The Immigrant Investor Program, also known as „EB-5“, was created by Congress to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Under a pilot immigration program first enacted in 1992, certain EB-5 visas also are set aside for investors in Regional Centers designated by USCIS based on proposals for promoting economic growth. There are two EB-5 programs – the Original Program, also known as „EB-5 – Direct“ and the Regional Center Program. Annually, 10,000 immigrant visas („green cards“) are available to foreign investors under the EB-5 program.
Permanent resident status based on EB-5 eligibility is available to eligible investors who:
1. Establish a new commercial enterprise by:
- Creating an original business; or
- Purchasing an existing business and simultaneously or subsequently restructuring or reorganizing the business such that a new commercial enterprise results; or
- Expanding an existing business by 140% of the pre-investment number of jobs or net worth, or retaining all existing jobs in a troubled business that has lost 20% of its net worth over the past 12 – 24 months; and
2. Have invested, or who are actively in the process of investing:
- At least $1,000,000, or at least $500,000 where the investment is being made in a „targeted employment area,“ which is an area that has experienced unemployment of at least 150% of the national average rate or a „rural area“ as designated by the government; and
3. Whose engagement in a new commercial enterprise will benefit the United States economy and:
- Create full-time employment for at least 10 qualified individuals; or
- Maintain a number of existing employees at no less than the pre-investment level for a period of at least two years, where the capital investment is being made in a „troubled business“.
The Regional Center Program
This program reserves 3,000 of the annual 10,000 EB-5 visas for individuals investing at least $500,000 in designated Regional Centers.
Regional Centers are firms approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services („USCIS“) to pool funds, usually in the form of limited partnerships. Most locate their projects in high unemployment or rural areas so that the required investment amount is $500,000 (plus a subscription fee) instead of $1 million. Regional Center investors may take an equity ownership in a limited partnership and pool capital with other investors, usually with an expected return of their capital after five years, although some investments may be for a longer term. Regional Centers typically charge a syndication or management fee of $30,000 to $50,000 in addition to the capital investment amount.
Regional Centers offer many advantages over other qualifying investment options. Investors in Regional Centers are not burdened with day-to-day management or operational responsibilities.
Each investor’s capital in a Regional Center must create ten direct or indirect jobs. The indirect employment creation is a major advantage of Regional Center investments.
While Regional Centers must be approved by the USCIS, the U.S. government does not guarantee or back the enterprise in any way.
Investing in a Regional Center is a way to permanently immigrate to the United States for retirees or other persons who have no qualifying U.S. family members through whom they can immigrate and who do not wish to personally engage in U.S. business or work here.