Let's compare the EB-5 investor visa to another type of visa program: The L-1 Intra-company Transferee Visa. The L-1 is designed to allow a company doing business in China to open or acquire an American subsidiary and transfer two key employees to operate and manage the business. These two employees, if they qualify, can obtain L-1 visas. With proper planning-and if the business succeeds-the American subsidiary of the Chinese parent company can serve as the source of a Green Card for the designated executive or manager.
Advantages: If a Green Card is your goal, the L-1 is certainly a viable alternative if you are is unwilling or unable to make the investment required by the EB-5 program. The L-1 is ideally suited for an executive or owner of a Chinese company who wishes to open a U.S. subsidiary and transfer a key executive/managerial employee to establish and manage the U.S. subsidiary.
Disadvantages: As I always warn L-1 clients, the visa is granted and extended based entirely on the success or potential success of the United States subsidiary. Should your business not perform as anticipated, the L-1 could be lost, along with any potential path to a Green Card.
Bottom line: If you're not interested in having your legal residency depend on the success of your business, you should probably choose a different route, such as the EB-5 Investor Visa. With few exceptions, this is the only path to a Green Card that is direct and guaranteed, as long as you are able to make the necessary investment and meet certain basic requirements. And the benefits are unrestricted: the successful EB-5 applicant and his or her family are immediately able to live, work and go to school in the United States. After 21 months, the applicant can petition the government to make the Green Cards permanent. And after 5 years, the investor and the investor's family qualify for naturalization as full American citizens.