There are many different types of green cards available to foreign nationals who are seeking to immigrate to the United States and become permanent residents. Foreign investors may qualify for an investment-based green card through the United States’ EB-5 program.
Every year, the U.S. Congress sets aside 10,000 green cards for alien investors who choose to participate in the EB-5 program. The EB-5 program has two broad requirements. First, the foreign national must invest into a U.S. commercial enterprise. Provided that the business was founded after November 19, 1990, any for-profit business including a corporation, holding company, business trust, or joint venture can qualify for an EB-5 investment. The investment sum must total either $1,000,000 or $500,000 in capital. The investor qualifies for the smaller amount if the investment is made into a commercial enterprise that is located in a rural area or high unemployment area of the United States. While most foreign nationals invest the required amount in the form of cash (which must be in U.S. dollars), the law permits cash equivalents, equipment, indebtedness secured by the investor’s assets, inventory, and other tangible property, to qualify as investment capital. Moreover, the capital investment must be placed at-risk; meaning that the investor must fully commit the capital to the commercial enterprise.
To prove that the foreign national has invested the necessary amount, the U.S. government requires the investor to provide proof of the infused capital, such as bank deposits into the commercial enterprise’s account or proof that the investor purchased inventory and other property for the commercial enterprise. Additionally, the foreign national must prove that the investment funds were obtained through lawful sources such as income, inheritance, loans, or sale of real property. To do so, the investor must provide proof of the lawful source of income to the U.S. government. The specific evidence depends on the source. For instance, if the investment funds are derived from the investor’s sale of a house, the investor must provide the deed of sale and copies of the bank account that show the deposited funds from the sale.
Second, the investment must directly create ten (10) new and full-time job positions for U.S. citizens or permanent residents (excluding any jobs created for the investor him/herself and the investor’s family). These jobs must be a direct result of the investment. For instance, if the investment is to renovate a restaurant, cook and waiter employment positions would qualify as direct jobs. The jobs must be created within two years of the U.S. government’s approval of the investor’s green card application. To prove that the investor met the job-creation requirement, the investor must provide the U.S. government with proof of the commercial enterprise’s new employees such as payroll records and tax documents.
Importantly, the EB-5 program offers a special option to invest in a U.S. “Regional Center.” The U.S. government has designated certain areas as Regional Centers in order to spur economic growth and job creation in these locations. There are two main benefits of investing into a Regional Center. First, most Regional Centers are located in rural or low employment areas, so many Regional Centers qualify for the decreased $500,000 investment. Additionally, Regional Center investors are eligible to count jobs that are indirectly created by their investment toward meeting the job creation requirement such as construction positions or positions that are created by businesses in the surrounding area that can be traced to the Regional Center economic activity.