Employment visas are more in demand than ever among people seeking to immigrate to the US. For example, the H-1B program received over 700,000 registrations for just 85,000 potential visas for fiscal year (FY) 2024. That’s why alternatives like the EB-5 visa are becoming increasingly popular.
In 2022, the EB-5 visa was subject to revisions that made the program more appealing, particularly to people from high-population countries like India. These revisions have already started to show results, permitting highly qualified investors to enter the US with less waiting. Let’s examine how the program has been reformed and who should consider getting an EB-5 visa.
Recent Changes to the EB-5 Visa
EB-5 visas have been available since 1990. USCIS refers to them as the Immigrant Investor Program since these visas encourage investors and their families to immigrate to the US and create jobs in Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs).
By 2018, the program was relatively well-known, but its restrictions left investors from countries like India and China waiting for decades to acquire their green cards. That’s why the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act (RIA) was signed into law in March 2022.
The RIA made several key changes to the existing program that made it significantly easier for various investors to enter the US, including:
- Reserved Visas for TEAs: The RIA sets aside 20% of the 10,000 EB-5 visas available each year for projects in Rural Area Targeted Employment Areas, 10% for Urban Distressed Areas, and 2% for infrastructure investors.
- Priority Processing for Eligible Projects: Candidates making investments in TEAs may receive priority processing, allowing them to “skip the line” and obtain visas earlier than their country’s normal priority date. While the reserved visas are still subject to the 7% limit by country, those that people from other countries do not use can go to backlogged investors.
- Concurrent Filing: Investors already in the US on a non-immigrant visa can now concurrently file for adjustment of status to an EB-5 visa alongside their green card application, potentially permitting them to remain in the US while waiting for permanent residency. They will also receive their work authorization and advanced parole travel permit so they can work and travel in the meantime.
While the RIA is not a perfect solution, it makes EB-5 visas significantly more achievable for qualified investors. In particular, it provides a valuable alternative for potential immigrants from backlogged countries who don’t want to wait a decade to achieve their permanent residency.
Who Should Consider EB-5 Visas for Immigration
EB-5s are appealing, but they have strict eligibility requirements. Critically, applicants must be prepared to invest heavily in the US and create local jobs. Under the RIA, qualified investment visa applicants must:
- Invest in a commercial enterprise that was either established after 1990, or that was expanded by at least 40% due to the investment
- Create full-time, ongoing positions for ten qualifying employees through the investment
- Invest at least the target minimum based on investment type; petitions filed after 3/15/22 must consist of at least $800,000 for TEAs or qualifying infrastructure projects or $1,050,000 otherwise
While each requirement brings its own complexities, the minimum investment amount is the biggest hurdle for most prospective applicants. Skilled legal counsel can ensure that investors meet location and job creation criteria with their projects. However, applicants must have the resources to invest at least $800,000 in the US, or they cannot qualify.
It is worth noting, of course, that the keyword for EB-5 visas is “investment,” not “donation.” Applicants are permitted and even encouraged to profit from the investment they make in their projects. As long as all criteria are met, an investor profiting demonstrates that the project is successful and the jobs they have created will continue to exist going forward.
As such, investors are not simply “paying” for their visas. Instead, they are genuinely making a long-term investment. You may be a good fit for an EB-5 if you are prepared to create and manage this financial investment in the US.
Talk to Litwin & Smith About Whether EB-5 Visas Are Right for You
If you’re considering an employment visa in the US and have significant capital you’re prepared to invest, an EB-5 could be a good choice. You can reach out to the experienced attorneys at Litwin & Smith to discuss whether you should move forward with your application. Schedule your consultation with our employment immigration law firm today to get started.