The EB-5 Investor Visa
Nearly 30 years ago, the legislature created a new visa program designed to draw capital investments to the United States and stimulate job growth. The EB-5 investor visa provides a path to citizenship for foreign nationals who:
- Invest at least $1,000,000 in a new commercial enterprise, and
- Create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers
The minimum investment is reduced to $500,000 in certain rural areas and areas with high unemployment, known as Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs). EB-5 immigrant visas are capped at 10,000 per year, with some of those set aside for investors entering TEAs. The EB-5 program presents an unusual opportunity for those seeking to live and work in the United States, as most business visas are time-limited and do not provide a path to citizenship.
Historically fewer than 10,000 EB-5 visas have been issued annually
Throughout most of the EB-5 investor visa program’s history, far fewer than 10,000 EB-5 visas have been issued annually. However, in recent years numbers have been climbing, and would-be investors from certain countries face long waiting lists. Currently, there is a significant backlog of Chinese EB-5 applicants, with a lag time of several years and growing.
Serious concerns about the EB-5 process continuing in its current form
One reason EB-5 petition numbers have increased is concern that the option won’t be available for long. The program is scheduled to expire on September 30. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed serious concerns about the EB-5 process continuing in its current form. This isn’t new territory. The program was most recently extended in March, with draft legislation being circulated and the expectation that regulations would be updated.
Some of the issues legislators, the Trump administration, DHS officials and others have raised include:
- The relatively low bar to entry created by the $500,000/$1,000,000 thresholds, and the possible need to increase those minimums
- The perception that the EB-5 program allows the wealthy to purchase admission to the United States. While those without financial means face significant hurdles
- Allegations of fraud and abuse within the program
The future of the EB-5 investor visa is uncertain
Some of these issues were addressed in proposed regulations from the Obama administration, which have yet to be enacted. Now, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Lee Francis Cissna says it’s unlikely that revised regulations will be finalized before the program expires in September.
While many are calling for reforms of the program, others have stated directly that they’d like to see it abolished. It remains to be seen whether new regulations and/or legislation will reform the EB-5 investor visa program into something legislators want to carry forward. And, the exact terms of any reforms are uncertain, although it seems likely that any revision of the program would include:
- A bump in the minimum investment, both generally and in TEAs
- Stricter screening to reduce the potential for fraud and abuse
- More stringent security screening
Learn More about the EB-5 Investor Visa Program Now
If you’re considering applying for an EB-5 investor visa, it’s important that you stay aware of the changing legal and regulatory landscape and make strategic decisions about whether and when to apply. An experienced business immigration attorney can help you assess your options, including the possibility of an alternative route to obtaining a visa.