Visas for Foreign Investors

The EB5 investor visa is a path to U.S. residency available to foreign citizens who invest a substantial amount of capital into a U.S. based venture. The idea behind the program is to stimulate the U.S. economy by attracting foreign investors to invest their cash in a way that creates at least 10 new jobs for qualified U.S. workers.

Current limits require investors to invest at least $500,000 in certain hard hit industries or $1,000,000 in any other. Before the EB5 visa will be approved, the foreign investor is required to have already made the investment or taken a substantial step forward in making the investment.

Business & Tourist Visa Holders

Foreign citizens who are already in the United States on a B1/B2 visa (issued to visitors here on business or for tourism) can apply for an EB5 visa while still in the United States, but the same EB5 requirements still have to be met. An experienced and credentialed immigration attorney will be able to explain to each potential investor exactly what the specific requirements are and whether or not the venture where the money will be invested is a qualifying venture under EB5 requirements.

General Procedure

B1/B2 visas are initially issued for six months, but current processing time for EB5 visa applications is up to one year. This means that if a person is in the country on a B1/B2 visa and applies for an EB5 visa, the person will have to return to his or her home country before finding out whether or not the EB5 visa was approved. In some circumstances, a foreign investor can have his or her B1/B2 visa extended, but extensions are issued on a case-by-case basis and are not guaranteed.

One potential problem for current B1/B2 visa holders who want to switch to an EB5 visa is that the B1/B2 visa requires the visitor to intend on returning to his or her home country after a short visit to the U.S., while the EB5 application process requires the applicant to intend on moving to the U.S. permanently. Therefore, submitting an EB5 application while still on a business or tourist visa could cause a B1/B2 extension request to be denied.

The Facts Matter

Everyone’s case will be different. Certain exceptions and rules in the law may apply to one person but not to another. For the best advice on how to move forward with an EB5 application while still on a B1/B2 visa, applicants are encouraged to speak with an experienced immigration attorney who can answer their questions and provide guidance on the application process as it pertains to a person’s individual case.

Anyone considering investing in the U.S. is also advised to work with an attorney to help navigate the strict requirements of the EB5 program. If an investor invests in a venture that doesn’t qualify for the program, or fails to invest in a venture that will create at least 10 jobs, the EB5 visa will likely not be issued, and the investor will have to start the process all over again.