Second Citizenship
April 8, 2024
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EB‑5 Visa projects for direct investment: advantages, options, and filing process

Foreign nationals seeking US residency under the EB‑5 Visa Program can choose either a direct investment or an investment via a Regional Center.

General requirements for both options are similar and imply investment of at least $800,000 in the US economy.

Although 95% of EB‑5 projects submitted in recent years account for Regional Centers, some applicants still prefer to invest directly. This article gives an overview of the peculiarities and benefits of EB‑5 direct investment projects.

Albert Ioffe
Albert Ioffe

Provided examples of projects suitable for EB-5 direct investment

EB-5 Direct Investment Projects: How to Choose in 2023

EB-5 Visa projects for direct investment: advantages, options, and filing process

Key benefits of the US EB‑5 Visa

The EB-5 Investment Visa program was launched by the US Government in 1990 to attract foreign investments and stimulate the American economy. Under the program, foreign nationals obtain EB-5 Visas that grant US residency and the benefits of the Green Card.

1. Right to live and work in the USA. An EB‑5 visa holder can move to any US region and get a job or establish a business. Initially, a Conditional Green Card is granted for two years. After that, the applicant claims a regular Green Card with a 10-year validity period.

2. Protection by US laws. As a Green Card holder, the EB‑5 Visa Program participant is protected by US legislation and can enjoy rights such as Social Security benefits and access to educational programs in the United States.

3. Visa-free travel. Certain countries do not require Green Card holders to have a visa at entry. These include Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, and some others.

4. Right to get medical assistance in the US. EB‑5 investors can get health insurance under various available health insurance plans and seek treatment in US clinics.

5. Access to education for investors’ children. The investor’s unmarried children under 21, included in the EB‑5 visa petition, get access to US education. They are eligible for scholarships and have lower tuition fees than other international students.

6. Right to obtain US citizenship. After 2 years living in the USA on a conditional Green Card, an EB‑5 Visa holder can apply for permanent residency. 5 years later, they are entitled to apply for US citizenship.

How to get a US immigrant visa as an investor and move a step closer to a Green Card

What is EB‑5 direct investment and Regional Center investment?

Under the EB‑5 Visa Program, potential investors have two options:

  • to invest via a Regional Center that accumulates funds from several investors to develop large-scale projects;

  • to invest directly without any intermediaries.

EB‑5 direct investment means any investment not made via a Regional Center. Direct investment supposes that an applicant chooses a project, invests in a new commercial enterprise and controls the business independently.

A new commercial enterprise is defined as any for-profit activity created for the ongoing conduct of business. Such businesses may include sole proprietorship, partnership, joint venture, corporation, business trust, limited liability company, and other publicly or privately owned entities.

Non-profit activities do not qualify for the EB‑5 Visa Program.

Regional Centers are certified entities that pool capital from multiple foreign and in-country investors. The accumulated money funds large projects, such as hotels, ski resorts, arenas, and retail projects.

To be eligible for the EB‑5 Program, a Regional Center has to get approval from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) annually. If a Regional Center does not submit the required information to USCIS or fails to confirm that it keeps promoting economic growth, it loses the USCIS approval.

Minimum investments. Apart from the investment option, the applicant has to choose the amount of capital they wish to invest. The minimum amount is $800,000. It is applied for Targeted Employment Areas that are rural regions or regions of high unemployment of at least 150% of the national average.

If the investor chooses a non-target area, the minimum investment increases to $1,050,000.

Difference between direct investments and Regional Center investments

Although the main requirements for all EB‑5 projects in the USA are similar, there are some substantial differences between direct and Regional Center investments.

Job creation. In direct investments, the program participant has to create 10 direct full-time jobs meaning that employees should be officially hired in the formed company. Positions occupied by the investor and their family members are excluded from the list of created jobs.

For Regional Center investments, the number of jobs is 10, but the program allows the creation of indirect and induced jobs in addition to or instead of direct jobs.

Indirect jobs refer to jobs created outside the Regional Center enterprise, for example, jobs in a contractor or a supplier company. Induced jobs appear as a result of project employees spending their wages in the community. These may include jobs in stores, restaurants, and other service enterprises.

