There are two types of EB-5 investment programs that are currently available as options - direct investment and regional centers. Both programs offer immigrant investors an opportunity to boost the U.S. economy and come to this country with their families. There are differences, however, in the nature of the programs. Here, we will discuss the regional center program and how these centers can offer a unique, potentially quicker path to life in the U.S.
EB-5 Programs Seek to Stimulate Economy and Create Jobs
The EB-5 visa programs were created by the government to boost the economy with both an influx of capital and the creation of jobs. These visas allow the investor, his or her spouse, and any unmarried children under the age of 21 to be admitted to the U.S. with a two-year conditional visa. To achieve this, an EB-5 visa candidate must:
- Invest in a new commercial enterprise. The government defines a new commercial enterprise as lawful business that operates a for-profit activity. The business must be established after 1990 or re-structured or expanded since that time.
- Invest at least $500,000. Those who invest in stated target at-need areas can offer $500,000. In other areas, it may be required to invest $1,000,000.
- Create at least 10 jobs. The investment must create or retain at least 10 jobs within two years. Depending on the type of investment, these jobs can be created either directly or indirectly if affiliated in some way with the investment.
These general guidelines are true for both direct investment and regional center investment paths, but the programs are distinctly different.
What Is an EB-5 Regional Center?
A regional center is an organization designated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that facilitates the investments of individuals outside the U.S. These regional centers help identify possible investment opportunities that could help the local economy and then market those opportunities to foreign investors. As of July 2016, there are over 800 USCIS-approved regional centers, comprising public, private, and partnered entities including around 70 centers throughout Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. Often, these regional centers pool the money from multiple investors and work with local economic development groups in their area to move forward with large-scale projects.
Why Use the Regional Center Program to Invest?
So, why would an investor choose to pursue the regional center investment route over a direct investment? Typically, these centers are more attractive to investors seeking a path to lawful residency, rather than managing an investment. When investing through a regional center, the investor:
- Typically becomes a limited partner. They do not have to be involved in day to day operations if that is not something they wish to do.
- Can live and work anywhere in the U.S. Because the investor is not tied to the daily operations of the business, they can choose to live and pursue other employment anywhere in the country.
- Can more easily meet the job creation requirement. Typically, investors who go through the regional center program report higher number of jobs created. This is partly due to the collaborative nature of their investment. Often, the pooled funds support large-scale projects that create many jobs. Additionally, these investments more often indirectly create jobs, which can then be counted toward their goal.
- Must meet less stringent benchmarks for I-829 removal of conditions. When the investor is approved for the EB-5 program, his visa is conditional. If the terms of the EB-5 visa are not met, the investor and affiliated immigrants will not be allowed to remain in the country after the two-year mark. When using the regional centers, it is somewhat easier to both satisfy and prove the job creation requirement, making it easier to successfully remove the conditions of the visa through form I-829 and remain in the U.S. indefinitely.
Despite these many positives, a regional center investment path might not be appropriate for all investors. The program does have some limitations, including:
- The investment must be made in cash. The direct investment path allows investors to offer other types of capital, including equipment or property. Regional center investments accept only cash.
- Little control of day-to-day business operations. While some investors wish to only become a limited partner in the business, others may want to take a more active role. For those investors, the regional program may be frustrating. They may have little control of the business or say in matters regarding the direction of the company.
How Does the EB-5 Process Work When Using a Regional Center?
The process of using a regional center to make an investment and obtain an entrepreneurial visa is rather straightforward. In general, the investor must show that he or she has the capital to invest by showing five years of financial records and sources for the funds. Taxes must be paid to the investor’s home country, if necessary. Then, the investor will need to find and select a regional center project in which to invest, a task which can be expedited with the help of an experienced EB-5 lawyer that is familiar with the opportunities available in the Washington, D.C. metro area. The application process requires immigrants to file an I-526 Petition for an Alien Entrepreneur. If approved, the investment and business enterprise will move forward for the next two years.
Before the expiration of the conditional visa, the investor will have to show that the investment did, in fact, create the required number of jobs and boost the U.S. economy. Though form I-829, the investor can apply for the removal of conditions of the visa, which would allow them to obtain permanent status to live and work in the U.S.
Contact Our Investment Immigration Attorneys to Learn More About EB-5 Regional Centers
The regional center program has been the preferred method of investor immigration over the past few years. According to U.S. Department of State statistics, nearly 97 percent of investors utilized the regional center program in 2014. In recent years, the program has been put to maximum use, with the government granting all 10,000 of the allotted visas for investment immigrants.
If you are considering applying for lawful status in the U.S. though an investor visa, a regional center program could be right for you. The skilled attorneys at Tucker, Nong, & Associates can help you examine your situation and determine how best to move forward. Call our office in Maryland at (301) 637-5392 or in Virginia at (703) 991-7978 or fill out our online contact form for a prompt response from a member of our legal team.