Launched by Congress in 1990, the EB5 visa program is designed to stimulate the U.S. economy, create jobs, and generate capital investment from foreign investors. In return for complying with all program rules — including investing either $1 million or $500,000 depending on the applicable qualifying stream — investors are granted permanent resident status (a.k.a. an Investment Green Card). Their spouse and children under 21 also become eligible for permanent residence, provided that their respective applications are approved by USCIS.
Like all visa preference categories, the EB5 visa program is complex, and there is an immense amount of misinformation floating around on the web; especially in light of the current political climate, in which multiple visa programs (not just fifth preference) are undergoing review, or are likely to be scrutinized in the relatively near future.
Unfortunately, this low-quality information — which ranges from incomplete and outdated details, to outright and egregious errors — can and does render petitions invalid or unacceptable. When this happens, everyone loses. Petitioners waste years of time and thousands of dollars, and must either start their application from scratch or forgo the possibility of coming to the U.S. entirely. And U.S. cities and communities — including rural areas that urgently need an economic boost — lose out on significant investment and guaranteed new jobs. Again, everyone loses.
If there’s any silver lining here, it’s that the problems here are not systemic to the EB5 program itself — which even ardent critics of the government’s immigration policies and philosophies admit is working, since it’s so clearly beneficial to the U.S. — but rooted in misinformation and misunderstandings. To stem this tide of ignorance and help turn a lose-lose into a win-win, here are three EB5 visa myths debunked:
Myth #1: Petitioners who own property in the U.S. valued at $1 million meet the eligibility requirements of the EB5 visa program.
Fact: Petitioners must invest either $1 million or $500,000 (in rural areas with high unemployment). In-kind contributions are not considered. The investment must be in cash, and made in a new commercial enterprise that has the capacity to create and support at least 10 full-time jobs for qualified U.S. employees.
Myth #2: Petitioners who are currently in the U.S. on a tourist visa can remain in the U.S. while their EB5 application is being assessed by USCIS.
Fact: This is simply false. The only time a petitioner may remain in the U.S. while their EB5 application is being assessed by USCIS, is if they maintain non-immigrant status throughout the processing period. This takes over one year, and the maximum duration of a tourist visa is six months in a calendar year.
Myth #3: Petitioners should save time and money by applying directly to USCIS vs. hiring an EB5 visa attorney.
Fact: The online application package for the EB5 visa is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In addition to the application, petitioners must several supporting documents required by both regulations and applicable case law, including financial documents, a business plan, an economic report, and so on. And the application is even more complex for petitioners who want to invest in a USCIS approved regional center. Expert guidance is a must.
The Bottom Line
The EB5 visa program is complicated enough on its own. Myths and misinformation make things even more challenging — and costly — for all stakeholders, including communities, businesses and job seekers in the U.S. Hopefully, the above facts will steer petitioners in the right direction, so they can be part of the American Dream to everyone’s benefit.