If you are considering immigrating to the United States under the EB-5 immigrant visa program, you can breathe a sigh of relief that Congress recently passed legislation extending the program until April 28, 2017. Some members of Congress tried to enact an overhaul of the program in the legislation extending it, but there was insufficient time to do so. However, this is simply another short-term extension of the program, and it is unclear whether the program will be renewed again. What does this renewal mean to your family and you if you are considering taking advantage of the program?
What Is the EB-5 Visa Program?
The EB-5 Immigrant Visa Program is also known as the Immigrant Investment Program. It is the only immigration program administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with a purpose of creating jobs and growth through capital investments. It allows wealthy immigrants and their families to obtain permanent residence—a green card—immediately upon entering the United States. Key facts about the program include:
- To qualify for the program, an immigrant must invest a minimum of $1,000,000 or $500,000 if invested in a rural or highly targeted area where the unemployment rate is 150 percent of the national average.
- The investment must create at least 10 jobs.
- There are 10,000 available EB-5 visas each year. While this number was never exceeded in the past, the program has become more popular in recent years, and there is now a wait list, at least for immigrants from China.
- Immigrants have the options of investing in a job-creating business or investing through regional centers approved by the USCIS.
If the immigrant’s initial investment application is approved, he can apply for conditional residence in the United States. This allows him to live in the United States for two years. He can apply to have his conditional residence made permanent at the end of two years if the investment resulted in the creation of at least 10 jobs.
What Are Regional Centers?
Regional centers are public or private economic entities that promote economic growth, creation of jobs, regional development, and capital investment. A regional center must submit a proposal that is approved by the USCIS. One benefit of investing through a regional center is that indirect jobs created by the project could be included in the creation of 10 jobs requirement that immigrants must meet. In recent years, investing through regional centers is increasingly becoming a popular investment option for immigrants.
What Congress’ Extension of the EB-5 Program Could Mean to Your Family and You
Since the EB-5 Immigrant Visa Program was created by Congress in 1990, it has been renewed by Congress several times. It was set to expire in December 2016 until Congress passed legislation extending it until April 28, 2017. This legislation is viewed as a temporary measure to keep the program going and to give additional time for new legislation to be drafted that would revamp the program.
The EB-5 Immigrant Visa Program is not without controversy. There are allegations that certain regional centers have become hotbeds of fraud and abuse; if these claims are true, then corruption defeats the goals of the program and frustrates attempts to help struggling areas of our country. While no one knows what will happen to this program in 2017, it is possible that it will be reformed at its next renewal and that immigrants will be required to meet new requirements—such as increasing investments to $1.2 million or $800,000 in a targeted area. In addition, there could be other changes to the definition of what is a targeted area and to impose tighter regulations on regional centers to control fraud.
If you are an immigrant or a prospective immigrant, the renewal of the EB-5 program could impact the lives of your family and you. You may want to make decisions now given the possible changes in the program in the future. You should consider the following:
- If you are thinking about immigrating to the United States, you may decide to apply for permanent residence under the current EB-5 program before the investment amounts or other requirements of the program change.
- If you wait to apply under the program, be prepared to pay more in investments and to face more scrutiny of the requirement that you must create at least 10 new jobs through your investment.
- At a minimum, you want to keep current on proposed legislation renewing and modifying the EB-5 program so that you can make informed decisions on your immigration plans.
Are you considering applying for permanent residence under the EB-5 Program? Has your application been approved but you have questions about how the current law could affect your long-term immigration status? We are here to answer your questions and guide you through the EB-5 application process. Call our office at 415-221-2345 to schedule your free consultation.