Visa Options for Investors: EB-5 and E-2 Visas

Investor VisaAs the U.S. continues to deal with a struggling economy, entrepreneurs living abroad see opportunity for investment in our country. To enter the US as an entrepreneur, individuals currently have two options:  the EB-5 permanent visa which results in permanent residence or the short-term E-2 visa, which provides legal stay to perform in the business in 2-year intervals, indefinitely.  The EB-5 visa and E-2 visa can be great options but it is important to understand the difference and immigration implications before actively pursing this option.

EB-5 Visa

The EB-5 visa was created in 1990 for foreign investors looking for a quicker route to become permanent residents of the US, if they were willing to invest significant capital in the U.S. economy. It is projected that by Sept. 2012, 6,000 investor visas most likely will have been issued when the U.S. government’s current fiscal year finishes.

All types of businessman, investors, professionals, or retirees, qualify for an EB-5 visa and is not country specific. However, the investor must invest $1,000,000 in the US business unless it the business is in a specific targeted employment area (a rural community or employment area experiencing more than 150% of the national unemployment rate) – then the requirement is $500,000.  The business must create 10 full time jobs within 2 years of the investor obtaining residence. There are two options for EB-5 investors – to invest in their own business or to invest in what is called a Regional Center – an entity already established and approved by USCIS to essentially take the investor’s funds and invest it appropriately in qualifying businesses in the US.

The government allows 10,000 yearly visas with the EB-5 program. This has created over 46,000 jobs since it began in 1990. Of the 10,000 visas offered, 3,000 are reserved for foreign investors who want to participate in the EB-5 pilot program designed for targeted employment areas. The EB-5 investor visa is a true green card unlike an E-2 visa which is only valid in 2-year intervals.

E-2 Visa

The E-2 visa (treaty investor visa) is a non-immigrant visa. Only nationals of certain treaty countries who have made a qualifying investment (typically $50,000 or more) in the U.S. can apply. The E-2 visa requires an applicant to run the business and to create jobs or wealth beyond the needs of the E-2 investor and his/her family, but there is no requirement of a specific amount of jobs or wealth.

With an E-2 visa, your investment into a business does not qualify you for a green card unless you have spent $1,000,000/$500,000 in capital. You can also bring your dependent children and spouse on an E-2. If your business does not function or fails to thrive, you will likely be denied renewal as approval is dependent on success of the business.

Not sure about your best option for an Investor or Entrepreneur Visa? Contact an investment immigration lawyer in Colorado, Catharine Brown, for more information.