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EB-5 Visas For Foreign Investors: Investment Options

19th September 2011
By Joe Sloboda in Immigration Law
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The political climate and economic downturn in the United States have made the EB-5 investment visa an increasingly popular option for wealthy foreign nationals seeking permanent resident status in the U.S. For seeking a permanent residency visa through investment, there are two basic options. Foreign investors may choose to investigate their own investment vehicle companies, with an eye towards personal involvement within the business, or they may choose to invest in pre-selected, government approved "regional centers." Regional Centers are public or private economic units officially affiliated with the EB-5 program, which engage in the active promotion of economic growth, regional productivity, and job creation, and encourage increased domestic capital investment.

Individual Vs. Regional Center EB-5 Investment

Regardless of investment type, the basic requirements for the visa remain the same. Foreign nationals must initiate and sustain a minimum investment of between $500,000 and $1 million U.S. dollars in a commercial enterprise that will create at least ten full-time jobs for U.S. workers. The desirability of either type of EB-5 investment depends largely on the personal motivations of the foreign investor.

Those looking for the quickest, most secure route to permanent U.S. residency, and have little interest in personal involvement with their investment company find that a Regional Center investment is the way to go. Since Regional Centers are pre-qualified as "targeted employment area" investments, they allow foreign nationals to fulfill their investment requirement at a lower minimum capital of $500,000. Since their official status as Regional Centers depends on the creation of employment and the success of their business, the burden of proof of minimum job creation is largely placed upon them, rather than upon the foreign investor, and while the potential personal financial gain from the EB-5 investment is reduced, so is the risk of failure.

The main incentive for Individual over Regional Center Investment is that the foreign investor has more control over the business type and decisions. For investors looking to create their own businesses, or take on a more active role within the company than the typical Regional Center role of limited partnership, the individual investor EB-5 program is an attractive option. The main drawbacks are in taking on the full responsibilities for developing a business and investment plan acceptable to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), the organization which oversees the visa process, and in providing proof of the satisfaction of requirements.

For investors taking the individual route, scaling down the required EB-5 investment capital from $1 million to $500,000 U.S. dollars requires that the investor find an investment area that is officially deemed to be rural, or has experienced an employment rate equal to or greater than 150% of the national average. Once found, the foreign investor must provide documented proof to the USCIS before the investment can be approved. Providing proof of the minimum of full-time employment created also rests solely on the foreign investor themselves, and although these obstacles are not insurmountable, adjudication history shows that Regional Center investments are USCIS approved much more quickly and easily than individual investment plans. Both investment options have more than enough paperwork and complexity that most successful applicants hire experienced EB-5 consultants to guide them through the process.

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