EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program
In 1990, to spur foreign investments into the United States economy, Congress implemented the fifth employment-based preference pilot program (EB-5). Known as the EB-5 Regional Center Investment Program, this initiate gave permission to the United States Citizen Immigration Services office (USCIS) to elect eligible candidates as Regional Centers. Such Regional Centers are a private corporation or enterprise whose investment parameters are directly monitored and regulated by the USCIS. Foreign nationals like Chinese and Mexican individuals looking to invest a minimum of $500,000 (USD) in a U.S. business that has the potential to save or create a minimum of ten full time jobs and is located in Targeted Employment Areas (“TEA”) are thus eligible for the program. Though there is little flexibility on the monetary investment requirement, the minimum jobs created requirement may be fulfilled from employment created both directly and indirectly through the development.
Eligibility for participation in a Regional Center’s EB-5 program is contingent on prior approval from the USCIS through an independent petition for the EB-5 visa. The due diligence performed by the USCIS includes a detailed review of the sources of the investor’s funds, family history, and other representations of the head of household and his/her immediate family member under the age of 21.
Immigrant Investor Pilot Program and Regional Centers
Disappointing results in the initial EB-5 program launch led Congress to enact the 1993 revision that increased visa allocations from 300 to 3000 annually and created regional centers. The current EB-5 pilot program was last renewed on September 30, 2012.
Regional Centers, defined as economic units, both private and public, that promote economic growth, employment, regional productivity, and an increase in domestic capital investment. Regional Centers obtain their designation through the submittal of a thorough application to the USCIS. Immigrants who choose to invest through Regional Centers are not held to the same standards of the 10-job creation rule, as the 10 jobs may be directly caused by other external factors such as the employment of independent project contractors. Additionally, those who choose to invest through regional centers and meet the Targeted Employment Area specifications are subject to a 50% decrease in investment required from USD $1,000,000 to USD $500,000.