Question: What is the best U.S. immigration plan for a foreign investor and their family?
Here are your top five U.S. investor immigration options:
EB-5 Regional Center Investment
- Pro: Low $500,000 U.S. payment for a green card, passive involvement
- Con: Money is managed by someone else
Invest $500,000 U.S. in an EB-5 government-approved regional center for a period of about five years. In around 18 months, you obtain conditional green cards that entitle you and your immediate family to enter the U.S. You can live, work and study anywhere in the country and there are no education, age or English language requirements.
This is a passive investment in which your money is invested in someone else’s commercial project, such as a hotel, residential complex or office tower. The catch here is that your money, through the project, must employ 10 or more American workers for a period of two years. Once this requirement is established, you can then apply for permanent resident green cards. At the end of five years from the date of your U.S. entry, the money is returned to you.
These are commercial enterprises and therefore your money is at risk. However, the EB-5 program has been in place for over 20 years and it has an excellent record.
EB-5 Direct Investment
- Pro: Complete control of the money
- Con: High payment of $1 million for a green card, active involvement required
This one is a bit different than the passive EB-5 option above. This time, it’s your shop.
To get conditional green cards for you and your family, you invest $1 million U.S. in your own business and directly employ a minimum of 10 people for two years.
Processing takes about 18 months, although if you combine this with the E-2 visa below, you may be able to enter the U.S. in about six months.
After demonstrating that you have complied with the two-year employment of a minimum of 10 workers and maintained you’re minimum $1 million invested, you can qualify for permanent green card status.
If you invest in a high unemployment area of the United States, the amount required to qualify may be only $500,000 U.S. This is a good option to combine with a possible franchise scenario, as with a restaurant or hotel chain.
- Pro: Cheap way to get a green card
- Con: Requires support of a petitioning company
If you are transferred from your company abroad to an affiliated U.S. company to work as a manager, executive or person with specialized knowledge, you may be entitled to obtain a green card. Think of a Toyota manager going to the U.S. to run a subsidiary plant.
There are a couple of particulars before you can make a transfer. 1. You must have worked for the affiliated company abroad for a period of at least one year in the last three years. 2. Your job in the U.S. must be similar to the job you were performing at home.
Processing time for inter-corporate green card transferees is about 18 months.
E-2 Work Visa
- Pro: Fastest way to get into the USA to work
- Con: Complicated to get a permanent residence without the EB-5 direct addition.
How about hiring yourself to work in the U.S.?
If your country of citizenship has an investment treaty with the United States, you may be eligible to obtain an E-2 visa to work for a company you form in the United States. Basically, you are the sponsor as well as the immigrant employee.
Investment requirements vary according to the nature of the company and its industry sector. On the low end, around $75,000 U.S. could cover it, although $200,000 and up would make things easier.
Under the E-2, visas are granted for periods of up to five years and are renewable indefinitely. Spouses of E-2s are able to obtain blanket work authorizations to work anywhere in the U.S., as well.
E-2 visas can offer a speedy entry to the USA while serving as a stepping stone to an EB-5 direct green card. For example, I had an Egyptian client who used this visa to establish a car rental agency in Florida. He is now en route to the EB-5 direct investment green card.
EB-1 Extraordinary Immigrants
- Pro: Self-petitioning green card – no supporting employer required.
- Con: You have to be a genius or reach high in your field to get it.
If you have extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business or athletics, then you can apply directly for a green card. Think Julio Iglesias, Albert Einstein, Yao Ming or Gordon Ramsay.
You will need to prove your expertise or exceptional ability in a particular field by meeting the government’s criteria for an EB-1 immigrant. Such criteria include awards and honors received, as well as any glowing publications written about you. Being a movie star doesn’t hurt, either.
So there they are – five U.S. immigration options to consider if you are an investor.
After five years of owning a green card, you can apply for U.S. citizenship and a passport. Even if you are not ready to immigrate right now, you might consider these options as an immigration backup plan, just in case you don’t like the look of things where you are.