EB-5 visas fall under the the "Immigrant Investor Program" or "Regional Center Program". Under this program, entrepreneurs (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) are eligible to apply for a green card if they:
- Make the necessary investment in a new commercial enterprise in the United States; and
- Plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers.
Generally speaking, as an EB-5 applicant, you invest a specific dollar amount (at least US$500,000 per applicant) in a U.S. registered business which will generate or preserve 10 jobs for qualified American workers. You do not have to establish the commercial enterprise yourself. It suffices that you are an "accredited investor" (which has a specific meaning under SEC rules). EB-5 applications are generally done by Regional Centers that are economic units, public or private, that are involved with promoting economic growth. Regional centers are designated by USCIS for participation in the Immigrant Investor Program. They may or any not have an immigration attorney on staff to guide you through the immigration part of the process. They are there to offer the investment required under the EB-5 program, but are not obliged to guide you in the quality of the investment (for this, you may want to engage a properly licensed investment adviser who has all the necessary FINRA licenses).
The sequence of events for your EB-5 petition is typically as follows:
- Submit the initial Information Form and NDA (non-disclosure agreement as regards the investment)
- Review the details of the investment (usually a private placement memorandum or similar document that sets out the terms and substance of the investment)
- Subscribe to invest and pay the investing fee
- Transfer the investment amount ($500,000) to an escrow account
- File I-526 petition with the USCIS
- Conditional issue of green card based on I-526 petition
- File I-829 petition to remove conditions to green card
- Return of investment funds (note: while this is the usual practice, there is no guarantee of return of funds)
In recent years, the EB-5 program has come under scrutiny for the lack of regulation of Regional Centers, which are perceived as ways by which fraud or money laundering or even threats to national security are carried out. That said, the EB-5 program remains a legitimate program. While the USICS has shut down a number of Regional Centers in the past few years, there is no reason why some due diligence on your part wouldn't secure you a center or immigration attorney you can trust to legally and safely secure your green card through this program.