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EB-5 Investor Visas (Regional Centers)

by Carl Shusterman

When I worked for the INS (1976-82), it was possible to become a permanent resident by investing in a business in the U.S. Back then, green cards required investments of only $10,000. A little later, the government upped the ante to $40,000. However, investment green cards were considered "nonpreference". That is, they were only available if not enough people applied for permanent residence through family members (FB) or through employment (EB). When the amount of persons applying for green cards in the FB and EB categories started to exceed the number of immigrant visas available under the law, persons were unable to obtain green cards through investments.

This changed nearly 18 years ago when Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1990 which included 10,000 green cards per year for investors and their spouses and children. The law required that persons (1) invest $1 million of their own money into a business; (2) hire a minimum of ten U.S. workers; and (3) that the business be "new", that is, created after the day that President Bush signed the bill into law. If the business was located in either a rural or a high-unemployment area, the person could qualify for an EB-5 green card with a minimum investment of $500,000.

Since there were easier ways for investors to obtain permanent residence, the number of people qualifying under the EB-5 category averaged between 3,000 and 4,000 yearly.

INS regulations were issued to increase the number of investors (e.g., the "troubled business" exception"), yet the number of EB-5 green cards issued never came close to reaching 10,000.

The law was changed to make it even easier to qualify for permanent residence through investment. A person could invest in a government- designated "regional center", create ten jobs "indirectly" and invest only $500,000. 3,000 of the 10,000 visas are reserved for those who invest in a regional center.

Today, there are 17 regional centers located across the U.S., in California, Washington, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and in a number of other states.

The beauty of investing in a regional center is that the investor does not have to be involved in the day-to-day operation of the business. It is not even necessary that the investor reside in the same state where the investment is located. The investor may continue to work in his own field, may own and operate his/her own business completely independent of the regional center, or if he/she can afford it, need not work at all.

Once the person invests in the regional center, an Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur (form I-526) petition is filed with the USCIS. An Application for Adjustment of Status to Permanent Resident (form I-485) is submitted after the petition is approved if the person is present in the U.S. If the investor is abroad, he must apply for an Immigrant Visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in his country. Since there is no backlog in the EB-5 category, this is a quick and easy way to obtain permanent residence for those who can afford to invest in a regional center. It is also beneficial to our economy since each EB-5 investor creates a minimum of ten jobs for U.S. workers.

Once the green card is approved, the EB-5 investor becomes a "conditional" permanent resident. Before the green card expires in two years, he must submit a "Petition by Alien Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions" (Form I-829). When the I-829 is granted, the investor is granted a ten-year green card.

About The Author

Carl Shusterman is a native of Los Angeles and a 1973 graduate of the UCLA School of Law. He served as an attorney for the Los Angeles office of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) until 1982 when he entered the private practice of law. He is authorized to practice before the Supreme Court of California, the Federal District Court in the Central District of California, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Shusterman is a former chairman of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Southern California Chapter and served as a member of AILA's national Board of Governors (1988-97). He has chaired numerous AILA Committees, spoken at dozens of AILA Conferences and has contributed a number of scholarly articles to AILA's publications. Mr. Shusterman is a Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law, State Bar of California. He serves as a member of the Immigration and Nationality Law Advisory Commission for the State Bar. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Immigration Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and of the American Bar Association. Mr. Shusterman is a frequent writer and lecturer on immigration law. Mr. Shusterman has testified as an expert witness before the Senate Subcommittee On Immigration in Washington, D.C.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.