country for longer than a year without getting a re-entry permit.
6. Filing I-829 petition for permanent residency
After 2 years after their arrival, the investor can use the I-829 form for removal of conditional status from the visa. To do this, the investor should show the investment has created 10 direct full-time jobs for U.S. citizens. If the investor invests through a regional center, the 10 full-time jobs can be direct, indirect or induced. To prove that the job creation requirement has been met successfully, you would need to submit payroll records or Employee Forms 1-9. In case, the requirement has still not been met you would need to show that the same would be met within a reasonable time.
After the conditional status of the EB-5 visa is removed, the investor acquires permanent residency in the United States. The I-829 petition needs to be submitted to USCIS at least 90 days prior to the completion of second anniversary date on which the investor first received their conditional residency.
After five years, the investor can file an application for acquiring U.S. citizenship through naturalization.