Legal Guide

Citizenship by Investment: What Immigrant Entrepreneurs Should Know

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program enables immigrant investors who are interested in engaging in enterprises that benefit the United States economy to gain residency and citizenship rights. Multiple criteria must be fulfilled for investors to qualify. In November 2019, new rules went into effect that modernize the EB-5 Program. Immigration and business attorneys can help immigrant investors understand changes to the laws and how they can ensure they meet eligibility guidelines to increase their chances of obtaining EB-5 Visas. 

Is the EB-5 Visa Program Right for You?

Immigrant investors receive approximately 7.1% of the 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas issued throughout the world every year. The EB-5 (employment-based fifth preference ) Visa Program is administered by USCIS. It was created in 1990 to stimulate the United States economy. The Immigrant Investor Program was created by Congress in 1992. Also known as the Regional Center Program, it sets aside EB-5 visas for investors who invest in certain commercial enterprises.

The program gives immigrant investors who meet certain criteria, their spouses, and their unmarried children who are under 21 the opportunity to apply for permanent residency (a Green Card.) Foreign businesspeople who plan to preserve or create at least ten full-time, permanent jobs for qualifying American workers and who invest a minimum amount in a commercial enterprise in the US may qualify for the program. 

Modernizing the Immigrant Investor Program

In 2019, a new rule that was published by the United States Department of Homeland Security went into effect. The new rule:

  • Retains priority dates for EB-5 Investors
  • Increases the required minimum amount immigrants need to invest
  • Reforms some TEA (targeted employment area) designations
  • Provides clarification on USCIS procedures for removing permanent residence conditions

Priority Dates

Priority dates establish an immigrant’s place in the queue for application processing. The priority date for classification is the date the petition is filed correctly. Under the new rule, when investors have more than one petition, the date of the first approved filing is used.  

Minimum Investment

To adjust for inflations, the new rule increases the amount immigrant investors are required to invest to qualify for the EB-5 visa program. Investors may not use borrowed funds to make an investment. The new minimum amount to invest in a TEA increased from $500,000 to $900,000. For standard investments, the minimum amount increased from $1 million to $1.8 Million. Future adjustments to investment amounts will now occur every five years. 

TEA Designations

Targeted employment area designations will no longer be determined by state and local governments. TEAs may now include towns and cities with populations over 20,000 outside metropolitan areas as long as they have an unemployment rate of 150% or more of the national average. Oftentimes, immigrant entrepreneurs can find TEAs in places where catastrophic events have caused significantly high unemployment levels. 

Removing Permanent Residence Conditions

The new rule clarifies the procedures immigrant spouses and children under 21 must follow to remove permanent residency conditions. It also increases flexibility in interview locations and updates the process for issuing Green Cards. 

How Changes to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program May Impact Immigrants

Changes to the program may make it more difficult for some people to obtain EB-5 visas. Business attorneys and real estate lawyers may help many immigrants who are interested in obtaining an EB-5 visa learn more about investment opportunities and structuring their businesses in the United States. Additionally, immigrants who can no longer meet the minimum investment guidelines may wish to pursue other pathways to citizenship. There are a variety of other options for business visas, student visas, work visas, and even family-based visas. 

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