What is a Green Card?
A Green Card is the common name for permanent residence in the USA, which allows the bearer to apply for US Citizenship following 5 years of residence in the USA. The Green Card permits you to work and to live in the US and access medical, education, banking and financial services, and to be treated like a US resident. At the same time, holding a Green Card involves residency requirements that mean you also need to pay tax on your worldwide income.
How to get a Green Card
There are several ways to receive a Green Card, and investment is just one of the options. Other options include family connections, employment, extraordinary abilities, or business ownership. However, gaining a Green Card through an investment route has fewer requirements for the investor and their close family members (spouse and unmarried children under age 21).
What are the EB-5 investor requirements?
When applying for an EB-5 Green Card, there is no need to demonstrate any professional achievements or language qualification, and you can apply directly without the need for a sponsor.
The only requirements for investors are that they can prove a lawful source of investment funds, and no prior criminal record.
How much is needed for an EB-5-based Green Card
The minimum investment required to qualify for an EB-5 based Green Card is $1,050,000, and the project you invest in must create at least 10 new jobs.
For projects which are located in rural areas or in areas of high unemployment, the minimum required investment is reduced to $800,000.
Where will the funds be invested?
Investors can choose to invest in their own enterprise or a Regional Center project. The majority of Regional Center investments are commercial real estate projects.
Investment in an owned-business project, known as an EB-5 Direct Project, is only possible for an individual EB-5 investor.
When there is more than one EB-5 investor in the project, it will require a Regional Center (RC) licence.
In Direct EB-5 Projects, it is the investor’s full responsibility to develop the business and create a minimum of 10 new jobs. In these projects, the financial success of the enterprise and the obtention of a Green Card will depend entirely on the investor himself.
In RC Projects, the Regional Center does the administrative work – choosing the project, preparing the documentation, tracking the progress, and making sure that the required jobs are created.
Regional Center Projects therefore significantly reduce the risks for investors. In the majority of cases, they are structured in a way that allows investors to recover the invested capital in 5-7 years.
Generally, the actual cost of getting a Green Card for the investor and their family members is $100,000 – $200,000. These funds are paid to cover Regional Center administrative, immigration and governmental fees.
The Immigration and financial benefits depend on the experience and professionalism of the Regional Center team. That is why it is well worth spending time identifying a good project with a strong Regional Center.
MORE INFORMATION ON REGIONAL CENTERS
To start the process, the investor needs to decide on a project, choose an immigration attorney, prepare the documentation, and transfer the funds to the project.
The next step is for the immigration attorney to submit the initial application (Petition I526) to the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).
Petition I526 is a statement by the investor that they have made an investment in the project which will create 10 new jobs.
This consists of project documentation, personal documents, and documents proving that the invested funds were received lawfully.
The USCIS can review form I526 over a period of 1-3 years.
When the investor has a valid US visa they can wait for a decision in the US. If not, they must wait outside the US until the approval of their I526.
The next step is acquiring an EB-5 visa or applying for an adjustment of status in the US, and as a result, obtaining a Conditional Green Card which has a 2-year validity.
Before this 2-year period expires, the investor should file a second application (Petition I829). This application consists of documentation proving that 10 new jobs have been created. For Direct EB-5 projects, W-2 forms are used, and for RC Projects documentation confirming the expenses of the project are presented.
The I829 application can take another 1-3 years for processing and, following approval, the investor and their family members are granted permanent Green Cards.
In summary, the full process may take 7-8 years from start to end.
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