EB5 Investor Green Card Frequently Asked Questions
By Jan Pederson*
These FAQs are designed to answer the most frequently asked questions by persons interested in pursuing the fast track to permanent residence through investor green cards. Ms. Pederson recently held consultations with prospective investors in Dubai and many of the questions asked at the consultations are answered here. Interested in an EB-5 consultation? Register today!
These FAQs are designed to reduce the confusion involved in this increasingly popular pathway to permanent residence in America. There are impostors and dishonest attorneys who make false and untrue statements about the EB-5 green card. Persons interested in the green card investor program should proceed cautiously and with due diligence. Investigate the attorney who wants to represent you and investigate the proposed investment enterprise before proceeding.
EB-5 Green Card FAQ
Question: Is it possible to obtain an investor green card by investing less than $500,000.00?
Answer: No, it is not possible to obtain an investor green card by investing less that $500,000.00. The investment amount is $500,000.00 if the investment is in a USCIS approved Regional Center (RC) or if the invested amount is in an individual investment in a targeted employment area (TEA)?
Question: Is it possible to invest the required $500,000.00 in installments during the green card process?
Answer: No. It would be rather pointless to transfer money to the escrow account for the Regional Center in installments, as the I-526 investor green card petition cannot be approved until $500,000.00 is placed in the escrow account. We understand that some attorneys claim that it is possible to pay the investment total in installments. This is untrue and the investor petition will be denied by USCIS, with a loss of time and money to the investor.
Question: Can I invest in a business on my own or must I invest in a Regional Center?
Answer: You may invest in your own business. However, depending on the location of the business the amount will either be $500,000.00 (rural areas and high unemployment areas) or $1 million. You must also demonstrate job creation for 10 full-time workers during the two year conditional period. Over 90% of the investor green card applications are from Regional Centers; thus only 10% are individual investments.
Our clients generally prefer the Regional Center investments because it permits them to study, work and live anywhere in America and the burden on complying with the complex investor rules lies with the investment entity. Also, it takes far longer to secure USCIS approval of the individual investor green card than through a Regional Center and there is a far greater risk of denial.
Question: How long does it take to obtain permanent residence through investment in a Regional Center?
Answer: There are several parts to an investor green card. The steps are as follows:
- Secure a financial advisor to review the Regional Center investments.
It is unethical for an attorney to recommend one investment enterprise over another and attorneys and attorneys should not do so. Once you have selected the investment enterprise, then the attorney begins the green card process.
- You as the investor must transfer USD 500,000.00 to the escrow account of the Regional Center.
- The attorney then files the I-526 investor petition on your behalf with USCIS. It takes between two and four months for the approval of the petition.
- Once the I-526 petition is approved, the $500,000.00 leaves escrow and is transferred to the investment enterprise.
- The USCIS will transfer the approved I-526 petition to the National Visa Center of the Department of State in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for processing of your immigrant visa at an American Embassy of Consulate abroad. This takes several months.
- If you are in the United States in a lawful status when the I-526 is approved, you may apply for permanent residence directly with USCIS without leaving the United States.
- When processing at NVC is complete, you will be scheduled for an immigrant visa interview.
- Once you are issued an immigrant visa, you have six months to enter the United States.
- When admitted to the United States, you will be admitted as a conditional permanent resident for 24 months.
- You will file a Form I-829, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Permanent Residence no earlier than the 21st month and no later than the 24th month after admission as a conditional resident.
- If the I-829 petition is approved, the conditions on your permanent residence will be approved.
- You may apply for citizenship 57 months after being granted conditional permanent residence, if the physical presence and residence requirements are met.
Question: I am married and have three unmarried children, ages 14, 23 and 26. Can they immigrate with me under the investor green card?
Answer: Your spouse and all unmarried children under the age of 21 at the time you enter the United States can immigrate with you. Your children over 21 cannot immigrate with you.
If your goal is to educate your children in America and keep your family together, you may want to consider the option of student visas for your children over 21. If you are from a number of countries, obtaining student visa for the older children after you immigrate can be extremely difficult. So careful planning is required.
Question: Will I automatically get citizenship if I invest $500,000.00?
Answer: You must first obtain permanent residence and then qualify for citizenship. You must maintain your principal place of residence and domicile in the United States during a five year period after being granted permanent resident status.
Question: I know people who have obtained the green card and citizenship and have not lived in America. Is this possible?