Degree of the investor’s engagement. In direct projects, investors are usually involved in business and management, can make decisions, and directly impact daily operations.

In Regional Center projects, the investor is just one of many project members who typically cannot make any business decisions.

Investor’s independence. Direct investors do not depend on any intermediary. On the one hand, it gives more freedom and flexibility. But on the other hand, it grants more responsibilities at the document preparation stage and later on.

Regional Center investors do not have to prepare project documentation on their own, but are highly dependent on the Center. For example, if the Center loses USCIS approval, a pending petition will be declined, and the investor will have to start from the beginning. An investor who has already obtained a conditional Green Card keeps and can maintain it.

Returns on the investment. Direct investment projects have unlimited earning potential. At the same time, direct investments are associated with higher risks because earnings entirely depend on the project’s success. Regional Centers create low-risk projects that protect investors’ capital but have limited profitability of about 0,5% per year.

Direct and Regional Center investment comparison

Point of comparison

Direct investment

Regional Center investment

Investment capital

$1,050,000
$800,000 in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA)

$1,050,000
$800,000 in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA)

Administrative fee

No

$70,000

Job creation

10 direct full-time jobs

10 full-time jobs that can be direct, indirect, and induced

Investor’s involvement

Investor is directly involved in daily operations

Investor is not involved in daily operations

Control

Investor has full control over the project

Investor is a member of the project and has little or no control

Return on investment

Higher ROI

Limited ROI

Dependency on an intermediary

Investor is independent

Investor is dependent on a Regional Center

Submitting of an application

Investor prepares the project documentation

Regional Center prepares project documentation

4 advantages of EB‑5 direct investments

1. Less time to obtain an EB‑5 Visa. Petitions with direct EB‑5 Visa projects are typically processed quicker than those with Regional Center projects.

2. Full control over business. The investor can run business on their own and make any business decisions they want.

3. Higher return on investment potential. Direct EB‑5 investment projects can be riskier but usually have a higher ROI. This is because the earning potential of such enterprises is not limited and depends on the success of the business.

4. More opportunities to get back the investment. Regional Centers usually set minimum time limits for the capital to be invested and charge fees for the exit. Direct investors can sell their businesses and exit at any moment.

Direct investment requirements for the EB‑5 Visa

Requirements for EB‑5 Visas are defined in the EB‑5 Reform and Integrity Act. To qualify for the program, the application must meet the following conditions:

  1. Applicant is over 18, with no criminal records.

  2. Legitimate investment capital.

  3. Detailed business plan providing an overview of the business, market analysis, and relevant financial data.

  4. Investment is at least $800,000 in Targeted Employment Areas and $1,050,000 in other areas.

  5. Creation of 10 direct full-time jobs filled by US citizens or lawfully admitted immigrants and maintained at least for 2 years.

Individual cost calculation of the US EB-5 visa

Individual cost calculation of the US EB-5 visa

How to choose a project for EB‑5 direct investment

EB‑5 Visa Program participants have two options: to create a new business or to invest in the existing one.

Direct investors have a wide range of opportunities to choose from. The main criterion that should be considered is that at least 10 full-time jobs must be created due to the project. Some businesses like gas stations, small shops, or a café might be unable to provide and maintain the necessary number of new jobs. Therefore, such projects will not qualify as EB‑5 investment projects, and the petition will be declined.

The EB‑5 projects list can include the following options:

  • a franchise business;

  • a restaurant;

  • an IT company;

  • a retail store;

  • a wholesale business;

  • an agricultural enterprise.

To qualify when investing in an existing project, the applicant must ensure that after the purchase, an enterprise is reorganised, forming a new company or is expanded, resulting in at least a 40% increase in the net worth or number of employees.

An additional option for a direct EB‑5 investment is to invest in an existing troubled business. In this case, the investor should prove the following:

  • the business has been operating for at least two years;

  • in the previous 12 or 24 months, the business suffered a 20% net loss;

  • investment helps to preserve the existing jobs and to create new ones.

