Foreign investors hoping for a green card under the EB-5 visa program have a last-minute window to apply. It is very likely that Congress will announce tighter restrictions that will take effect after 11 December.
There are two distinct EB-5 pathways for an immigrant investor to gain lawful permanent residence for themselves and their immediate family. One is the Basic Program and the other is the Regional Center Pilot Program. Both programs require that the immigrant make a capital investment of either $500,000 or $1,000,000 (depending on whether the investment is in a Targeted Employment Area [TEA] or not) in a new commercial enterprise. A TEA is a rural area or an urban area that has experienced high unemployment of at least 150 percent of the national average.
The EB-5 program grants temporary legal status and a path to U.S. citizenship for foreign nationals who invest in a U.S. business that creates at least 10 U.S. jobs. The program was due to sunset September 30, but it has been extended until December 11.
Many potential investors want to know if they can get in under the current rules, which are more liberal that the changes that may take place in December.
Are they too late? Are they still okay?
One Senate bill proposes raising investment amounts from $500,000 to $800,000, and from $1 million to $1.2 million. Although this increase is not enough to discourage most investors, it would make it harder for applicants to wire funds to United States. Some countries, like Vietnam, have extremely low limits for money wired abroad. It may be challenging for investors to document 60% more invested funds. To avoid this result, many investors may choose to invest now before the law changes in December.
For the Regional Centers, Senator Rand Paul has introduced a bill in the Senate. Senator Paul’s bill would keep the investment amount same, increase the number of available EB5 visas, and speed up processing by CIS. All of these are common sense improvements that will enable the EB-5 Regional Center program to create even more jobs.
However, there is also an EB5 bill introduced by Senators Grassley and Leahy. Their bill would change many key aspects of the EB5 program. It would increase the minimum investment to $800,000 for investments in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA), and $1.2 million for investments not in a TEA. In addition, investors would be required to submit 7 years of tax returns. And, Gifted funds could only be used for EB-5 investments if gifted by a spouse, parent, child, sibling, or grandparent.
Q.1. Which country has the largest number of EB5 investors?
A.1. In the 2014 Fiscal Year, ten thousand EB5 visas were issued. China got 9,128 visas, South Korea 225, Mexico 129, Vietnam 121, and India 96. These numbers include the visas issued to the investors as well as visas issued to accompanying family members.
Q.2. Is the EB5 program helping the American economy?
A.2. Between 2005 and 2013, the EB-5 program generated $5.2 billion in foreign direct investment for U.S. projects. In 2013 alone, foreign investors pumped $1.6 billion into the U.S. economy through the program. The EB5 projects could help to create 31,000 new jobs for Americans.
Q.3. What are the helpful points of the proposed EB5 legislation?
A.3. The program would be extended for five years and there would be shorter CIS processing times. Also, investors could invest under the current rules, even after 11 December, if the regional center has received project approval before 11 December.