An EB5 investor visa is a special class of US visa for wealthy Singaporean investors, their spouses and children under 21 year old that want to live in the US. Approved EB5 investors will receive a US green card and can qualify for US citizenship within five years.
EB5 investor’s must invest US $500,000 to US $1,000,000 in a US business for a minimum period of five years to qualify for an EB5 investor visa. EB5 investments made in Targeted Employment Areas (“TEAs”) only require a minimum investment of US $500,000. TEAs are areas in the US with high unemployment or isolated rural areas in the US with few jobs. EB5 investments made in normal areas in the US not considered TEAs require a minimum investment of US $1,000,000.
EB5 investors must also meet the following individual requirements to qualify for an EB5 investor visa:
- Net worth of US $1,000,000 (ie assets minus liabilities).; OR
- Income of US $200,000 for past 2 years plus the current year: OR
- If married, income of US $300,000 for past 2 years plus the current year; AND
- Source of investment funds must be from a legal source.
The investor’s source of funds must be well documented and be from legal sources. Examples of legal sources of investment funds are as follows:
- Income from lawful employment;
- Income from lawful business;
- Income from lawful investment;
- Sales of property;
- Inheritance; OR
EB5 Investor Visa Options
EB5 investors have three options when applying for an EB5 investor visa as follows:
- Invest in a USCIS approved regional center (“Regional Center”)
- Create a new US business;
- Purchase an existing US business; OR
The first option is a “passive” investment meaning someone else will manage the business and investment for you. The second and third options are “active” investments meaning you must manage the business and investment yourself. All EB5 investments are required to create or preserve 10 full time jobs for US workers within two years after the investment is made.
USCIS Regional Center
USCIS Regional Centers were designed for passive investors. Passive regional center investors have the following advantages over active investors that decide to create or purchase a business:
- Regional Center investors do not have to spend large amounts of time and money creating or purchasing an existing US business.
- Regional Center investors themselves do not have to worry about creating or preserving 10 full time jobs for US workers.
- Regional Center investors do not have to bother with managing their US business and employees.
- Regional Center investors are free to live anywhere they want in the US because they are not tied down to managing their business.
There are hundreds of Regional Centers to choose from for an EB5 investment. The US Immigration & Citizenship Services (“USCIS”) maintains a list of approved Regional Centers on their website at: https://www.uscis.gov/.
Regional Center investors will normally receive their $500,000 investment back plus a small rate of interest after five years assuming the investment is successful. No Regional Center can guarantee the EB5 investor will receive their money back as the investment money is required to be “at risk”. However, USCIS is extremely serious about maintaining the credibility of the EB5 investor visa program so they are conducting routine and thorough audits of the Regional Centers to help safeguard against EB5 investors being defrauded.
Creating a Business
EB5 investors that create a new business must first register their business in the US state where they will do business. There are many options for registering a business including limited liability company (LLC), S corp (Inc.), partnership, branch, etc.
After registering the business, EB5 investors must locate a premises for their business to lease or purchase. EB5 investors must take concrete steps towards opening the business after securing the business premises such as renovation, design, purchase of equipment & inventory, installation of equipment, applying for business licenses, etc.
EB5 investors will need to prepare a detailed business plan and an economic study on the number of jobs the business will create. Once the EB5 investor has completed all of these steps, they can then submit their EB5 visa application to USCIS.
Purchasing a Business
EB5 investors that purchase an existing business must enter into a business purchase agreement with the seller. There are two ways to purchase an existing business in the US including an “asset purchase” and a “shares purchase”.
The first way is to purchase only the “assets” of the existing business. This means the EB5 investor does not take over ownership of the registered business structure and thus does not assume its existing liabilities. Most people prefer this method for purchasing a business because they do not have to worry about any existing liabilities from the old business.
The second way is to purchase all of the “shares” of the existing business. This means the EB5 investor takes over the registered business structure and assume its existing liabilities. EB5 investors doing a shares purchase should conduct thorough due diligence on the legal history and financials of the company. This due diligence should include reviewing their business registrations, licenses, existing contracts, tax returns and financial statements prior to entering into a business purchase agreement. The primary reasons people choose to purchase shares is usually because the registered business has credit with a local bank or has a valuable business license that cannot be transferred to a new business.
