How investors can live and work in the United States.
Depending on the type of investment, you may qualify for a nonimmigrant visa or even a green card. Some visas are only temporary, while others can be renewed indefinitely. Spouses can accompany the visa holder and will be eligible for a work permit plus unmarried children under 21 can be included and may attend school in the U.S.
E-1 / E-2 Treaty Visa
Many Foreign Nationals can benefit from the treaty agreement between the U.S. and their country, allowing them to live and work in the U.S. for prolonged periods of time if they meet certain requirements. Both the E-1 and E-2 visas can be renewed as many times as the business is still viable and there is no limit to the number of E-1 or E-2 visas allocated each year. However, this visa does not lead to a green card.
The E-1 is a treaty trader visa, used to stay in the U.S. to oversee or work for a business engaged in trade between the U.S. and the foreign country. Trade can be any international exchange of goods and services, as long as it’s sizable with more than 50% of the trade existing between the U.S. and the foreign country.
The E-2 is a treaty investor visa, granted to Foreign Nationals who want to enter the U.S. solely to develop and direct a business enterprise. There is no specific minimum dollar investment required, as long as there is a substantial amount of capital put at risk to secure the success of the business.
L-1A / L-1B Intracompany Transferee Visa
A foreign company can relocate an employee to its U.S. subsidiary or parent company. If you already own a business in your home country, you may wish to set up an affiliate or subsidiary business in the U.S. You must have worked at least one out of the last three years in the foreign business as a manager/executive (L-1A) or as an employee that has specialized knowledge (L-1B) beyond the ordinary within the industry.
Capital and resources must be available and committed to by the foreign company in order to ensure the successful operation of the U.S. business. There are no minimum investment amounts required and no limits to the number of L-1 visas granted each year. However, there is a limit of 5-7 years for holding the L-1 visa.
The good news with the L-1 visa is that it can lead to a green card if the U.S. company can show that it is doing well enough to sponsor the L-1 visa holder and their eligible family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21).
EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, Green Card Visa
Foreign Nationals continue to participate in this investor visa program, enjoying the direct benefit of obtaining a green card for the applicant and qualifying family members. The EB-5 program was enacted by Congress in 1990 as a tool to stimulate the U.S. economy by encouraging foreign capital investments and job creation. Since that time it has grown dramatically and has become an important source of investment for many commercial projects in the United States.
$1 Million or $500K
That’s the amount of U.S. dollars needed for the investment. For the $1 million investment there is more flexibility because the commercial enterprise does not have to be limited to a specific targeted employment area (TEA), giving the investor more options to choose from. For the $500,000 investment, this can only be used if the commercial enterprise is in a TEA, defined by the U.S. government to include certain rural areas and areas of high unemployment.
10 U.S. Jobs
That’s the amount of U.S. full time jobs that need to be created for each applicant’s investment. How these 10 jobs are counted depends on whether the investment is in a regional center or whether it is a direct investment. It’s worth noting that the number of qualifying family members does not make any difference to the investment. If the EB-5 applicant has a spouse and four unmarried children under 21, all six family members will get green cards while only needing one investment and 10 jobs.
A regional center is an economic entity approved by the U.S. government for participation in the EB-5 program based on various objectives for promoting economic growth. This is the most common option chosen by EB-5 investors, even though it ususally generates the lowest return on investment. Think of a number of foreign investors all pooling their $1 million or $500K into a large commercial enterprise such as a turnpike, highway project, manufacturing company, or hotel. It’s worth noting that a regional center can make it easier for counting the 10 U.S. jobs because indirect jobs can also be counted. As of Jan. 4, 2016 there are close to 800 approved regional centers.
A direct investment is one where the EB-5 applicant makes the required investment amount into any business enterprise of his or her choosing. In this case, the investor will actually be running the business, unlike the regional center enterprise where the investor has no direct involvement in the day-to day business operations. Consequently, the return on investment tends to be higher because the investor has more control and can be directly involved in maximizing profits. The 10 U.S. jobs requirement in this case needs to be jobs that are directly created by the business enterprise.
TEA, Targeted Employment Area
A targeted employment area (TEA) is an area that at the time of the investment, is in a rural area (any area outside a metropolitan statistical area as determined by the government) or outside of a city or town as long as that city/town doesn’t have a population of 20,000 or more, or an area with high unemployment defined as at least 150 percent of the national average. By investing in a TEA, the requirement becomes lower at only $500,000 compared to $1 million for all other areas that are not a TEA. However, the majority of regional centers are NOT in TEA locations, which makes it more likely that a direct investment would be needed at the lower $500,000 level.
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