For all my readers outside of the US: have you ever wanted to invest your money in opportunities inside of the United States?
Often thought of as the “land of opportunity” by many immigrants, it’s no wonder that some of us would like to one day invest in some of the exciting activity that is happening in the US today.
Others might even seek to invest in the US to take advantage of the “immigrant investors” visa or EB-5 program. Basically, the EB-5 program allows you to apply for a green card if you meet two core requirements, 1) you make a necessary investment in a US commercial enterprise and 2) you plan to create or preserve at least 10 permanent full time jobs for qualified US workers.
This used to be a viable route to earning a green card for foreigners with quite a bit of capital to spare. However, recently the EB-5 visa program has been in a state of flux, and it is more important than ever to partner with a qualified attorney for immigration assistance in this area. This is particularly the case if you’ve already embarked on the journey.
Until December 2017, the EB-5 program will remain in effect under the same rules, because President Donald Trump signed H.R. 601 in September 2017. Billed as a hurricane relief measure, this provision is actually a continuing resolution.
To more astute readers, there may be a small problem.
Buried amongst all the verbiage, there is a statement that “appropriations and funds made available and authority granted pursuant to [the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act]” will remain in effect as is until December 8, 2017, or until Congress directs otherwise.
Since immigration is on the Republican legislative agenda this fall, the EB-5 program may change sooner rather than later.
Debates over EB-5
Like many other issues in Washington, opinions on the foreign investor visa program are sharply divided, and neither side appears willing to compromise in any meaningful way.
Immigration liberalists, along with some economists, argue that the EB-5 program is vital in times like the Great Recession, when domestic capital is short. According to this theory, the Great Recession would have been much worse if job-creating EB-5 investors had not been sewing money into capital projects. Furthermore, many of these people are philosophically opposed to most immigration limitations, regardless of their supposed purpose.
Immigration opponents, on the other hand, have a catchy slogan that the EB-5 is tantamount to citizenship for sale. While that approach is probably a gross oversimplification, it does have some merit. And, in the current politically charged environment, a little merit may be all that’s required.
Based on this comparison, the EB-5 program, at least as currently constituted, may be in trouble. Immigration opponents apparently reason that since the Great Recession is over, so is the need for a liberal EB-5 program. Already, momentum is gathering to raise the minimum investment to $800,000. There is also talk of reducing the number of annual investor visas, to perhaps 8,000 or 9,000. That sounds like a lot of approvals, and it is a lot, unless you, your spouse, or your child happens to be number 8,001.
Moreover, with at least one more year of GOP dominance, these seemingly incremental changes could embolden immigration opponents to ask for even more changes in the next legislative session.
Some EB-5 Basics/History
The EB-5 is a green card visa (some have called it a “Golden Ticket” visa) that is a pathway to naturalization for both investors and their family members who qualify. While in the United States, they may travel freely and settle anywhere they wish.
Initially, the visa is valid for a minimum two years. During that time, the investor must put a minimum of $1 million ($500,000 in certain high-unemployment and other economically distressed areas) into domestic businesses, and the investment must create at least ten jobs.
Visa holders who invest the minimum and meet the job creation requirements within the two years may apply to have any remaining restrictions lifted.
It would be completely unfair for a well meaning investor who is contributing to the success of the US to be denied a stake in its future. For the most part, I’d advise foreigners who are thinking of making use of the EB-5 to take a “wait, and see” approach to their application. Make sure that the EB-5 program is here to stay before applying.
As for any readers who are already in the process for applying for the EB-5, take heed. You should engage professional help to make sure that your visa is secured and assured. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!