U.S. Green Card by Investment Guide | Become a Green Card Investor in 2023

Written by: Rongjie Zhao
Last Updated by Rocío Somoza: March 16, 2023
Free Download Our Exclusive E2 Visa Business Guide
e2 visa cost

USCIS administers the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. It was created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Under a program first enacted as a pilot in 1992 and regularly reauthorized since then, investors may also qualify for EB-5 classification by investing through regional centers designated by USCIS based on proposals for promoting economic growth. 

Contents

What is the EB-5 Green Card Investor Visa?

On March 15, 2022, President Biden signed the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 (Public Law 117-103), which created new requirements for the EB-5 immigrant visa category and the Regional Center Program. Immigrant visas are authorized under the Regional Center Program through Sep. 30, 2027. The EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act created new EB-5 immigrant visa set-asides for qualified immigrant investors. Each fiscal year, a certain percentage of EB-5 immigrant visas are available to qualified immigrants who invest in specific areas:

Any of these set-aside visas that go unused are held in the same set-aside category for one more fiscal year. After the second fiscal year, any remaining unused immigrant visas in these set-aside categories are released to the unreserved EB-5 immigrant visa numbers during the third fiscal year.

Area invested in EB-5 Immigrant Visas Set-Aside Each Fiscal Year
Rural Area 20%
High Unemployment Area 10%
Infrastructure Project 2%

Repent Card by Investment Requirement:

All EB-5 Green Card Investors must invest in a new commercial enterprise that was established:

– After Nov. 29, 1990; or

– On or before Nov. 29, 1990, that was:

  • Purchased and the existing business is restructured or reorganized in such a way that a new commercial enterprise results; or
  • Expanded through the investment, resulting in at least a 40% increase in the net worth or number of employees.

A new commercial enterprise means any for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of lawful business, including:

  • A sole proprietorship;
  • Partnership (whether limited or general);
  • Holding company and its wholly owned subsidiaries (provided that each subsidiary is engaged in a for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of a lawful business);
  • Joint venture;
  • Corporation;
  • Business trust;
  • Limited liability company; or
  • Other entity, which may be publicly or privately owned.

This definition does not include noncommercial activity, such as owning and operating a personal residence.

Green Card Investor

Job Creation Requirements:

An EB-5 investor must invest the required amount of capital in a new commercial enterprise that will create full-time positions for at least 10 qualifying employees.

– For a new commercial enterprise not located within a regional center? The new commercial enterprise must directly create the full-time positions to be counted. This means that the new commercial enterprise (or its wholly owned subsidiaries) must itself be the employer of the qualifying employees.

– For a new commercial enterprise located within a regional center? The new commercial enterprise can directly or indirectly create the full-time positions. Up to 90% of the job creation requirement for regional center investors may be met using indirect jobs.

  • Direct jobs establish an employer-employee relationship between the new commercial enterprise and the persons it employs.
  • Indirect jobs are held outside of the new commercial enterprise but are created as a result of the new commercial enterprise.

In the case of a troubled business, the EB-5 investor may rely on job maintenance.

  • The investor must show that the number of existing employees is, or will be, no less than the pre-investment level for a period of at least two years.

Troubled business

A troubled business is one that has been in existence for at least two years and has incurred a net loss during the 12- or 24-month period before the priority date on the immigrant investor’s Form I-526. The loss for this period must be at least 20% of the troubled business’s net worth before the loss. When determining whether the troubled business has been in existence for two years, USCIS will consider successors in interest to the troubled business when evaluating whether they have been in existence for the same period of time as the business they succeeded.

Qualifying employee

A qualifying employee is a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or other immigrant authorized to work in the United States. Which includes a conditional resident, temporary resident, asylee, refugee, or a person residing in the United States under suspension of deportation. 

This definition does not include:

  • Immigrant investors;
  • Their spouses, sons, or daughters;
  • Or any noncitizen in any nonimmigrant status (such as an H-1B nonimmigrant) or who is not authorized to work in the United States.

Full-time employment

Full-time employment means employment of a qualifying employee by the new commercial enterprise in a position that requires a minimum of 35 working hours per week. In the case of the regional center program, full-time employment also means employment of a qualifying employee in a position that has been created indirectly that requires a minimum of 35 working hours per week.

A job-sharing arrangement where two or more qualifying employees share a full-time position will count as full-time employment provided the hourly requirement per week is met. This definition does not include combinations of part-time positions even if, when combined, the positions meet the hourly requirement per week.

Jobs that are intermittent, temporary, seasonal, or transient do not qualify as permanent full-time jobs. However, jobs that are expected to last at least two years are generally not considered intermittent, temporary, seasonal, or transient.

Green Card by Investment Capital Requirements:

Capital means cash and all real, personal, or mixed tangible assets owned and controlled by the immigrant investor. All capital will be valued at fair-market value in U.S. dollars.