EB5 investors will need to prepare a detailed business plan and an economic study on the number of jobs the business will create or preserve. Once the EB5 investor has completed all of these steps, they can then submit their EB5 visa application to USCIS.
EB5 Investor Visa Benefits
EB5 investors will receive a conditional two year green card after arriving in the US. EB5 investors will receive a permanent ten year green card if conditions are met after 2 years. The benefits of a US green card are as follows:
- Investors and their family members can live anywhere in the US.
- Investors and their family members can travel in and out of the US without obtaining a visa.
- Investors and their family members can be employed or start their own business in the US.
- Investor’s children can attend US public schools for free.
- Investor’s children can obtain in-state tuition for university.
US green card holders can apply for US citizenship after five years of residing in the US. US citizenship applicants must have been residing in the US for 30 months out of the 5 years preceding the US citizenship application (ie 6 months per year). US citizenship applicants must also pass a test by reading, writing and speaking English and knowing basics facts about US history and government. The benefits of US citizenship are as follows:
- US citizens can easily obtain a US passport.
- US citizens can travel to approximately 172 different countries in the world without the hassle of obtaining a visa in advance.
- US citizens have the protection of the US government and security of the worldwide US Embassy network when they travel.
- US citizens can access US banking and financial services to purchase property and obtain business loans.
- US citizens can access the US healthcare system, Social Security, unemployment, welfare and other social programs.
- US citizen children can attend US public schools for free.
- US citizen university students can obtain loans, grant and other types of student aid.
- US citizen university students can obtain in-state tuition which significantly saves costs on university tuition.
EB5 investors are not required to obtain US citizenship. EB5 investors can have their spouses or children apply for US citizenship instead. EB5 investors and their family can apply for US citizenship at any time in future if they meet the US residency requirements.
However, EB5 investors are required to maintain the validity of their green card. EB5 investors can maintain the validity of their green cards indefinitely by travelling to the US at least one time per year and maintaining strong “connections” to the US. EB5 investors can document their strong connections to the US by maintaining a US travel log of dates of entry / exit dates, airline tickets to / from the US, US bank accounts, US mailing address, ownership of US property, US credit cards, US business, US investments, children enrolled in US schools, etc.
EB5 Investor Visa Services
Regional Center Due Diligence
Our Regional Center due diligence service includes the following:
- Provide full list of current Regional Centers certified by USCIS;
- Contact client’s short list of Regional Centers to request investment materials;
- Provide due diligence services advice on three Regional Centers;
- Contact and assist in negotiations with the Regional Center broker;
- Assist with preparing paperwork for the Regional Investment Center; and
- Due diligence review of the paperwork to finalize investment prior to the client signing.
Our fee for our Regional Center due diligence service is $10,000 and there are no government fees. 100% deposit is required prior to starting the work.
Note most Regional Centers also pay an administration fee to lawyers, consultants or agents that assist with the preparing the visa application for the EB5 investor. If we receive an administration fee from the Regional Center, then we would provide the below mentioned EB5 investor visa application services at no additional cost.
EB5 Investor Visa Application
We also offer an EB5 investor visa application service that includes the following:
- Provide list of supporting documents tailored to your case;
- Assist with documenting sources of investment funds ($500,000);
- Assist with preparing necessary supporting documents;
- Assistance filing documents with USCIS and US Embassy;
- Consult on questions relating to the interview and procedures at the US Embassy; and
- Telephone or video conference to discuss supporting documents and answers in regards to potential US Embassy officer interview questions.
Our fee for our EB5 investor visa application service is $40,000 and does not include the USCIS fees which are approximately US $1,500. Note we provide a discount of $10,000 from this fee if you have used our EB5 due diligence service. 50% deposit is required prior to starting the work and the remaining 50% is due prior to submission of the application to USCIS.
EB5 visa applications are currently taking 1.5 to 2 years to process after submission to USCIS.