The EB-5 is an employment based green card which allows foreign nationals to invest money in projects or businesses that in turn create at least 10 full time jobs per investor. Regional centers have proliferated over the years but the trend in terms of investing is a more entrepreneurial one, called Direct Investment, which does not utilize a regional center. Direct investment is where somebody can set up their own business, or purchase a business or franchise, and have a hands-on role in the management and operations of that business.

This visa is accessible to people who have access to at least $500,000. If the business is in an economically depressed area, called a Targeted Employment Area, people who invest $500,000 into that business and create 10 jobs, can keep their green card and eventually become eligible for citizenship. If the business is situated in an area that is not designated as a targeted employment area, they have to invest $1 million.

An earlier blog talked about the E-2 visa, a non-immigrant visa which allows people to get a visa for a substantial, but usually substantial lower investment amount. The E-2 only applies to people from the approximately 80 countries that have a treaty with the U.S. Since most of the world’s population lives in a few countries, most notably the BRIICS countries (Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, India, China and South Africa), and none of those countries have an E-2 treaty with the U.S., most EB-5 investors come from those nations.

The EB-5 also allows people who are already on an E-2 visa, to convert their visas into green cards, if they eventually meet the threshold for investment ($500,000 or $1 million), and can show that they will or have created 10 or more full time jobs through their investment. This gives E-2 nationals who are already here, but don’t have $500,000 or $1 million, the opportunity to start a business, get an E-2 visa, and eventually convert it into an EB-5 green card for them and their dependent family members (spouses and children under 21), once they have invested the requisite amount.

For all those people who are not eligible for E-2 because they do not possess citizenship from any of the treaty countries, EB-5 is one of the only options they have. If they want to run their own business, they can do so by investing at least the requisite $500,000 into a business whose model will ensure the creation of the requisite number of jobs.  This makes it an extension in a way of E-2.  It encourages an entrepreneurial spirit at a higher price tag, but there are no limits on who is eligible based on nationality.  All it takes is capital and finding a business model which will ensure job creation. If that capital is not available, they can start a business in their home country and after one year create a U.S. subsidiary and apply for the L-1 visa, which can eventually be used as a platform for a green card.