Wealthy foreign nationals who are willing to invest between $500,000 and $1 million in the U.S., either by creating a new commercial enterprise or by investing in a Regional Center, wherein at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers will be created or preserved, may be eligible for a conditional green card, one of the steps in obtaining a U.S. citizenship status.

Qualified foreign nationals would be issued an EB-5 immigrant visa, also called the employment fifth preference visa. The EB-5 visa program, which is managed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), was created by the U.S. Congress in 1990; its creation was aimed at fueling the U.S. economy through capital investment and job creation by foreign investors.

Between creating a new commercial enterprise and investing in a Regional Center, foreign investors may find it wiser to invest in the latter, which is a 3rd party (privately or publicly) managed investment vehicle. Besides being a job-creating business already, (thus saving the investor time and additional expenses in putting up their own business and recruitment concerns), investing in a Regional Center only usually costs $500,000.

Unlike other EB visas which require a job offer, professional experience, educational and/or post-graduate degree, and so forth, under the Russian EB-5 visa, many things are no longer required, such as: direct family members already in the united states, residency, job offer, professional experience, educational requirement, and knowledge of the English language; for those investing in Regional Center projects, daily management/running of a business is also no longer necessitated.

If investing in a new commercial enterprise, an EB-5 investor must ensure that the commercial enterprise was established either after Nov. 29, 1990, or on/before Nov. 29, 1990, but on the condition that:

  • The purchased existing business would be reorganized or restructured in such a way that the change will result to a new commercial enterprise; and,
  • The purchased existing business would be expanded and result to a 40-percent increase either in the original number of employees or in its net worth.

By new commercial enterprise, the USCIS means “any for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of lawful business including, but not limited to: a sole proprietorship, partnership (whether limited or general), holding company, joint venture, corporation, or business trust or other entity, which may be publicly or privately owned. . . This definition does not include noncommercial activity such as owning and operating a personal residence.”

Of the various Employment-Based or EB visa categories, establishing eligibility under EB-5 is one of the most challenging and the most expensive. Besides the $500,000 or $1 million capital investment required (which, by the way, should be made ahead of the green card application), an investor should also meet the job creation requirements within a specified time and make sure that the business receiving the investment meets all requirements in the EB-5 program. The amount of investment alone, with no certainty whether the venture will succeed or fail, makes everything a big risk. Thus, rather than making an investment without fully grasping the probable outcome of such a move, only to fail and waste a huge amount of money in the process, understanding first what this visa program is all about may be necessary.