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Immigrant Investor Program

USCIS administers the Immigrant Investor Program, also known as “EB-5,” created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Under a pilot immigration program first enacted in 1992 and regularly reauthorized since, certain EB-5 visas also are set aside for investors in Regional Centers designated by USCIS based on proposals for promoting economic growth.

  • All EB-5 investors must invest in a new commercial enterprise, which is a commercial enterprise:
  • Established after Nov. 29, 1990, or
  • Established on or before Nov. 29, 1990, that is:
  • Purchased and the existing business is restructured or reorganized in such a way that a new commercial enterprise results, or
  • Expanded through the investment so that a 40-percent increase in the net worth or number of employees occurs

Commercial enterprise means any for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of lawful business including, but not limited to:

  • A sole proprietorship
  • Partnership (whether limited or general)
  • Holding company
  • Joint venture
  • Corporation
  • Business trust or other entity, which may be publicly or privately owned

This definition includes a commercial enterprise consisting of a holding company and its wholly owned subsidiaries, provided that each such subsidiary is engaged in a for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of a lawful business.

Note: This definition does not include noncommercial activity such as owning and operating a personal residence.

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Job Creation Requirements

Create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers within two years (or under certain circumstances, within a reasonable time after the two-year period) of the immigrant investor’s admission to the United States as a Conditional Permanent Resident.

Create or preserve either direct or indirect jobs:

  • Direct jobs are actual identifiable jobs for qualified employees located within the commercial enterprise into which the EB-5 investor has directly invested his or her capital.
  • Indirect jobs are those jobs shown to have been created collaterally or as a result of capital invested in a commercial enterprise affiliated with a regional center by an EB-5 investor. A foreign investor may only use the indirect job calculation if affiliated with a regional center.

Note: Investors may only be credited with preserving jobs in a troubled business.

A troubled business is an enterprise that has been in existence for at least two years and has incurred a net loss during the 12- or 24-month period prior to the priority date on the immigrant investor’s Form I-526. The loss for this period must be at least 20 percent of the troubled business’ net worth prior to the loss. For purposes of determining whether the troubled business has been in existence for two years, successors in interest to the troubled business will be deemed to have been in existence for the same period of time as the business they succeeded.

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Eligible Employees

  • A qualified employee is a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or other immigrant authorized to work in the United States. The individual may be a conditional resident, an asylee, a refugee, or a person residing in the United States under suspension of deportation. This definition does not include the immigrant investor; his or her spouse, sons, or daughters; or any foreign national in any nonimmigrant status (such as an H-1B visa holder) or who is not authorized to work in the United States.
  • Full-time employment means employment of a qualifying employee by the new commercial enterprise in a position that requires a minimum of 35 working hours per week. In the case of the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, “full-time employment” also means employment of a qualifying employee in a position that has been created indirectly from investments associated with the Pilot Program.

 

  • A job-sharing arrangement whereby two or more qualifying employees share a full-time position will count as full-time employment provided the hourly requirement per week is met. This definition does not include combinations of part-time positions or full-time equivalents even if, when combined, the positions meet the hourly requirement per week. The position must be permanent, full-time and constant. The two qualified employees sharing the job must be permanent and share the associated benefits normally related to any permanent, full-time position, including payment of both workman’s compensation and unemployment premiums for the position by the employer.
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Capital Investment Requirements

Capital means cash, equipment, inventory, other tangible property, cash equivalents and indebtedness secured by assets owned by the alien entrepreneur, provided that the alien entrepreneur is personally and primarily liable and that the assets of the new commercial enterprise upon which the petition is based are not used to secure any of the indebtedness. All capital shall be valued at fair-market value in United States dollars. Assets acquired, directly or indirectly, by unlawful means (such as criminal activities) shall not be considered capital for the purposes of section 203(b)(5) of the Act.

