The United States immigration system allows the possibility for a person to obtain permanent residence (or “green card”) in exchange for an investment that benefits the U.S. economy. For certain people, it may be the fastest way to U.S. permanent residency.

The EB-5 program provides this opportunity to prospective immigrants. By making an investment through this program, the applicant may be able to permanently live and work in the United States with their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21. In other words, the EB-5 program can provide green cards for the investor and the family.

At this moment, the minimum investment amount is five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000). The investment must be made to a qualified business in the United States. After making the investment, the applicant can petition for an initial conditional green card that lasts for a period of 2 years. (This process is commonly known as the I-526 Petition.) Shortly before the end of the two-year period, the applicant to petition for the conditions to the green card to be removed. (This process is commonly referred to as the I-829 Petition.) Once the conditions are removed, the immigration process is technically complete. Depending on the performance and terms of the investment, the $500,000 may be fully returned.

There are a couple of important requirements to note about this process. At the I-526 Petition stage, the investor must demonstrate that the investment funds are earned lawfully, and that the investment is made to a qualified business. This means documentation must be prepared to identify the source of the investment funds and its path to the United States. The documents of the business must also be provided to show that the plan for the business can realistically create 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.

The methods for documenting job creation is probably one of the more difficult concepts to understand for applicants. This is because the jobs can be created directly or indirectly depending on the type of business/investment vehicle chosen. The investor can choose to start a business in the United States using the investment and manage it personally. The investor can also place the investment with a qualified investment vehicle structured by a “Regional Center” (essentially, an EB-5 investment company) approved by the USCIS.

The Regional Center investment is significantly more popular among EB-5 investors. One of the primary reasons is that job creation is not limited to those directly created (or a head count of actual people). Instead, it is generally projected through an economic formula that calculates the effect of capital investment in a particular region in terms of indirect job creation. For example, money used to build a shopping center indirectly creates many retail positions that the shopping center hires once its completed. In other words, $500,000 invested through a regional center can go a long way in terms of job creation.

The job creation process is simpler but more restrictive when it comes to investing in a non-regional center business. For each $500,000 investment, there must be 10 direct full-time jobs created. This means there’d be a headcount of every new employee working 35 hours or more per week. Therefore, without additional capital or leverage, it would be very difficult to sustain that level of employment for several years.

There are, of course, drawbacks to regional center investments. Namely, the investor would not be able to actively manage the details of their investment; but rather, rely on the management of the regional center to do so. Furthermore, since regional center investments are larger in scale, their structures are more complicated and would require more due diligence by the investor. For the non-regional center investments, the funds are generally placed in the investor’s own business. The obvious advantage is that it provides the investor with a great deal of country over the performance of the investment. Because there are many factors to consider based on the specific goals of the investor, it is important to consult with an experienced EB-5 professional.

Summary of the Process

1. I-526 Petition

  • Approval of this petition provides the capacity to obtain conditional green cards to investor, spouse, and unmarried children under the age of 21.

  • The processing time for the I-526 Petition can be about 1.5 - 2 years.

2. Adjustment of Status/Consular Processing

  • The I-526 approval notice, the investor and family can obtain their conditional green card status through an U.S. consulate or through adjusting their status in the United States.

  • This processing time for consular processing or adjustment of status can be about 5 – 8 months.

3. I-829 Petition

  • Approval of this petition removes the conditions to the green cards and allows the investment to be returned.

  • This petition is submitted 90 days before the end of the two-year conditional period.

  • The processing time for the I-829 Petition can be about 1.5 years.

The processing times estimated may change depending on the amount of applications received by USCIS at the time and other factors that are difficult to accurately predict. But based on experience, a typical timeframe (including time required for preparing the petitions) is about 18 to 22 months from initiation to obtaining the conditional green cards, and about 5 years from initiation to approval of the final I-829 Petition.

Overview of Fees

In addition to the $500,000 investment, there are other ancillary costs associated with the process. For regional center investments, there is typically a management fee for overseeing the investment capital throughout the process. That management fee is typically about $40,000 to $50,000. The total filing fees charged by the government is estimated to be about $8,000 to $10,000. The legal fees for filing the I-526 can range from $15,000 to $25,000 depending on the type of investment.

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