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How Do I Get an Investor Visa?

8 min read
Unbundled Legal Help

by Unbundled Legal Help

To get an investor visa, you must submit applications, petitions, supporting documents, and potentially attend interviews. According to the United States Department of State, approximately 140,000 investor visas are issued each year to applicants from all over the world. Because many investor visa applications have been fraudulent, applicants must provide substantial information supporting their plans to invest in a United States business. 

The process to obtain an investor visa is paper intensive, and while many applicants complete and submit forms themselves, doing so may result in denied or deficient applications. If you are seeking an investor visa, you may have no difficulty completing some of the required forms, but may have other questions about the process.

For example, you may want to know which type of investor visa fits your situation. There are two main types of investor visas: the EB-5 investor visa and the E-2 investor visa (also known as a “treaty investor visa”). The information below provides an overview of what these visas are and what steps you must take to obtain an investor visa.

Unbundled Legal Help allows applicants to choose what they need guidance with when applying for an investor visa. We can connect you with a local unbundled attorney from our network to answer questions about the process and to ensure the work you have done is accurate. Or you may wish to have an attorney manage all steps for you. Unbundled allows you to decide what you need assistance with, and what you can do on your own, saving you time and money.

What Is the EB-5 Investor Visa?

The EB-5 investor visa is available to individuals wishing to invest in commercial enterprises/businesses within certain categories. The purpose of the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program is to stimulate the United States economy through job growth and expansion of existing commercial enterprises by investors from outside the country.

What Are the Requirements To Obtain an EB-5 Investor Visa?

Under United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy, which adopts federal laws, EB-5 investors must meet certain requirements to obtain the visa. The investor must invest in a “new commercial enterprise,” which is defined under USCIS policy as any profit-producing activity created for the purposes of carrying on a lawful business. 

What Is a Commercial Enterprise?

The USCIS considers the following types of businesses to be commercial enterprises if such companies are engaged in ongoing and lawful, for-profit activities:

  • Sole proprietorships
  • General and limited partnerships
  • Holding companies (including wholly owned subsidiaries that are engaged in for-profit activity for purposes of carrying on a lawful business)
  • Joint ventures
  • Corporations
  • Business trusts
  • Any publicly or privately owned entity

Not only must the business be a lawful, for-profit entity, it must also be considered a “new” commercial enterprise under federal law and USCIS policies.

What Is Considered a “New” Commercial Enterprise?

New commercial enterprises for purposes of obtaining an EB-5 investor visa must meet the following requirements:

  • A for-profit business created after November 29, 1990
  • A for-profit business that was created on or before November 29, 1990, that meets the following characteristics:
    • Purchased, and the new business was transformed to the point that a new business was created
    • Expanded via investment that led to a 40% increase in the business’s net worth or number of employees

A foreign investor must overcome additional hurdles to obtain the investor visa. Investing in a legal for-profit entity that is considered a “new commercial enterprise” is only the beginning. The investor must also meet certain capital investment and job creation requirements.

EB-5 Investor Visa Capital Investment Requirements

The investment of capital means an investment intended specifically for the expansion of a new commercial enterprise. The investment can be anything of value, but it cannot be borrowed money. Investors who file petitions to obtain an EB-5 visa need to contribute a minimum investment amount of $1,800,000. However, if the commercial enterprise is in a rural or high unemployment area (also known as a “targeted employment area”), the minimum investment amount is $900,000.

For petitions filed before November 21, 2019, the minimum investment amount was $1,000,000, or $500,000 for enterprises in a targeted employment area.

Within two years of investing capital, the investment must create at least ten full-time jobs for United States citizens, lawful permanent residents (green card holders), or any immigrant workers who are working in the United States lawfully. 

The required ten full-time jobs cannot include jobs for spouses or children of the EB-5 visa holder. Foreign investors who meet all requirements in terms of business development can obtain lawful permanent resident status and eventually, U.S. citizenship.

Administrative Steps To Obtain an EB-5 Investor Visa

Determining whether you meet the requirements to obtain an EB-5 investor visa is a good first step before beginning the process of filing the initial petition, and subsequent mountain of paperwork. The following are the basic steps to obtain an EB-5 investor visa.

  • Step 1—File Form I-526, Petition for Alien Entrepreneur
  • Step 2—File D-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration
  • Step 3—File Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (application for green card)
  • Step 4—File Form I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Residence Status

As part of the application process, you may need to attend a visa interview, which is one way for USCIS to verify the accuracy of all documentation submitted as part of the application. 

Applicants must provide passports from their home countries, passport photos, required supplemental documentation to support investment plans (and ability to invest), completed medical examination forms, and additional evidence of economic stability.

The E-2 Investor Visa—an Option for Certain Foreign Investors

Some foreign investors may seek to obtain an E-2 investor visa (also called a “treaty investor visa”) rather than an EB-5 investor visa. In some cases, an investor may not qualify for an EB-5 investor visa. In other cases, it may make more sense for an investor to seek lawful entry into the United States by obtaining an EB-5 investor visa via a treaty country. Per USCIS, E-2 investor visa requirements include the following qualifications:

  • The investor must be the citizen of a country that maintains a treaty (for purposes of commerce and navigation) with the United States
  • The investor must have invested, or currently is in the process of investing, a “substantial amount of capital” in a lawful United States enterprise
  • The investor must be seeking entry into the United States for the sole purpose of developing and directing the investment enterprise

A “substantial amount of capital” varies based on the business enterprise at issue. The USCIS considers the following to meet their requirements:

  • The amount of capital is substantial in relationship to the cost to either create a new enterprise or invest into an existing enterprise
  • The amount of capital is sufficient to demonstrate the investor’s financial commitment to the success of the enterprise
  • The amount of capital is sufficient to provide assurance that the investor will be successful in developing and directing the enterprise

In general, a substantial amount of capital can more easily be described as an amount that is large in comparison to the total cost of the enterprise. One key difference between EB-5 investor visas and E-2 investor visas, is that E-2 visas do not have a path to permanent residence (green card) status and eventual citizenship. 

An E-2 investor visa holder seeking permanent residence status and eventual citizenship must find another path, which would involve qualifying for a different type of visa that does have a path to permanent residence status. An Unbundled lawyer can provide you with additional information if you are an E-2 visa holder wishing to become a green card holder.

Obtaining U.S. Citizenship through the EB-5 Investor Visa

If you are an EB-5 investment visa holder, you have a path to obtain lawful permanent residence status. One of the last steps of the EB-5 process involves an application to obtain a green card. 

After obtaining a green card, which initially begins as a conditional green card (meaning, the green card has certain limitations), the conditions are eventually removed upon application. Conditions involve a residency requirement to remain in the country for a certain period after obtaining the conditional green card.

After having a green card for at least five years, you are eligible to apply for United States citizenship. However, because every situation is unique, it’s best to speak with an Unbundled network lawyer to help you on your path to citizenship through the EB-5 investor visa program.

Consider How Unbundled Legal Help Can Save You Money

Obtaining an investor visa will cost you money whether you collaborate with an attorney or not. The filing fees alone cost money, and the amount of money that must be invested to obtain the visa is substantial. Because of the importance of submitting accurate information and supporting documents to USCIS, many applicants choose to work with attorneys at least for some portions of the process. 

With Unbundled Legal Help, many clients spend as little as $500 to $1,500 for attorney services. An immigration attorney who manages an entire investor visa application from start to finish may charge a few thousand dollars or more. We can put you in contact with a local Unbundled attorney today to help you get your investor visa.

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