How Much Money Is Required for an Investor Visa in the USA?
by Philip Ahn, Attorney
Investment visa application legal fees tend to be quite high. You can expect to pay anywhere up to $50,000 in legal fees—and sometimes even more. The minimum budget you should set aside would be around $15,000-$25,000. However, there are ways to save money on legal fees.
Applying for an investor visa in the United States can be a long and complicated process. But it’s worth the trouble since a successful application will get you a green card and options for applying for U.S. citizenship in the future.
What Is an Investor Visa?
The Investor Visa, or EB-5, is basically the United States version of the European Golden Visa. If you receive the EB-5 visa, you can come to the United States to live, work, study, or retire, and you don’t need to have official employment in the country to justify your stay. Your EB-5 visa application can also include dependent family members (spouse and children).
Applying for the EB-5 visa requires a considerable investment in the U.S. economy, which makes this visa a viable option only for wealthy individuals wishing to move to the United States.
Note that the United States only gives out 10,000 EB-5 visas per year.
The Main Perks of the EB-5 Investor Visa
Receiving the EB-5 visa comes with several key benefits and rights in the United States:
- You will be able to live, work, and study in the United States with your family.
- You and your family members will receive green cards.
- Once you’ve lived in the United States for at least seven years, you will be able to apply for citizenship.
- You will be able to travel to and from the U.S. without having to apply for a new U.S. visa. You will also be able to travel visa-free to many countries that offer this right to green card holders.
- You will have access to U.S. healthcare services.
EB-5-Visa Investment Requirements
The EB-5 Visa has two main investment options:
Your first option is to invest the minimum of $900,000 in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA). This involves investing in a rural area or an area with a high unemployment rate as part of a government-approved program. When Investing in a TEA, you will need to prove that your investment will directly or indirectly create at least 10 new jobs.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has set up several regional centers to promote economic activity and growth in specific areas in the country. Most applications for the EB-5 Visa are made via these centers—especially when the primary concern of the applicant is immigration rather than the return on their investment.
Note that if you invest in a Targeted Employment Area, you will need to reside in the same state as the state in which you have invested. The second investment option doesn’t have this requirement.
Your second option is to invest a minimum of $1.8 million outside a Targeted Employment Area—this is also known as direct investment. In this case, you will be free to invest in any existing company or enterprise in the U.S. or even create your own company. The one condition is that it needs to meet U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requirements. In this case too, you will need to prove that your investment will create at least 10 new jobs. You must also have a direct role in the company.
Let’s sum up the key requirements for the EB-5 Visa investment:
- Your investment must meet the minimum capital requirement: $900,000 for a TEA investment and $1.8 million for a direct investment.
- Your investment must create at least 10 new jobs.
- You must show that your investment capital has been acquired legally.
- Your investment will need to be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- The capital that you invest will be labeled as “at risk.” No guarantees can be made when it comes to return on your investment.
How To Apply for the EB-5 Investment Visa?
Once the investment matter has been settled, you will need to go through the following formalities:
- First, you will need to file an application with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) using the investment visa application form, also known as form I-526.
- Your application will be reviewed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC).
- You will then need to pay all the associated Investment Visa application fees (on top of the initial investment). The NVC will contact you to inform you where and how to pay these fees.
- If you are outside the U.S., your next step will be to go in for an interview at the U.S. Embassy in your home country. Once again, you will be contacted by the NVC, who will inform you what documents to prepare for the interview and where and when it will take place. If you are in the U.S., you will need to file for adjustment of status at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The length of the process depends on the specifics of your case. However, on average, you should expect to wait a bit over a year for the process to complete.
Are There Any Alternatives to the EB-5 Visa?
As you can see from above, to successfully apply for the EB-5-Visa, you will need to make a substantial investment. Naturally, this option is only available to people who have the resources to make a financial commitment of this size.
If you can’t afford to apply for the EB-5 Investor Visa, the L-1 and E-2 visas can be the closest alternatives. Both of these visas are available to those who want to create a new start-up in the United States and require a much smaller minimum investment of “just” $100,000, or even less, depending on the nature of your project.
These are the key differences between the EB-5 visa and the L-1 and E-2 visas: while the former is an investment visa, the latter are technically work visas and do not lead to permanent residence.
Let’s Sum Up All We Know About the EB-5 Visa
So, here’s the gist:
- To apply for the EB-5 Visa, you will need to invest at least $900,000 in a U.S. company in the Targeted Employment Area and at least $1.8 million in a direct investment. In both cases, you will need to ensure the creation of at least 10 new jobs.
- If your application is successful, you and your dependent family members (spouse and children) will receive green cards, which will allow you and your family to live, work, and study in the U.S.
- The number of EB-5 visas issued per year is limited to 10,000 visas, including visas issued to the applicant’s family members.
Do I Need a Lawyer To Apply for the U.S. Investor Visa?
You are not required by law to have an attorney to apply for the EB-5 Visa.
However, hiring competent legal help is strongly advised when it comes to investment visa applications. EB-5 Visa applications are some of the most meticulously reviewed of all immigration applications, and it is essential that your investment and all related documents perfectly meet all the outlined requirements. If you are applying from outside the United States or/and are not familiar with the U.S. legal system, hiring a lawyer is even more important and will substantially increase your chances of success.
A lawyer can help you with the following aspects and more of your application:
- Explaining (in simple terms) all the documentation and investment requirements
- Offering guidance in demonstrating the source of your capital
- Analyzing whether your investment project is EB-5 compliant
- Helping you prepare a business plan and an economic report
- Reviewing your application before final submission
How Much Will Investment Visa Legal Services Cost?
It is difficult to give a specific answer to this question as it depends on the particulars of your immigration case. Most lawyers specializing in investment-based immigration will charge you a package fee for handling your case. This will include a full set of services and associated costs such as filing and administrative fees, immigration petition fees, federal expenses, and more.
When budgeting for an EB-5 immigration attorney, you should be prepared to pay around $15,000-$25,000 in legal fees. In some cases, the fees may go up to $50,000, and even higher.
How To Save Money on Legal Costs with Unbundled Legal Services?
An immigration lawyer will charge you a high fee for their services because they will handle your whole immigration case. As mentioned above, this includes a range of responsibilities from filing forms to preparing a business plan.
However, sometimes, you may only need legal help with a portion of these services. For instance, you may want to hire a lawyer to prepare your I-526 Immigrant Petition while your investment and other documents will be handled by someone else. In this case, you can use unbundled legal services, which allows you to hire an attorney for a specific task and save thousands of dollars in legal fees.
If you decide to go with a comprehensive set of legal services for your EB-5 application, we still suggest you get in touch with an unbundled lawyer for a consultation and price quote. We can connect you today with an unbundled immigration lawyer in your area to discuss your best approach.