Besides family and immediate relative immigration visas, the U.S also gives visas to people who qualify to work in the country. These Employment Sponsored Visas allow foreign workers who have found an employer willing to hire them to come to the U.S permanently and work without an Employment Authorization Document. The employment visas are denoted with the letter E and are of 5 types:
- EB-1 Visa or First Priority Workers Visa is for outstanding professors, researchers, people with extraordinary abilities in arts, science, business, athletics, or education, as well as executive managers who have worked at a foreign branch of a U.S company for the past 3 years
- EB-2 Visa or Second Priority Workers Visa is for professionals with advanced degrees and people with extraordinary abilities in arts, sciences, or business.
- EB-3 Visa or Third Priority Workers Visa is for skilled workers with more than 2 years of experience, professionals with a higher education degree, or unskilled workers with less than 2 years of experience (EW-3 Visa).
- EB-4 Visa or Fourth Priority Workers Visa is for various religious, government, or international organizations workers
- EB-5 Visa or Fifth Priority Workers Visa is for investors in the U.S who will invest between $500K to $1 million in the U.S economy
The Employment Sponsored Visas are subject to a cap of 140,000 visas per year. They are allocated between the five visas, which creates long wait times for processing. Once the limit of the visas is reached in a year, the rest of the applications wait for their turn in the coming years. That is why those who are applying for any employment based visa need to wait for their priority dates to become current in order to qualify for immigration in the U.S.
This article will go through the EB-5 visa, what it is, its requirements, application procedures, and other relevant details.
What is the EB-5 visa?
The EB-5 visa or the Fifth Priority Workers visa was created for those who create jobs and employment positions in the U.S and invest in the U.S economy. It is very different from the other types of visas because it does not require a U.S employer to petition for the foreign immigrant.
The EB-5 visa allows a foreign citizen to obtain a U.S Green Card through investing and creating jobs in the U.S economy. The investment must be between $500,000 and $1 million and create at least 10 jobs for U.S citizens or foreign immigrants. It makes a distinction between the general U.S economy and target areas which are rural places where there is high unemployment in the U.S
Based on these target areas, there are different types of EB-5 visas, such as:
- C-5 visa for investors who create jobs outside of target areas
- T-5 visa for investors who create jobs in targeted rural or high unemployment areas
- R-5 visa for investors who participate in an Investor Pilot Program not in a target area
- I-5 visa for investors who participate in an Investor Pilot Program in a targeted area
With an EB-5 visa, the holder can live and work in the U.S permanently. He or she can choose any state in the U.S and must respect all U.S laws and regulations as well as pay taxes. The EB-5 visa holder can travel in and out of the U.S for certain periods of time and when eligible, also apply for naturalization and become a U.S citizen.
Because the EB-5 visa is part of the Employment Sponsored Immigration Visas, it is subject to a yearly cap. This cap is 7.1% of the total 140,000 employment visas, or around 10,000 visas per year. The visas are processed in the order that the applications were received and if the cap for one year is full, the remaining visas will be in line to be processed next year.
What are the requirements of the EB-5 visa?
There are several requirements that a person needs to fulfill in order to be eligible for an EB-5 investor visa.
The EB-5 investor must invest in a new commercial enterprise which was established on or before Nov 29th, 1990. The investment must be through buying the business and restructuring it into a new commercial enterprise or expand the business so that there is either a 40% increase in its net worth or an increase in the number of employees.
Additionally, the EB-5 investor must increase employment by at least 10 people for 2 years. The employment positions must be permanent and full-time. The employees can be hired by the new commercial enterprise or by another company but as a result of the investment or commercial enterprise created by the investor. However, if the EB-5 investor puts their investment in a troubled business such as one that it close to bankruptcy, the requirement changes to being able to maintain the existing jobs in that company and if possible also hire new people.
Finally, the EB-5 investor must invest the minimum amounts of dollars required. In general, the minimum qualification is to invest $1 million in the U.S economy, but if the investor chooses a target or rural area with high unemployment, they can also invest $500,000. This amount must be the investor’s own personal assets and must not be borrowed.
How to apply for the EB-5 visa?
The application procedure for the EB-5 visa is divided into two parts:
- Getting an approved petition from the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Applying for the EB-5 visa immigrant visa
Filing the petition
Before you are allowed to apply for the EB-5 visa, you must first confirm your eligibility with the U.S authorities. The organization in charge of administering the EB-5 visas is USCIS. In order to make yourself eligible, you must file the petition to them through Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur.
Different from the other types of employment visas, you can file the petition yourself and do not need a U.S employer to do that. When USCIS gets the petition they will review it and inform you whether you have been approved or denied. If your petition is approved, it will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) who will be responsible for your application from that point onwards.
The NVC will assign a case number and invoice ID number to you and send you a package with instructions and forms about how to apply. The package will only be sent to you when your priority date becomes current and you are allowed to apply. If your priority date is not current, you will have to wait and then apply.
Apply for the EB-5 visa
When your priority date is current and you receive the instructions from NVC, you can then apply for the EB-5 visa at the U.S Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence. You must follow these steps:
- Apply online by submitting Form DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa Application. The form serves as your application and you can access it through your case number. When you are done, you will get a confirmation page and code which you will later send to the NVC.
- Complete a medical examination and get the necessary vaccines which are outlined in your instructions from the NVC. Your medical examination documents must be signed by a licensed doctor.
- Compile your supporting documents and send them to the NVC. Your file must include:
- Your passport which must be valid for more than 6 months after your intended departure to the U.S
- Your investment plans
- Your bank statements proving you have the necessary amounts of money
- The approved petition
- Your DS-260 confirmation page
- Your signed medical and vaccine documents
- Two photographs meeting the US Visa Photo Requirements
- Academic achievements (diplomas and certificates)
- Your CV or resume
- Court and criminal records
- Depending on the case, the NVC might require other supporting documents, so you must follow their instructions carefully.
- Attend the visa interview which is scheduled by the NVC at your U.S Embassy after they have reviewed your supporting documents.
- Receive your immigration package and travel to the U.S. The NVC will send you this package after your visa has been approved and you must not open it. You must travel with it to the U.S and an immigration official at the U.S port of entry will open it and determine whether you are allowed to enter the country.
What are the EB-5 visa fees?
There are many fees which you are responsible for paying while you apply for the EB-5 visa. The amounts vary and are decided by USCIS and the U.S Embassy in the country you are applying from. In general, you will have to pay the following fees:
- USCIS Form I-526 petition filing fee
- Form DS-260 processing fee
- Medical examination fees
- Fees to obtain supporting documents
- Any translation fees from foreign language to English
How long is the EB-5 visa processing time?
Since the investor visa has a cap, the EB-5 processing time can be quite long. Depending on the number of people who have applied before you and the priority dates, the processing time can be from a few months to a few years. This is all determined by when you apply and whether you are next in line from USCIS and NVC.
How to get a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status?
The next step after you have gotten your EB-5 visa is to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the U.S. This is usually known as getting the Green Card. To change your status from your immigrant visa to an LPR, you must first have an approved petition from USCIS and the visa, as well as live in the U.S.
Afterwards, you must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to USCIS. This form will be processed and if approved you will get your Green Card in the mail after a few weeks.
Can I bring my family to the U.S with an EB-5 visa?
Once you have your approved EB-5 visa, your family can also join you. The U.S considers family to be your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old, so they are the only ones allowed to apply. The application procedure will be similar to yours, with the exception that they will not need to prove they are making an investment in the U.S.
After they get their visas, your spouse can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and be allowed to work in the U.S. The spouse can choose to work in the commercial enterprise you invested in or started or find a job somewhere else.