Permanent resident status based on EB-5 eligibility is available to investors, either alone or coming with their spouse and unmarried children. Eligible aliens are those who have invested — or are actively in the process of investing — the required amount of capital into a new commercial enterprise.
They must further demonstrate that this investment will benefit the United States economy and create the requisite number of full-time jobs for qualified persons within the United States.
There is an annual worldwide quota of 10,000 EB-5 immigrants. In fiscal year 2012 (ending October 31), a total of 7631 persons immigrated in this category, of which 80% were from China. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Chinese EB-5 applicant may soon be subject to a wait list. There has never been an EB-5 wait list before.
In this article, we will address the most frequently asked questions to safeguard your EB-5 application.
I. EB-5 Investment Requirements
Generally, you may be eligible for EB-5 immigrant visa if:
1. You establish a new commercial enterprise by:
(1) creating an new business;
(2) restructuring an existing business; or
(3) expanding an existing business resulting in an increase of at least 40% in the net worth of the business or in the number of the employees of the business.
Note: In 2002, Congress has eliminated the “establishment” requirement for EB-5 investors. Instead of proving that they have “established” a commercial enterprise themselves, investors now need only show that they have “invested” in a commercial enterprise.
There are two basic requirements for showing a new commercial enterprise. First, the enterprise must be “new” – i.e. formed after November 29, 1990. However, an enterprise formed before this date may qualify if an investor “restructures” or “expands” an existing business.
Second, it must be a “commercial” enterprise. Any for-profit entity formed for the ongoing conduct of lawful business may serve as a commercial enterprise.
2. You have invested, or are actively in the process of investing, in a new commercial enterprise:
(1) at least $1,000,000, or
(2) 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 per cent of the national average rate or a rural area as designated by OMB; and
Note: To qualify, an investor must maintain more than a purely passive role in the new enterprise upon which the petition is based. The petitioner must be either involved in the day-to-day managerial control of the commercial enterprise, or manage it though policy formulation.
The term “invest” means to contribute capital. A contribution of capital in exchange for a note, bond, convertible debt, obligation, or any other debt arrangement between the entrepreneur and the new commercial enterprise does not constitute a contribution of capital and will not constitute an investment. Capital must be obtained though lawful means.
3. Your engagement in a new commercial enterprise will benefit the United States economy:
(1) create full-time employment for at least 10 U.S. citizens, lawful permanent resident, or other immigrants lawfully authorized to be employed in the United States; or
(2) maintain the 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,” which is a business that has been in existence for at least two years and that has lost 20 percent of its net worth over the past 12 to 24 months.
Note: Neither the investor nor the investor’s spouse and children count toward the 10-employee minimum. Nonimmigrants also are excluded from the count. The definition also excludes independent contractors.
The jobs created must be full-time, meaning employment of a qualified employee in a position that requires a minimum 35 working hours per week. Job-sharing arrangements, where two or more qualifying employees share a full-time position will also serve as a full-time employment, if the hourly requirement per week is met.
II. EB-5 Investment Options
Three types of enterprise entities commonly associated with EB-5 petitions:
Corporations are the most familiar business structure. A corporation exists as a separate legal entity. This means that when an individual incorporates his/her business in a particular state, the corporation is responsible for its actions, including taxes and debt. Typically under this structure, corporate officers and shareholders cannot be held personally liable for the actions of the corporation.
Additionally, ownership of corporate stock may be freely transferred by sale or by gift, subject to certain corporate restrictions. An incorporated business may buy, sell, and hold property under the corporation name and enjoy unlimited life, meaning the business remains unaffected by the death of a director, officer, or shareholder. However, some types of corporations are subject to “double taxation.” This means that profit is first taxed at the corporate level and then again at the personal level.
2. Limited Liability Companies
A limited liability company (LLC) exists as a separate legal entity. This structure combines some of the limited liability advantages of a corporation with the tax-related benefits of avoiding double taxation associated with a partnership. One of the major advantages of an LLC is that the business can choose how it would like to be taxed—as a corporation or partnership. Additionally, there is no limit to the number of shareholders that can exist in a LLC structure. A LLC can be managed either through “member management,” in which all members of the LLC have a say, or through “manager management,” in which members appoint a manager to operate and direct the business. Many states have implemented “franchise taxes” for LLCs which serve as fees to the company for the limited liability and flexibility they enjoy.
3. Limited Partnership
A limited partnership occurs when two or more individuals join together to form a business by contributing capital, property, labor or skills in exchange for part of the profit or losses of a business. In a limited partnership, there is usually only one general partner and one or more limited partners with limited duties and liabilities. In this structure, the general partner(s) have full management responsibilities and control daily business functions. The limited partner is typically a passive investor. Limited partnerships enjoy the tax benefit of avoiding double taxation on their profit. However, partners are personally liable and not all partners share liability equally. Examples of limited partnerships include large law firms.
III. EB-5 Visa Process
1. Filing for Immigrant Petition
Investors should first file Form I-526, accompanied by all supporting documentations with the USCIS California Service Center. Form I-526 is equivalent to the I-140 in that after approval, one still needs to adjust status through an I-485 if he or she is in the U.S., or through consular processing if he or she is outside of the U.S. The required documentation must show that the immigrant investor has invested or is investing the required lawfully-gained capital in a company within the U.S., and that the investor will create full-time jobs for at least 10 U.S. workers.