The definition of capital does not include:

  • Assets acquired, directly or indirectly, by unlawful means (such as criminal activities);
  • Capital invested in exchange for a note, bond, convertible debt, obligation, or any other debt arrangement between the immigrant investor and the new commercial enterprise;
  • Capital invested with a guaranteed rate of return on the amount invested; or
  • Capital invested that is subject to any agreement between the immigrant investor and the new commercial enterprise that provides the immigrant investor with a contractual right to repayment, except that the new commercial enterprise may have a buy-back option that may be exercised solely at the discretion of the new commercial enterprise.

Note: Immigrant investors must establish that they are the legal owner of the capital invested. Capital can include their promise to pay (a promissory note) in certain circumstances.

The minimum investment amounts by filing date and investment location are:

Petition Filing Date Minimum Investment Amount Targeted Employment Area Investment Amount High-Employment Area Investment Amount
Before 3/15/2022 $1,000,000 $500,000 $1,000,000
On or After 3/15/2022 $1,050,000 $800,000 (includes infrastructure projects) N/A

Future adjustments will be tied to inflation using the change in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) from March 15, 2022, to the date of adjustment. These adjustments will occur every five years, with the first such adjustment effective for petitions filed on or after Jan. 1, 2027.

A targeted employment area can be, at the time of investment, either:

  • A rural area; or
  • An area that has experienced high unemployment (defined as at least 150% of the national average unemployment rate).

Rural Area

A rural area is any area other than an area:

  • within a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) (as designated by the Office of Management and Budget)
  • or within the outer boundary of any city or town having a population of 20,000 or more according to the most recent decennial census of the United States.

High-unemployment area

A high-unemployment area consists of the census tract or contiguous census tracts in which the new commercial enterprise is principally doing business which may include any or all directly adjacent census tracts, if the weighted average unemployment for the specified area based on the labor force employment measure for each tract is 150% of the national unemployment average.

Regional center investors may choose to invest in a new commercial enterprise engaged in an infrastructure project. An infrastructure project is a capital investment project in a filed or approved business plan. Which is administered by a governmental entity (such as a Federal, State, or local agency or authority). It is the job-creating entity contracting with a regional center or new commercial enterprise to receive capital investment under the regional center program from alien investors or the new commercial enterprise as financing for maintaining, improving, or constructing a public works project. After the second fiscal year, any remaining unused immigrant visas in these set-aside categories are released to the unreserved EB-5 immigrant visa numbers during the third fiscal year.

green card

Latest Green Card by Investment News

Based on the USCIS official website, on 01/04/2023, USCIS published Form I-956K, Registration for Direct and Third-Party Promoters. The EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 added the requirement for direct and third-party promoters to register with USCIS.

Each person acting as a direct or third-party promoter (including migration agents) of the following must complete Form I-956K:

  • A regional center;
  • A new commercial enterprise;
  • An affiliated job-creating entity; or
  • An issuer of securities intended to be offered to immigrant investors in connection with a particular capital investment project.

There is no filing fee for Form I-956K.

On 10/11/2022, USCIS also published their updated policy guidance (PDF, 342.87 KB) in the USCIS Policy Manual based on the vacatur of the EB-5 Modernization Rule and the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022.

Some policy highlights include:

  • Removing the provisions found in the EB-5 Modernization Rule that a federal court vacated on June 22, 2021;
  • Adding that an applicant may file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, concurrently with, or subsequent to, a Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor, or Form I-526E, Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor, where a visa is immediately available;
  • Revising the investment amounts and targeted employment area designation process; and
  • Updating the name of Form I-526 throughout Volumes 7 and 8 from its former name (Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur) to the current name (Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor) and adding references to Form I-526E, Immig;

Steps to get EB-5 Visa:

Based on the USCIS official pages, there are 4 main steps to get the EB-5 Visa:

If an immigrant visa is immediately available to you, you may file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, together with your Form I-526 or Form I-526E, while your Form I-526 or Form I-526E is pending, or after your Form I-526 or Form I-526E is approved. To make sure that an immigrant visa is immediately available to you when you file your Form I-485, see the Visa Availability and Priority Dates and Adjustment of Status Filing Charts from the Visa Bulletin pages on our website as well as the Visa Bulletin.

After we approve your Form I-526 or Form I-526E petition, either:

If USCIS approves this petition, we will remove the conditions from your lawful permanent resident status and from that of any dependents you included.

Timeline for Green Card Investors in 2023

How long does it take to get an EB-5 visa?

From a consulting website about the EB-5 visa called EB5 Bricks, the time to get the EB-5 visa is as follows:

  • EB-5 visa processing time for I-526 Immigrant petition ranges from 29.5 to 61 months, as of December 2022; USCIS processing estimates.
  • For investors present in the USA, I-485 Processing time of a USA investment Green card application to Adjust Status is 7 to 29 months depending on the service center.
  • For investors outside of the U.S., the National Visa Center and Consular process takes around 6 to 12 months.
  • For any visa category, the USCIS processing times keep fluctuating depending upon the number of pending applications and the number of applications being filed each year. See EB5 Costs.
e2 visa cost

Processing times for each step

Processing times for I-526

An I-526 application is needed in order to be able to move forward and get a conditional green card from the USCIS. The amount of time it takes for this petition to be processed varies. And it is heavily dependent on the complexity of your case and how busy the service center is that is processing your petition. The waiting period is about 31 months to 50 months (currently). But it could take much shorter or much longer.