EB-5 visa investment opportunities: direct investment projects

California is a popular US state among EB-5 investors. In previous years, food and accommodation services were the top second industry after construction among all EB-5 direct and indirect investments

EB-5 direct investment visa filing process

Foreign investors usually wait for 5—6 years before they get US residency.

1

1+ week

Hire an attorney to help with documentation

The attorney helps to identify the necessary documentation and support the investor throughout the process.

2

1+ month

Choose a project and prepare a business plan

The investor prepares a comprehensive business plan that provides full information about the EB‑5 direct project and necessary financial data.

3

2+ weeks

Gather all supporting documentation

The investor prepares personal and project documentation required for an I‑526 petition.

4

Make an investment

The applicant invests the required capital in the chosen project.

5

1 day

File an I-526 petition

Once the documentation is ready and the investment is made, the attorney files an I‑526 petition with the USCIS.

6

3+ years

Receive an I-526 approval

The USCIS reviews the I‑526 petition and issues an EB‑5 visa.

7

6+ months

Get a conditional Green Card

After the EB‑5 Visa application is approved, the investor has to file a DS‑260 or I‑485 petition to get a US residency for 2 years.

8

2 years later

Get a permanent Green Card

Within 90 days before the expiration of the conditional residency, the investor should file an I‑829 petition and provide supporting documentation on the EB‑5 project to obtain a permanent Green Card.

EB‑5 direct investment summary

  1. Under the US EB‑5 Visa Program, the investor can make a direct investment on their own. Another option is to invest with a Regional Center as an intermediary.

  2. The main requirements for direct investment are to invest $800,000+ and to create and maintain 10 direct full-time jobs.

  3. The EB‑5 direct investors enjoy complete control over the business and a higher degree of flexibility. They can make decisions independently and exit the business whenever they choose.

  4. Although EB‑5 direct investment projects are associated with higher risks, they have a higher return on investment potential.

  5. I‑526 petitions submitted by direct investors usually take less time to be approved in comparison with Regional Center petitions.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for citizenship and residence by investment programs in the EU, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East. Take advantage of our global 15-year expertise — schedule a meeting with our investment programs experts.

Will you obtain a EB-5 visa to the USA?

Practical Guide

Will you obtain a EB-5 visa to the USA?

Frequently asked questions

  • What is a direct EB-5 investment?

    EB‑5 direct investment is any investment made by an EB‑5 Visa applicant directly, without the services of a Regional Center.

  • What is an example of a direct investment in EB-5?

    EB‑5 direct investors can choose among various business options. The most popular EB‑5 projects include franchise businesses, food and accommodation services, retail and wholesale. Some investors set up a business in less popular areas, such as agriculture and engineering.

    Regardless of the project, the investment’s main result should be creating and maintaining 10 direct full-time jobs.

  • How much does it cost to be an EB-5 investor?

    According to the EB‑5 visa program rules, the minimum investment amount for an EB‑5 project in the USA is $800,000 in a Targeted Employment Area and $1,050,000 in other areas.

  • What is the best investment for EB-5?

    Two main investment paths for an EB‑5 visa are a direct investment in business and investment via a government-approved Regional Center. To make an informed decision, a potential investor has to learn about the differences between direct and Regional Center investments.

    The most appropriate investment option depends on the goals of the applicant. If the applicant does not have an opportunity or expertise to run the business on their own, they should choose a Regional Center investment.

    If the investor wants to run business by themself and have more flexibility, the best option would be a direct investment.

  • What is EB-5 direct investment vs Regional Center?

    EB‑5 direct and Regional Center investments must meet USCIS requirements. However, there are some substantial differences.

    EB‑5 direct investors have more flexibility and control over the business, are usually more involved in business operations and potentially can enjoy higher return on investment.

    On the other hand, EB‑5 direct investment projects can be more risky and take more effort for the preparation of EB‑5 visa petition documentation.

  • Can I invest in real estate for EB-5?

    EB‑5 Visa program rules do not allow for real estate investments.

    To qualify for the Program, the applicant must invest in an enterprise, either directly or via a Regional Center. The main requirements are an investment of $800,000 in TEA or $1,050,000 in other areas and the creation of 10 full-time jobs.