What is an EB5 visa?
The EB5 visa is the US immigrant investor program that grants green cards to selected applicants. It allows foreigners who want to invest in businesses in the United States to become permanent residents. It is the fifth preference of US work visas.
This visa aims not only to encourage foreign investment but also to boost the US economy. It also aims to encourage the development of rural areas in the United States. This visa program was created in 1990 by the United States Congress, with an annual numerical cap of 10,000 visas.
Who is eligible for the EB5 visa?
You are eligible for the EB5 visa if you are willing and able to:
- Investing in a new business venture. New businesses are businesses established after 29 November 1990
- Invest in an old business venture and significantly increase its net worth or workforce. A minimum 40% increase in net worth or number of employees is required.
- Invest up to $1.8 million in capital at risk. Investing in a targeted employment area requires capital at risk of $900,000.
- Target Employment Areas (TEAs) are areas with at least 150% of the standard U.S. unemployment rate.
The EB5 Investor Green Card Visa also requires that your investment create at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.
This should be achieved in less than 2 years from the date of visa approval.
Qualified US workers include US citizens, green card holders, or any US resident authorized to work. They must have at least 35 working hours per week.
Business ventures you can invest in include:
- Individual businesses
- Limited partnerships and general partnerships
- Holding company
- Joint ventures
- Corporate trust
- Other public or private bodies
- It is not possible to invest in a non-commercial business. Furthermore, your capital must come from a legal source.
You can invest money, equipment, inventory or cash equivalents, and hard assets.
Documents needed for EB5 visa:
The supporting documents needed for your EB5 application differ for different forms.
- For Form I-526
- Evidence of investment or active investment process
- Business registration records
- Tax returns
- Evidence of other sources of capital
- Court-certified evidence of civil actions, government proceedings, and criminal actions resulting in money judgments against you. This should be released within the last 15 years.
- Evidence of creating at least 10 full-time job positions
- Receipt of the filing fee
- For Form I-829
- Bank statements
- Investment invoices and receipts
- Evidence of contracts
- Quarterly tax return
- Tax returns
- Salary records
- Employee tax documents
- Form I-9 for employees
- Receipt of the filing fee
- For Form DS 160 or Form I-485
- Two passport-sized photographs
- International passport
- Birth certificate or other
- Form I-864 (if required)
- Police and court documents
- Approved form I526
- Marriage certificate: If you intend to bring next of kin with you
- Receipt of the filing fee
What is the EB5 visa application process?
The application process requires the submission of Form I-526, DS-260 or Form I-485, and Form I-829. You will complete each of these forms at different stages of the EB5 application process.
Form I-526 is the form for an immigrant petition by a foreign investor. This is the main form to apply as a foreign investor. You can download the form from the official USCIS website. The EB5 visa is an automatic application visa. This makes it different from most other work visas that require a job offer from a US-based employer. You will complete the EB5 form yourself without the need for an employer sponsoring your visa. You can also hire an attorney or representative to guide you through completing the form and the entire application process.
Make sure you complete all sections of the form, especially the about you section. After completing the form, be sure to send it to the appropriate USCIS office, as indicated on the application.
After your Form I-526 application is approved, you will need to fill out Form DS-260 or Form I-485, depending on whether you are in the United States or abroad.
If you are outside the United States:
If you are outside the United States when your I-526 application is approved, you must apply for a visa to travel to the United States by completing Form DS-260. The process is called consular processing. You will need to make an appointment at a US embassy or consulate in your country of residence.
The CEAC website has the DS-260 form, which may be filled out online. You should submit the DS-260 if you reside outside of the United States.
If you are in the United States.
If you are a resident of the United States, you will need to fill out Form I-485 to change your status. You will use the form to request an adjustment of status from nonimmigrant status to immigrant status. The application for permanent residence is Form I-485.
If your Form DS-260 or Form I-485 is approved and you obtain the EB5 visa, you will be admitted as a conditional permanent resident.
Conditional resident status is likened to someone on probation and must prove their worth for the condition to be removed. This implies that you will only be able to remain as a permanent resident if you keep your job and investment promises. This within a minimum of 2 years, as previously mentioned.
This form is used to remove restrictions from your status as a conditional permanent resident. Form I-829 can be submitted within ninety days prior to the 2-year term ending. The form may be found on the USCIS website.
You should file it with the USCIS Dallas Lockbox. If you have kept your promises, USCIS will revoke the conditions attached to your permanent residency. Removal of the condition will lead to full permanent resident status with a green card that lasts 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely.
EB5 Application Fees:
You need to pay the following fees for your EB5 visa application:
- Form I-526 filing fee: $3,675.