  • Note: Investment capital cannot be borrowed.
  • The minimum qualifying investment in the United States is $1 million.
  • Targeted Employment Area (High Unemployment or Rural Area). The minimum qualifying investment either within a high-unemployment area or rural area in the United States is $500,000.
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Targeted Employment Area (TEA)

  • A targeted employment area is an area that, at the time of investment, is a rural area or an area experiencing unemployment of at least 150 percent of the national average rate.
  • A rural area is any area outside a metropolitan statistical area (as designated by the Office of Management and Budget) or outside the boundary of any city or town having a population of 20,000 or more according to the decennial census.
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L-1 Intracompany Transfer

The L-1 visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa which allows companies to relocate foreign qualified employees to its U.S. subsidiary or parent company. The qualified employee must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of the company for at least one year out of the last three years. The U.S. company must be a parent company, child company, or sister company to the foreign company. The L1 visa may also include non-profit, religious, or charitable organizations.

The L-1 visa is a good way for small or start-up overseas companies to expand their business and services to the United States. This is advantageous to smaller companies because it allows for the transfer of a highly proficient manager or executive who has direct knowledge of operations, allowing the setup of a new branch in compliance with the goals and objectives of the company’s main office. However, since the USCIS will scrutinize L visa petitions filed by lesser-known companies more closely, professional consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer is strongly recommended for these types of small businesses.

L1 visas can also be used by multi-national companies. When a multi-national company is developing a new market in another country, it may become necessary to have some employees with specialized knowledge work in the newly established office. Furthermore, such companies may have policies of international rotation of managerial level personnel to assure that all key personnel within a company have equal opportunity for career advancement when an appropriate position becomes open in any location around the world. Cross-fertilization of ideas among high level employees and executives enhances a company’s competitiveness; this exchange often results in innovation essential to a company’s reputation and development. A regular rotation of key personnel improves and ensures uniformity of service and procedure within the company at a global level.

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L-1 Requirements

To qualify for L-1 visa application, the Petitioning Employer must:

  • The company must have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company, such as a parent company, branch office, subsidiary, or affiliate of the foreign company. These are collectively referred to as qualifying entities or qualifying organizations. The entities may include corporations, non-profits, religious or charitable organizations.
  • The company must also be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1. While the business must be viable, there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade.
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L-1A Executive or Manager

L-1A visas are designed for intra-company executive transferees coming to work in the United States. The L-1A visa holders must have been employed in an executive or managerial capacity for the foreign company at an overseas location continuously for at least one year out of the past three years. In addition, the L-1A visa allows a company which does not currently have a U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States in order to establish one. L1A visa is granted initially for one year for a new company in the US or three years for a US company with more than one year in existence, with extensions available in two-year increments, with a total stay not to exceed seven years.

L-1A Requirements

The alien employee must have worked abroad for the overseas company for a continuous period of one year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States. Any time spent working in the United States will not count toward the one year of required employment.

The employee must have been employed abroad in an executive or managerial position, otherwise known as a qualifying position. For more information on qualifying positions, Please visit qualifying positions.

The employee must be coming to the U.S. to provide service in an executive or managerial capacity for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.

The employee must be qualified for the position by virtue of his or her prior education and experience.

The L-1 visa holder must intend to depart the United States upon completion of his or her authorized stay.

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L-1B Specialized Knowledge Employee

L-1B are designed for professional employees with specialized knowledge. An example of specialized knowledge personnel would be an individual who possesses proprietary knowledge about a company’s product and who travels to the U.S. to impart his or her specialized knowledge to new U.S. employees. In addition, companies who currently do not have an office in the United States can use the L-1B visa to send over an employee with specialized knowledge to help establish one. An L1B visa is issued initially for three years with one two-year extension for a maximum of five years stay.

In both cases, the U.S. company and foreign company must be related in a specific way such through a parent/subsidiary relationship or through an affiliated employer.

L-1B Requirements

The alien employee must have worked abroad for the overseas company for a continuous period of one year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States. Any time spent working in the United States will not count toward the one year of required employment.

The employee must be seeking to enter the United States to render services in a specialized knowledge capacity to a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.

The L-1 visa holder must intend to depart the United States upon completion of his or her authorized stay.

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