The fifth employment-based preference (“EB-5”) immigrant visa program encourages qualified foreign investors to invest within the United States in exchange for permanent residency. The program is currently underutilized; of the 10,000 EB-5 visas available last year, the United States Customs and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) only issued 4,218 visas. The following list is a summary of the program features.

  • Pursuant to the basic program, an alien investor must make a capital investment of either $500,000 or $1,000,000, depending on whether the investor invests in a “Targeted Employment Area” (“TEA”), in a new commercial enterprise located within the United States. The enterprise must directly create or preserve at least ten full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers.
  • Under the Regional Center Pilot Program, foreign investors must complete the basic program requirements by investing either $500,000 or $1,000,000 in a new commercial enterprise. However, unlike the basic program, under the Regional Center Pilot Program, the new commercial venture need not directly create the ten jobs required by the basic program. Instead, the commercial venture need only show that the investment indirectly created or preserved ten jobs.
  • To create a Regional Center, an individual or entity must file a Regional Center Proposal with USCIS to request approval of the investment proposal and the designation of the applying entity as a Regional Center. The entity applying for Regional Center status must maintain at least $100,000 in capital before the USCIS will award Regional Center status. There are currently 90 Regional Centers operating in 34 states. USCIS awards the vast majority of utilized EB-5 visas to alien investors who have invested in a Regional Center.

A TEA is an area with an unemployment rate that is at least 150% of the national average. If the foreign investor invests in a non-TEA, the investor must contribute the standard threshold minimum of $1,000,000. If the investor invests in a TEA, the investor need only invest $500,000 to be eligible for the EB-5 visa.