A Guide to Investor Visas
The United States takes pride in its history as a nation of immigrants and its strong foundation of entrepreneurship. For those reasons, the United States offers a number of investor visas designed to attract the best, the brightest and the most entrepreneurial from around the world to become residents and potential citizens of the land of opportunity.
The History of Investor Visas
Investor visas in the United States date back 29 years when Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1990. The purpose of this legislation was to stimulate the U.S. economy via job creation through foreign investment. Administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the program permitted immigrant investors to receive green cards for themselves and certain family members and allowed them to live and work in the U.S.
In 1993, the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program was launched. This was the legislation that created the EB-5 Regional Center Program. By the millennium, Congress had modified the EB-5 program, primarily to require proof that EB-5 investors’ funds came from legitimate sources.
It was not until the early years of the 21st century that the EB-5 visa program was fully utilized. Until 2005 the application process was cumbersome and complex. Reforms that year streamlined the process and attracted more applicants.
Additional reforms took place in 2009, when the USCIS centralized EB-5 processing at the California Service Center. While 10,000 visas are allocated annually, it was not until 2014, that the annual quota of EB-5 investor visas was reached. The following year, the program experienced its first backlog.
Although it has been in place for nearly three decades, the EB-5 visa program is still not permanent, although it has received regular reauthorization.
EB-1A Extraordinary Ability
Unlike other categories of U.S. investor visas, the EB-1A extraordinary ability visa has no backlog. Eligible applicants must demonstrate extraordinary ability in business, the arts or sciences, athletics, or education. While it does not require an offer of employment or employer sponsorship, the applicant must provide thorough documentation demonstrating his or her achievements in his or her field. The applicant must seek to enter the United States to continue working in his or her area of extraordinary ability, and must show that his or her entry into the country will “substantially benefit” the United States. As per USCIS rules and regulations, the applicant must provide evidence that he or she can “command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration” in relation to others in his or her field.
E2 Treaty Investors
This type of U.S. investor visa allows a national of a treaty country – defined as a country in which the U.S. has a commerce and navigation treaty – into the United States if the investor invests a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business. The investor must own at least half of the business or hold a management position.
Many countries, including China and India, are not treaty countries. The investment in this business must be more than marginal, meaning it must have the capacity to generate income beyond supporting the investor and his or her family.
EB-2 National Interest Waiver
Those seeking the EB-2 national interest waiver do not need employer sponsorship, and instead may self-petition the USCIS and request that labor certification be waived because it is in U.S. interests. Jobs qualifying for this waiver are not specifically defined and limited, but are generally defined and granted to individuals with exceptional ability whose employment in the United States would benefit the country. Most people applying for this visa are coming to the United States with a potential endeavor that has both merit and importance for the nation, along with proof that they are in a position to achieve this endeavor. Entrepreneurial and business endeavors often qualify for this investor visa, and successful entrepreneurs and business people can meet the requirement that they have the potential to bring their intent to fruition.
EB-1C Multinational Manager/Executive
The EB-1C Multinational Manager/Executive investor visa does require a petition by a U.S. employer, but it is another type of visa that usually has no backlog. The applicant must have been employed in a managerial or executive capacity outside the United States for at least one of the prior three years by the overseas affiliate, parent, subsidiary, or branch of the U.S. employer the applicant will continue to work at as a manager or executive.
There is an alternative route for the foreign business owner with the EB-1C visa. The option is to purchase a viable U.S. company that has been in business for a minimum of one year and is in need of a manager or executive. In such situations, the applicant may apply for this visa immediately.
The EB-5 investor visa will require that the applicant invest a minimum of $500,000 in a Regional Center Project, but it remains one of the easiest – and potentially fastest – ways to receive permanent residency. The spouse and unmarried children under age 21 of the applicant are also eligible to apply for permanent residency once the applicant has demonstrated that all requirements for the EB-5 visa have been fulfilled. The requirements primarily consist of proving their investment has generated 10 full-time American jobs.