Since the implementation of the Investors Visa Program (investor visa USA), it has been evident that the United States encourages the flow of major investments into its country to help stimulate the economy through job creation. In exchange for the investments made, the United States offers its foreign investors a variety of immigrant and non-immigrant visa options. This article aims at demystifying the myths associated with the various U.S. Investor Program.
Is it enough to buy property in the United States to obtain an investor visa USA?
Generally, the answer is no. However, if the investment in property such as house(s) or other form of real estate is substantial enough, leading to sustainable job creation, investors’ visa may be obtained. Many clients have had to invest well over $0.5 million hoping to gain legal permanent residency only to come to us years later and realize that a visa is not available based on the investment.
In order to qualify for an EB-5 visa, the foreign investor must establish that he or she will be investing in a new enterprise in the amount $500,000, if investing in a Targeted Employment Area (“TEA”), or $1,000,000, if investing in a metropolitan and Non-Targeted Employment Area (“Non-TEA”). Starting in September of 2015 under the proposed changes to EB-5 law, the minimum investment required from foreign nationals to qualify for an EB-5 is $800,000 for TEA investments as compared to the $500,000 minimum currently required. As for non-TEA, the minimum investment requirement would be at $1.2 million.
In addition to the amount involved, the investment must create 10 sustainable jobs for citizens and green card holders. What we find with the property investors is that they buy multiple houses with no path for job creation. In addition to the challenges of not being able to create jobs, investors run the risk of falling afoul with the law depending on how they are paid rents or profit from the property because they do all these without any work authorization. Some of our clients have had to sell such property and invest in suitable projects for immigration purposes. Before investing in property with the ultimate goal of obtaining an immigrant visa, please consult with an experienced immigration attorney.
Similarly, by transferring money from whatever source to buy property, it could be challenging for the EB-5 team to tackle the issue of documentation of source of the funds. Most EB-5 practitioners are not familiar enough with a particular market to properly document funding on their own. Also, tax regimes in most emerging countries are weak, so the investor’s source and path of investment funds must be carefully documented to meet U.S. requirements. By transferring money and buying property, it may become more difficult to document the source of funds. Potential investors must therefore work with their EB-5 representatives to discern best practices for documentation.
EB-1C and L-1 Visa
An L or EB-1C allows multinational companies to transfer executives and managers to the United Stated. Over 100 different types of visas are issued, but one of the most desirable is the EB-1C or EB-1-3. These visas are reserved for mid to high-level employees of multinational businesses who are being asked by their employer to move to the United States. In order to qualify for a Multinational Manager or Executive Visa, an applicant must meet certain requirements – three year work period with the multinational company and specialized background.
Unlike the EB-1C, an L-1 visa is a type of a non-immigrant visa, which allows companies to not only conduct intracompany transfers of its employees from its foreign office to its United States office, but—in cases where the foreign company does not have a United States-based office—it also allows them to send executives or managers for the purpose of setting up a new one. To qualify for this, the foreign investor must show that he or she has secured the necessary location to house its new office, and that the employee being sent under an L-1 status is someone who has held an executive or managerial position continuously for one year within the three years preceding the filing of an L-1 application. In addition, the foreign investor investing in a new office in the United States must show that the new office is one that will support an executive or managerial position within one year after the L-1 petition has been approved.
Notice that for an L-1 visa classification approval, the foreign investor need not meet any monetary investment requirements. However, although there is no specific monetary value required for an L-1 visa, an L-1 visa, unlike an EB-5, does not grant its holder permanent residency immediately. Over the course of some years however, the L-1 visa holder may apply for EB-1C visa and obtain immigrant visa so long as jobs are created based on a sustainable substantial investment.
The investor visa USA or business visa categories is premised on job creation. Therefore, buying property or other forms of investment is not enough, if sustainable jobs are not created. The investor visa USA or business visa process could be confusing because of the complexity of U.S. immigration laws. An experienced immigration attorney can help the applicant put together a complete application so that he or she has the best chance of being granted the visa.
What are other benefits of Investor Visa USA?
While investors ultimately obtain immigrant visas for themselves and their family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21), many investors, especially those from China, have used the EB-5 platform to transfer technology to their home countries. EB-5 practitioners are some of the best minds in the United States, and the platform enables investors to incubate innovative businesses and transfer technology and resources when needed. While most EB-5 investments are traditional ventures, such as hotels and construction, some innovative areas give investors a competitive advantage in emerging markets, such as hydroponics in agriculture, chemical development and human resources for the oil and gas industry, and the specialized manufacturing sector.
Since the United States is the most desired education destination, by obtaining investors visa before children reach the university level, they are able to take advantage of lower university fees. Upon graduation from university, students can remain in the United States to gain work experience and perhaps become residents, an option more difficult to obtain in Britain and other western countries. Also, for U.S. – educated international students, the investors’ visa can be a positive alternative to H-1B visas.
How do I avoid Investors’ Immigration Scam?
For EB-5 visas, the investor could invest in a regional center or invest in individual project so long as the job creation and minimum investment threshold requirements are met. However, investors must beware of entities or individuals who promote projects. Some have collected money from investors and disappeared into thin air. As immigration attorneys, we are not part of any regional centers and we do not promote any particular project. We, however, do help investors screen projects and guide them based on available information on the projects. For example, there are over 600 regional centers promoting EB-5 projects.
It is hard for the innocent investor to know which of the regional centers is viable or not viable. Working closely with our resource providers, we are able to conduct due diligence on projects and guide our clients appropriately. Also of great importance is the structuring and handling of escrow accounts. The investment funds must remain in an escrow account and cannot be released to any human or entity until the initial application for a green card is approved. By helping investors set up suitable escrow account, the fraudulent project manager is not allowed to defraud innocent investors. It is important to stick to the old saying, that “when it is too good to be true, it is likely not true.” Whenever project promoters promise too much, it is probably the right time to reflect, step back, and think twice before investing.
The investor visa USA – especially the EB-5 process is heavily regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and it is complex. The complexity of the U.S. immigration law is further exhibited in the number of agencies involved in the process, including the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Justice, among others.
Decision on steps for obtaining investors visa USA (whether L-1, EB-1C or EB-5) requires careful review of the investor’s immigration goals and financial resources. It is best to consult with a qualified immigration attorney if you are seeking to enter the United States as an investor visa USA. Contact our office to discuss your investment goals today at +1-813-298-7222 during office hours or visit our website https://cfuis.com/ to complete a free and secured online visa evaluation.
Dr. Martins I. Imudia is an attorney at law and Director at the Center for U.S. Immigration Services located in Tampa, Florida.