USCIS Developing Solutions for Immigrant Investors

Entrepreneurs looking to invest in the United States have been frustrated by inefficient processes and other red tape. Unnecessary bottlenecks have stymied foreign investments that could help in our country's economic recovery.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service is working to remedy that. Earlier this year, the USCIS proposed changes to the administration of its EB-5 visa program to facilitate the immigration process for immigrant investors.

What Is the EB-5 Program?

The EB-5 Program, also known as the Immigrant Investor Program, was established by Congress in 1990 with the intention of drawing immigrant investors to the United States to create jobs and supplement our economy. Currently, the USCIS issues 10,000 visas a year to qualified investors.

In order to qualify for an EB-5 visa, an immigrant investor must either invest in a new business or purchase an existing business. If the enterprise existed before November 29, 1990, the entrepreneur must either restructure it to create a new enterprise, or create a 40 percent increase in the net worth of the existing company or the number of its employees. In addition, within two years of receiving the visa, all investors must create or preserve 10 jobs, either by direct hiring or by collateral benefit to the community from their investment.

Proposed Changes Will Help Streamline Applications

The USCIS has put forward the following three changes to shorten the time needed to obtain an EB-5 visa:

  • Expedite the application process for investors whose business ventures are ready to be implemented. For a fee, a Premium Processing Service would be available to shorten the visa issuing time to 15 days.
  • Create specialized intake teams to address issues and questions of applicants.
  • Establish a decision board composed of adjudicators and an economist to determine the outcome of EB-5 applications.

New StartUp Visa Legislation Hopes to Enhance Immigrant Investor Program

The modifications to the EB-5 Program may not be the only help available to immigrant investors. In March, the House of Representatives introduced a bill to supplement the EB-5 Visa program. The StartUp Visa Act of 2011 is another avenue for creative immigrant entrepreneurs to form new ventures in the United States.

The difference between the StartUp legislation and the EB-5 program is that immigrant investors do not have to have money of their own. They can open their business with the financial backing of a sponsor. Like the EB-5 program, all applicants will be required to show that they've created new jobs.

Immigrant entrepreneurs will have three ways of attaining a StartUp visa. First, immigrant investors can obtain a visa provided they have a qualified financial backer who will invest a minimum of $100,000 in the new venture. After two years, the investors will have to show they have created five jobs and been able to generate at least $500,000 in revenue or have raised an additional $500,000 in investment money.

The second option applies only to immigrant investors already in the United States. The potential investors must be in the U.S. on unexpired H-1B visas or have just completed graduate programs in science, technology, math, computer science or another field of relevant study from an accredited college or university within the United States. These immigrant entrepreneurs may acquire a StartUp visa provided they can show they earn a minimum of $30,000 and have the backing of a qualified investor who will invest a minimum of $20,000 in their new venture. During the first two years, the immigrant entrepreneurs must create three new jobs and raise at least $100,000 in capital investment or that same amount in revenue.

The final option would be available to immigrant investors holding a controlling interest in a foreign company that has generated at least $100,000 from sales in the United States within the past year. They will be required to show that within two years of the visa's issuance, they have created three new jobs and raised $100,000 in capital investment or revenue.

Contact an Immigration Lawyer for Assistance With Investor Visas

The immigration process is a long, involved and frequently confusing process. An experienced immigration attorney will be familiar with the steps and paperwork required, recognize potential roadblocks and be able to present you with options to clear the way to a green card. If you or a family member needs assistance with obtaining an investor visa or you have another immigration law question, contact an immigration lawyer to review your choices.

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