Is the Total Cost of Getting an EB-5 Visa Worth It?
There is no question that only the well-to-do can afford to go through the EB-5 visa program. That is related to the program’s purpose, as it requires foreign entrepreneurs to invest either $500,000 or $1 million in a new commercial enterprise in the United States and create at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers. As a business person, you know you must examine the bottom line and figure out whether obtaining a green card for yourself, spouse and unmarried minor children is worth the EB-5 visa’s total cost. There are other options for immigrating to the United States, and you should know what they are before making the EB-5 visa program commitment.
Other Immigration Options
To qualify for permanent resident status, also known as green card eligibility, you must fit into one of several categories. These include the family aspects:
- Immediate family: You are the immediate relative – spouse, parent or minor, unmarried child of a U.S. citizen.
- Other relatives: You are the family member of a U.S. citizen, such as a sibling, unmarried child over age 21 or unmarried child. You are also eligible if you are the spouse of a permanent resident, unmarried minor child of a permanent resident or unmarried child over age 21 of a permanent resident.
- Fiancé or fiancé’s child: You are either the fiancé of a U.S. citizen or the child of a fiancé of a U.S. citizen.
- Widow or widower of U.S. citizen: You are married at the time of the U.S. citizen’s death.
Many people apply for a green card through employment, as either a first, second or third preference. First preference employees have “extraordinary” ability in the arts and sciences, business, education or athletics. Professors, researchers and multinational executives or managers may also prove eligible for first preference.
Second preference employees are members of professions requiring advanced degrees or have exceptional ability in the arts, sciences or business. Those seeking a national interest waiver must show their employment in the U.S. would provide a great benefit to the country.
Third preference employees include skilled worker. They must have at least two years’ training or job experience, are professionals, which requires a bachelor’s degree, and unskilled workers.
Other categories include physicians who agree to work full-time in an underserved area for a certain period of time. There are also special immigrant visas available, which include religious workers, international broadcasters and retired officers of particular organizations, such as NATO.
E-2 Investor Visas
An E-2 investor visa allows investors to work for a U.S. business if they put a significant amount of capital into that business and own at least 50 percent of the business or hold a management position. Eligibility depends on whether the applicant is a citizen of a U.S. treaty country. Currently, Taiwan is a U.S. treaty country, but China and India are not.
However, the E-2 investor visa is not a direct path to a green card as is the case with an EB-5 visa. Once issued, the E-2 investor visa is good for up to five years (depending on your country of origin) but is renewable as long as the investor meets specific requirements. Note that much depends on the reciprocity schedule between the U.S. and the applicant’s native country. Often, reciprocity is much shorter – sometimes only a matter of months.
Employment Visas vs. EB-5 Visas
Those considering the EB-5 visa program may be eligible for some type of employment visa. Typically, for employment based visas, you must obtain sponsorship from a U.S. employer, and the employer must obtain labor certification approval from the U.S. Department of Labor. The certification from the U.S> Department of Labor requires a finding that there are insufficient qualified workers in the U.S. to perform this job at prevailing wages and hiring a foreign worker will not adversely affect similarly employed U.S. workers in terms of working conditions and wages. As a result, this certification may be hard to obtain.
How the EB-5 Visa Program Compares
If you are not a citizen of a U.S. treaty country, you cannot apply for an E-2 visa. If you are aiming for an employment visa, you must meet the criteria and find an employer willing to sponsor you. With an EB-5 visa, you receive a conditional green card good for two years. Within three months of the conditional green card’s expiration, you must file Form I-829, “Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status.” If your petition is approved, you receive your permanent green card. After five years, you are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
Compared to some of the other options for obtaining a green card, the EB-5 visa total cost may be more affordable for a high net-worth individual. While a large amount of money is required for the investment, either as a direct investor or in a Regional Center, your attorney may advise you that the process and outcome may be more predictable. Further, as the majority of the capital a foreigner devotes to EB-5 is in the form of an investment, you may (but are not guaranteed to) receive a return of your investment. As always, you should discuss your immigration options with your immigration attorney in order to determine which potential path makes the most economic sense for you and your family.