Processing time for DS-260 and I-485

DS-260 application allows an investor and their dependents to commence their residency on the Conditional Green Card. U.S. investor visa applicants who are not already in the United States upon approval of their I-526 form have to file a DS-260 application. This is to obtain the conditional permanent residency status during the visa process. It can be filed at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad. It requires an interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy.

The conditional permanent residency status is given to applicants after their DS-260 is approved. Depending upon your consulate, once NVC/consulate receives all required documents, usually NVC/Consulate will schedule an interview within 60 to 90 days, if the priority date is current. An immigration attorney can also help file your DS-260 application. If they are already in the United States on a different Immigrant visa then they can apply for the form I-485 (Adjustment of Status).

Wait times for I-829

The I-829 application is the final step of the EB-5 visa process for the Immigrant Investors to become lawful permanent residents of the United States. The I-829 petition includes evidence that the immigrant investor successfully met all the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once the I-829 is approved, the investor’s conditional residency restriction is removed. So that the investor, their spouse, and their unmarried children under the age of 21 can live in the United States permanently. This can currently take from 22 months to 48.5 months.

The EB-5 investor can file the I-829 petition with USCIS starting 90 days before the end of the two-year conditional permanent status period. The applicant’s conditional residency is extended while the I-829 is in process. The I-829 application must be filed within 21 to 24 months of the investor’s two-year conditional residency period. Otherwise the ability to obtain a permanent residency card can be jeopardized.

green card investor

What are direct EB-5 investment and regional center investment?

The information below comes from the EB-5 diligence website

What is a direct EB-5 investment?

A direct investment is made directly into the job-creating business. In the past, most direct investments were made into owner-operated businesses, like franchises. But since the expiry of the Regional Center Program after June 30, 2021, a new kind of direct investment model has emerged: investment into companies with proven concepts that are looking to expand with non-dilutive EB-5 capital.

EB-5 Regional Center Program

Direct investment job creation

A direct investment in a company is responsible for creating 10 full-time jobs. If they are operating their own business, the EB-5 applicant and family members do not count toward this quota. And direct investors are limited to counting only direct or operational jobs created by the business that received the investment capital.

The advantages of direct investments

The nature and structure of direct investments offer many advantages not seen in regional center investments. First, as direct investing is done through the permanent EB-5 investor program, it is never subject to potential expiration dates. This offers greater assurances of long-term stability than the Regional Center Program, which had always relied on short-term extensions – and which has remained expired since July 1, 2021.

For investors, direct investments can have potentially many advantages:

  • As equity investments, they can potentially offer higher rates of return than the very low rates offered by regional center investments
  • They don’t have the exit-timing challenges faced by regional center investments
  • Redeployment isn’t a factor with direct investments

For the U.S. economy, direct investments also have many benefits:

  • Only actual payroll jobs are counted
  • Jobs can be truly permanent and not just based on short-term projects
  • Jobs can be highly skilled in innovative sectors beyond construction
  • Not being focused on real estate development allows businesses in virtually any location, including distressed or rural areas, to benefit from EB-5 capital

The more simple structure of direct investments offers more transparency and less opportunity for conflicts of interests, abuse, and fraud.

What is a regional center investment?

According to USCIS, “An EB-5 regional center is an economic unit, public or private, in the United States that is involved with promoting economic growth.” Regional centers sponsor job-creating projects, and pool together the capital investment of multiple investors for these projects.

The regional center investment structure is far different and more complex than the direct investment structure: the investment is made into the EB-5 fund, otherwise known as the new commercial enterprise (NCE), an entity solely created to raise and lend money. The EB-5 fund then restructures the investment capital as a loan to the business that creates the qualifying jobs, the job-creating entity (JCE). The different entities may or may be under common control.

NIW Premium Processing

Regional center job creation

Regional center investors can count not only direct jobs, but indirect jobs, those created by supplier industries, and induced jobs, employment in the local community that is created by spending of investment-project workers in the area. It should be noted that indirect and induced jobs are not actually counted, but instead projected by economic modelling.

Easier job creation and robust marketing by regional centers led to about 95% of all EB-5 investments having been made in the past through the Regional Center Program.

The advantages of a regional center investment

Regional center investments can count indirect and induced jobs, determined by economic modeling, making it potentially easier to satisfy the job-creation requirement. If the real estate development project spent its budget, the jobs were virtually assured of being credited, regardless of whether or not the project was successful.

Check out our EB-5 direct services if you’d like to invest in a franchise for your EB-5 visa!