- DS-260 processing fee: $325
- Form I-485 filing fee:
- $750 form fee for applicants under 14 years of age and with at least one parent submitting the application.
- $1,140 form fee for applicants under 14 years of age and without at least one parent filing.
- Form fee of $1,140 for applicants ages 14 to 78 and 79 and older.
- Form I-829 filing fee: $3,750
- Biometric Services Fee of $85 for applicants ages 14 to 78
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support filing fee: $120 (if required).
- All visa application fees are non-refundable. You must pay the fee associated with your application before it can be processed.
How long does EB5 visa processing take?
The processing time for the EB5 visa varies depending on the country. Some countries have a low admission limit, which may mean longer processing times.
Form I-526 takes approximately 16 months or more to process. Factors that influence this include the number of investors, the value of the investment and the probability of success.
If you apply through a regional center with Form I-924, processing takes approximately 9 months or longer. It will take much longer to process if USCIS issues a test request. The regional center may take approximately 3 months to prepare your petition.
For removal of permanent residency conditions, Form I-829 takes approximately 18 months or more.
Medical examination and vaccination:
Your EB5 visa application requires a medical exam to demonstrate that you are in good health. More specifically, it serves to demonstrate that you are free from any communicable disease of public concern. A medical examination is often accompanied by vaccination.
You should undergo a medical examination only after the Form I-526 is approved. If you are already in the United States, you should submit the medical report along with Form I-485. If you are not in the United States, you must provide your medical report at your visa interview.
The US Embassy in your nation must have authorized the facility or physician doing your medical checkup. The embassy will usually direct one to you. In the United States, the medical exam must also be conducted by a USCIS-approved doctor.
After the exam you will be given a sealed report. You must not open this seal before submitting it to USCIS or to your interview. Currently, COVID-19 vaccination is required to apply for the EB5 visa. You will receive information from the embassy on all required vaccinations.
EB5 Regional centers for immigrant investors:
Applying directly as an immigrant investor is possible by following the above-mentioned requirements. As an alternative, you may apply via the regional offices. USCIS has designated these centers specifically for the purpose of the EB5 visa program.
The difference is that you will not have full control of your investment as the regional center will help you manage your investment. You still need to meet all the requirements as for direct investment.
However, the process is much less complicated as it involves indirect job creation. You must fill out Form I-924 to invest through a regional center. The form is available on the USCIS website.
Filing through a USCIS-designated regional center carries a filing fee of $17,795. You can check the USCIS page for a list of approved regional immigrant investor centers. This list is updated periodically, so always check to make sure a regional center is still approved.
EB5 Visa Interview:
The visa interview is the last stage of your application. You must attend this interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country. During the interview you will be asked various questions to support the verdict of your application.
The visa date will be communicated to you by the embassy. It may take months for your interview date to arrive due to long processing times for EB5 visas. You should carry all the required documents with you while going for the interview. The lack of a document could lead to visa refusal or stalling.
The embassy should provide you with comprehensive information on all the paperwork related to your petition. If you can afford it, you can also get assistance from an immigration lawyer. There’s no limit to how many questions the interviewer can ask. However, visa interviews usually do not take long.
The answers provided must be in line with the documents provided for the application to be approved. After approval, you will be given a sealed package to present at the point of entry.
EB5 visa refusal:
Your EB5 visa application may be rejected for one of the following reasons:
- Inaccurate and inconsistent information
- Absence of important documents and evidence
- Incorrect submission of the petition
- Criminal record or negative history of being in the United States
- Lack of investment funds
- Illegal source of funds
- Your visa will be easily approved if you have all the requirements and documents. If your visa is denied, you should read the denial notice. This explains why your visa was denied and whether you can reapply or appeal.
There are possible legal remedies to explore if USCIS denies your visa request. They include:
Motion to reopen:
You can file a motion to reopen if you were missing a document or evidence that you now have. However, the new document or evidence will be substantial enough to result in a different verdict.
Motion to reconsider:
You can file a motion to reconsider if you believe the verdict was wrong. This should be handled by an immigration lawyer as it requires in-depth knowledge of US immigration law.
How long is an EB5 visa valid?
The EB5 visa is a permanent visa, which grants indefinite stay in the United States (green card). However, in the initial phase you will only receive a conditional status lasting two years. If you meet all the requirements attached to your EB5 visa and investment, the conditions will be removed and you will have indefinite and unconditional permanent resident status.
Do EB5 investors get their money back if their visa application is rejected?
For investments through regional centers, you will receive your money back. When you get it back depends on the agreements you signed.
Can an EB5 investor immigrate to the United States with his or her family?
EB5 green card holders may bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21. Their application must be submitted along with Form I-526.