What is an Immigrant Investor Visa?
An immigrant investor visa is issued under the EB-5 Program to eligible foreign nationals (and their spouses and unmarried children who are under 21 years). To be eligible to apply for a Green Card through the EB-5 program, the foreign national should make the stipulated investment in a commercial enterprise in the US and should create 10 full-time jobs for US workers.
Every year, the U.S. government issues around 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas under five employment-based preference categories. The Fifth Preference category (EB5) also known as the Immigrant Investor Program, which does not need a labor certification, is reserved for business investors. More than 7.1% of all employment-based visas are issued to EB5 investors each year.
To obtain a visa under this category the foreign national investor must invest $1.8 million or $900,000 in a targeted employment area, in a new commercial enterprise in the US. This investment must be capable of providing at least 10 new full-time jobs for U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (green card holders), or other nonimmigrant workers within two years of the investment.
The EB-5 investor visa program benefits wealthy foreigners who want to make the U.S. their home. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues immigrant visas to foreign investors who are seeking permanent residence in the U.S. These immigrant investors can start companies in the U.S. or invest in existing American businesses. Enterprises that these investors start or invest in must benefit the U.S. economy by creating jobs in the U.S.
Following are the four categories of immigrant investor visas.
- C5 – This category is meant for investors who invest in businesses outside the targeted areas.
- T5 – T5 visas are for those who create employment in targeted rural/high unemployment areas.
- R5 – This category is for investors investing in Immigrant Investor Pilot Programs outside targeted areas.
- I5 – Foreign investors investing in Immigrant Investor Pilot Programs within targeted areas can get I5 visas. Petition for an Immigrant Visa
EB-5 visa application process
The first thing you need to do is file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, with the USCIS. You can file this form for yourself. A labor certification is not required.
If you are eligible, the USCIS will approve your petition and forward it to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will assign a case number for your petition and instruct you to file Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent, when your priority date meets the recent qualifying date. The NVC will then instruct you to pay the application processing fee. Once you pay the fee, you will be required to submit an application for an immigrant visa along with the supporting documents like a photocopy of the biographic data page of your passport, 2 passport-style photos, birth and marriage certificates, adoption documentation, marriage termination documentation, police certificates, military, prison and court records, deportation documentation, and petitioner documents. Note that you need to provide only the documents that support your situation.
You can apply for an immigrant visa by filing Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application, at a U.S. embassy or a consulate in your home country, but only after the USCIS approves your Form I-526 application.
Immigrant Visas for Your Dependents
Your spouse and your unmarried children under 21 years can apply for immigrant visas at the same time as you apply for your visa. They need to file applications for immigrant visas along with the fees and submit the required supporting documents.
Partners and dependents of investors who are in same-sex marriages can also apply for immigrant visas and immigrate to the U.S.
You must pay the following fees:
- The application filing fee for Form I-526
- The filing fee for Form DS-260
- Fees for medical examinations and vaccinations
You must pay these fees for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents, no matter how old they are. You must pay the Form I-526 application filing fee to the USCIS by check or money order.
The NVC will tell you how and where to pay the Form DS-260 immigrant visa application processing fee.
Fees for medical examinations must be paid to the doctors who perform them. The USCIS does not regulate the fees that these doctors can charge.
Immigrant Visa Interview
After the NVC determines your file is complete, they will schedule you for an immigrant visa interview. Your application packet will be forwarded to the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will be interviewed. The NVC will send you an interview appointment notice with the date and time of the interview. This notice will explain how you can get your medical examinations.
You will need to take your valid passport and other documents that you haven’t yet provided to the NVC. On the day of the interview, an official at the consulate or embassy will take digital scans of your fingerprints. An officer will interview you and decide whether you are eligible for an immigrant visa.
You will need to bring these documents to your visa interview:
- Your valid passport. This passport must be valid for at least 60 days after the expiration date printed on the immigrant visa that the embassy or consulate will give you.
- Form DS-260. After you complete the form online, you will need to print it out and bring it to your interview.
- Two passport-style photographs of yourself. The photographs should be two-inch by two-inch in size and picture you in front of a white background. Your face must be showing even if your religion requires you to wear a veil.
- Originals and legible photocopies of all documents that you submitted to the NVC, such as your birth certificate and marriage certificate. The consulate or embassy will return the originals to you after they verify them.
- Your completed medical examination forms.
- The appointment letter for your interview that the NVC sent to you.
Your interviewer will give you a visa only if they believe that you can financially support yourself while you’re in the U.S., and that the U.S. won’t have to spend money on you for food, housing, medical expenses, or other reasons; that you won’t become a public charge. So you need to show that you have enough money to support yourself.
You must not misrepresent facts about yourself during your interview or lie on any of your application forms or supporting documents. People who try to cheat U.S. immigration laws in order to enter the U.S. can become permanently ineligible for a U.S. visa and will never be allowed to enter the country.
The appointment letter for your interview will explain what medical examinations you will need to undergo and what vaccinations you will have to get. The NVC won’t schedule a medical examination for you. You will need to schedule appointments for yourself, your spouse, and your children with an authorized physician and complete these medical examinations before your visa interview. The NVC will explain how to find an authorized physician.
You will get your immigrant visa if your interviewer decides that you are eligible. The consular officer will return your passport and give you your visa along with a sealed packet that contains the supporting documents that you provided. Do NOT open the packet. It must be opened by an immigration officer at a U.S. port of entry when you enter the U.S.
You need to travel to the U.S. before your visa expires. Your dependents will have to come with you or enter the U.S. after you do.
Getting an immigrant visa does not automatically mean that you will be allowed to enter the U.S. Immigration authorities will review your immigrant visa packet at your port of entry. They will only allow you to enter the U.S. if they decide that you are admissible. Officers at the port of entry have the power to deny or permit you to enter the country.
USCIS Immigrant Fee
Soon after you get your immigrant visa, you must pay the USCIS immigrant fee. You can pay this fee online. You won’t get your permanent resident card (green card) until you pay this fee.
EB-5 Immigrant Investor
Read about what you need to be eligible for an EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa here.
EB-5 Investor Visa Program
Read about how to invest in a Californian business here.
EB-5 Regional Center
This webpage explains how to find out whether the USCIS will determine a business is eligible for the EB-5 visa program.
Immigrant Investor Regional Centers
Click here for a list of current EB-5 (Immigrant Investor) Regional Centers by state.