Specifically, first, an investor must show that an investment has been made in a qualified commercial enterprise. Evidence may include but not limit to: 1) an organizational document for the new enterprise, including articles of incorporation, certificates of merger and consolidation, or partnership agreements; 2) a business license or authorization to transact business in a state or city, if applicable; and 3) for investment in an existing business, proof that the required amount capital was transferred to the business and the investment has increased the net worth or number of employees by 40% or more.
Second, the investor must prove that the required amount of capital “at risk” has been placed. A mere intention to invest will not satisfy the “actively in the process of investing” requirement. Evidence may include: 1) bank statements showing deposits in the U.S. account of the enterprise; 2) evidence of assets purchased for use in the enterprise; 3) evidence of property transferred from abroad; 4) evidence of funds invested in the enterprise in exchange for stock; 5) evidence of debts secured by the investor’s assets and for which the investor is personally and primarily liable.
Third, the regulation s require filing the following types of documentation to establish that the capital used in the new enterprise was acquired by legitimate means: 1) foreign business registration records; 2) personal and business tax returns, or other tax returns of any kind field anywhere in the world within the past five years; 3) documents identifying any other source of money; or 4) certified copies of all pending governmental civil or criminal actions and proceedings, or any private civil actions involving money judgments against the investor within the past 15 years.
Fourth, the investor needs to show that a new commercial enterprise will create at least 10 full-time positions for qualified employees. Petitioner should provide copies of relevant tax records, Form I-9 or similar documents, and a comprehensive business plan.
Fifth, the petitioner must be involved in the management of a new commercial enterprise, by providing documentations including comprehensive job description for the position occupied by the investor, certificate that the investor is a corporate officer or on the board of directors, or any other documents showing that the investor is involved in direct management activities or policymaking activities.
The filing fee for Form I-526 is $1,500. Current processing time for I-526 is four to six months.
2. Filing for Change of Status Petition
Once an investor has received I-526 approval, he or she can receive Conditional Permanent Residence by filing Form I-485.
If You Are residing Outside the United States
You can become a permanent resident through consular processing if you live outside the United States. Consular processing is when USCIS works with the Department of State to issue a visa on an approved Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur Petition when a visa is available. Processing time is between 6 months to 1 year.
If You Are residing in the United States
You can become a conditional permanent resident through change of status if you live inside the United States. Once Form I-526 is approved and a visa number is available, you can apply for conditional permanent residence using Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Upon approval of the Form I-485 or admission on an EB-5 immigrant visa, the investor and his/her derivative family members are granted two-years of “conditional” permanent resident status. Children must be unmarried and under the age of 21 to be considered derivatives at the time the I-526 is filed.
3. Filing for Removal of Conditional Residency
Within 90 days of the 2-year conditional green card’s expiration date, the investor must file Form I-829, to request removal of conditional permanent residency. The petition will be granted if the investor has fulfilled the EB-5 requirements in accordance with the business plan in the approved Form I-526 petition. Failure to file Form I-829 will result in automatic termination of the conditional resident’s status and will initiate deportation proceedings.
Immigrant investors remain in “valid” status while their I-829 petition is pending. Their status is supposed to be extended automatically in one year increments until USCIS acts on the petition. During that time, investors are authorized to travel.
Once conditions have been removed, a full green card is granted for indefinite permanent resident status in the United States. After five years of permanent residency (including the two conditional years), an investor may apply for U.S. citizenship.
If you need assistance with you EB-5 Visa, be sure to email us with your case request.
See Chinese Version below:
EB-5 投资移民律师：EB-5 投资移民申请指南
EB-5 投资移民律师：EB-5 投资移民申请指南
投资者与其配偶及未婚子女可以通过申请EB-5 投资移民签证从而获得美国永久居民身份。此类签证申请人包括已投资或者正在积极进行投资规划，并已达到投资金额要求的投资者。此外， 申请人必须证明该投资有利于促进美国经济，并且能为美国公民或美国绿卡持有者或者其他合法移民创造10 个以上的全职工作岗位。
I． EB-5 投资移民签证条件
提示：2002年，国会删除了“设立企业”的要求。与之前要求投资人设立新企业不同的是， 现在EB-5 申请人只需证明其有对在美商业企业进行投资。
（2）如果申请人投资的对象处于“目标就业区”（targeted employment area），及人口低于两万或者失业率高于美国平均失业率50%的高失业率地区，投资金额可以下调至不少于50万美金。
在I-526获得批准以后，与其他移民签证类似，申请人需要通过领事馆程序（如果申请人不在美国境内）进行身份调整或者提交I-485表格（如果申请人处于美国境内），审理过程大概需要6到12个月，一旦身份调整获得批准，申请人即会获得有效期为两年的“临时绿卡”（Conditional Green Card），该绿卡和永久绿卡的享有相同的待遇。主申请人的直接亲属（即配偶和21岁以下的未婚子女）可以作为受益人同时申请。I-485的审理时间为半年到一年；