The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program has been quite turbulent for the last few months, bringing both good and bad news for foreign investors. Since its creation in 1990, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program has grown in popularity among business people seeking permanent U.S. residency (also known as a Green Card) through investing in qualifying projects created to strengthen the U.S. economy. The EB-5 investor, his or her spouse, and their unmarried children under 21 all are eligible to apply for visas; on average, there are about 2.5 visas issued for every investment. These visas all lead to Green Cards.
Traditionally, foreign EB-5 investors have been able to choose between two models: Direct and Regional Center investment. The latter was much more common as more than 95% of all EB-5 visa petitions filed were related to Regional Center projects.
Regional Center EB-5
A Regional Center is a commercial enterprise with a license from the USCIS to obtain investments from foreigners in exchange for Green Cards for their families. Unlike with the EB-5 Direct Investment Program, which requires creating ten workplaces, you don't need to hire direct employees. In other words, the job creation criteria are quite flexible,allowing you to include direct, indirect and induced employment in the calculation.
However, the Regional Center EB-5 Program expired in June 2021 and has not been reinstated. Although industry experts pinned their hopes on its re-authorization in 2022, expecting the lapse to be temporary, the fate of Regional Centers is far from being clear.
On December 30, 2021, the USCIS issued a new statement informing that they will continue to hold, or not act on, any pending I-526 petitions filed by foreign investors under the Regional Center EB-5 Program.
EB-5 Direct Investment
Currently, the only path forward for investors who wish to obtain an EB-5 visa is through a direct investment scheme.
If a foreign investor has their own job-creating project or to invest in somebody else's project with direct employment on the payroll, their petition will be accepted.
Recent developments in the EB-5 visa program might have crushed investors’ hopes of legally living in the United States; therefore, ACS Law Offices Inc. is happy to share some good news with you.
EB-5 Visa Processing Time 2022
All officers from the USCIS are now working only on direct EB-5 cases. Given the fact that these cases used to make up only 5% of all EB-5 petitions filed, with 95% of them related to investments through Regional Centers, Direct EB-5 investors can expect their applications to be processed much faster, as the same amount of employees are now working on only 5% of the cases.
Instead of waiting for years, now EB-5 petitions will be processed in six months or one year.
ACS Law Offices Inc. attorneys have seen positive results. They have just received responses from the USCIS to petitions filed approximately six to twelve months ago. It means that USCIS officers are working on these cases much faster as compared to what it used to be.
EB-5 Minimum Investment Amount
The minimum investment amount for a TEA (Targeted Employment Area) was reverted to $500,000 in June 2021. In November 2019, the USCIS decided to increase the required investment amounts from $500,000 in a TEA and $1 million in a non-TEA to $900,000 and $1.8 million, respectively. The increase was explained by changes in the inflation rate. However, after several lawsuits were filed, a Federal Court ruled that the increase was invalid, as the decision to raise the minimum amount was wrong.
As a result, the minimum investment amount for TEA projects was reduced back to $500,000.
According to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, a petitioner needs to invest or be in the process of investing the required amount by the time they are applying for an EB-5 visa.
Therefore, a foreign investor doesn’t have to invest the whole amount of $500,000 at the time of filing the I-526 petition.
For example, a foreign investor may invest $100,000 now and present a detailed business plan anticipating further investments. The USCIS will accept documentation with proof that the remaining funds are immediately available, lawfully sourced, and the investor has a commitment to complete the investment.
To put it briefly, petitioners need to know the following:
- EB-5 direct investment applications will be processed very quickly, reducing the waiting period from years to six or twelve months, which is especially important for our clients from China, Vietnam, and India
- foreign investors are still allowed to invest only $500,000
- the entire amount doesn’t have to be invested at the time the petition is filed.
ACS Law Offices’s attorneys will continue to monitor new developments in immigration legislation and be ready to provide legal advice on any questions you may have regarding the recent changes. Do not hesitate to contact us to learn more on how we can help you enter the U.S. legally. You will not miss new openings to get the visa you are seeking.