Answer: This is not possible with certain narrow exceptions such as spouses of American citizens in the military posted abroad or spouses of American citizens working abroad for qualifying American corporations.
Question: Is my money returned if I do not obtain a conditional or unconditional green card?
Answer: If you funds are removed from the investment enterprise before the conditions on the permanent residence are removed, you will lose your green card. Return of the investment sum is a matter solely between the investor and the investment enterprise. Each Regional Center has an agreement which sets forth the terms of return of invested capital. Read the fine print. However, while your agreement with the investment enterprise may permit you to obtain a return of invested funds prior to the removal of conditions on your permanent residence (2-3 years after you obtain your green card), if the funds are returned, you will lose your green card.
Question: I want my children 14 and 15 year old children to go to medical school in America. Will the investor green card help them get into medical school?
Answer: Yes. In medical school admissions, American citizens and permanent residents have a far greater chance of being admitted than other applicants. Also, another important factor you might want to consider is that most state universities charge very high tuition fees to out of state residents, sometimes up to four or five times as much as in-state students. Most states bar tuition discounts for state residents who are not permanent residents or citizens, with some limited exceptions. Thus, for example, if your two children had green cards and were applying for undergraduate school at the University of Maryland, they would each pay $8,414.44 per year. Without green cards, they would each pay $24,830.00 per year for tuition along. Over the course of four years, the tuition saving to you if your children have green cards would be over $131,000.00 for just undergraduate studies.
Education is a primary reason why many investors want green cards and the cost saving alone in education fees could equal or exceed the cost of the investor green card.
As permanent residents or citizens, your children would be eligible for university scholarships and loan which are not available without a green card or American citizenship.
Question: I have a good business in the Gulf region and live between Dubai and Iran with my wife and children. I want to send my wife and children to school in America but I need to continue my businesses in the Gulf? Is this possible?
Answer: Yes. There are various fact patterns which can make this possible. We can provide details during consultation.
Question: Can I buy an American passport and bypass the green card step?
Answer: No, this is not a program which sells citizenship such as the St. Kitts & Nevis economic citizenship program. With the exceptions noted above, you must wait for 57 months after being granted conditional residence to apply citizenship and you must meet the physical presence and citizenship requirements.
Question: How can I check to see if an American attorney has the knowledge and expertise to represent me and my family?
Answer: First, check to see if the person claiming to be an attorney is an attorney. Ask the attorney in which state they are admitted to the Bar. Then do a Google search for the bar association to see if the person is a member in good standing of the Bar. Other Websites to check the background of a lawyer you are considering is www.avvo.com, www.lawyers.com and the lawyer’s own Website. The website www.avvo.com is generally rated as a top Website as both clients and other lawyers are able to rate an attorney. In the field of immigration law, the reputation of your attorney with the government is extremely important.
Then ask lots of questions and make sure they are answered.
Question: What are red flags that a person claiming to be a lawyer is not a lawyer or that a particular lawyer is dishonest or unethical?
Answer: If a person guarantees a green card or guarantees to return your entire investment, do not hire this person. An investor green card requires that you are risk your money and bear the risk as with any investment. An attorney cannot guarantee you will get a green card as the action of several government agencies are involved in the decision making.
If an attorney is dishonest or unethical, you may lose your money and the opportunity to immigrate to America. So be very cautious.
Question: Are the “Regional Centers” an investment in the U.S. government or backed by the U.S. government?
Answer: No, absolutely not. Regional Centers are approved by the USCIS (part of the United States government) as meeting the requirements for investors to be eligible for EB5 investor green cards. This approval means that one need only prove the money for the investment was obtained legally to obtain petition approval. The USCIS monitors the Regional Centers for compliance but does not guarantee against failure.
Question: If I am from a country which requires a security clearance for issuance of a visa (Iran and Syria), will I have to wait for a security clearance to be issued an immigrant visa?
Answer: Yes. It is therefore important that you have an immigration attorney expert in consular processing to represent you in the visa process?
* Ms. Pederson has been practicing immigration law in Washington, DC for over thirty years and has helped many thousands of clients obtain green cards. She has been selected as a SuperLawyer, an honor bestowed on the top attorneys in America, for many years; is highly rated on www.avvo.com, has been selected as a top immigration lawyer by The Washington Post and The Washingtonian magazine and is highly respected by government officials. She specializes in representing physicians and other professionals; investors; and consular processing of visas. Her full biography is on our website: www.usvisainfo.com.