Thursday, January 22, 2009

Investor Green Card - Ticket to Greater Freedom in the USA

The E-2 investor visa and the L-1 transfer visa have long been the main means by which enterprising immigrants have come to the U.S. However, over the years these immigrants have struggled to maintain their respective businesses in the face of stiff competition with businesses run by U.S. citizens, who often resort to connections through the "old boy network," and who are free to make business decisions based on economic reality rather than having their decisions dictated by stringent visa requirements, especially in view of visa renewals. Moreover, holders of E-2 and L-1 visas are constantly troubled by concerns of whether their visa will be renewed the next time around, given the ever changing interpretations by the consulates and USCIS of the requirements for renewal of the visa. In order to get their visa renewed, E-2 visa holders typically need to show that they are paying themselves a living salary plus profits in addition to employing at least 2-4 U.S. workers. L-1 manager visa holders typically need to show that they are employing at least 5+ employees in a managerial hierarchy with multiple levels of employees. In an economic recession, showing profitability and maintaining a larger staff than necessary can become impossible for a business, not to mention just being able to pay the rent and other overhead expenses for the business.

Investors in an EB-5 regional center program do not have to concern themselves with running the business that is the basis for their immigration status. Moreover, the business in which they invest does not have to hire any employees, and does not have to achieve any certain level of profitability. The main requirements that the investor in an EB-5 regional center program has to satisfy are that the investor invested $500,000, and maintained throughout the minimum period of the investment, i.e., 5 years as required by USCIS or more if so required by the regional center program, that the investor acquired the funds legally, and that the regional center program's project brought about the creation, directly and/or indirectly, of at least 10 jobs per investor. The investment business does not have to hire workers, but rather the investor can show that certain third parties, e.g., borrowers from the investment business, tenants of the investment business, etc. have directly created a number of new jobs, and can then show further indirect creation of new jobs calculated on the basis of an economist's model.

The investor under the EB-5 regional center program obtains first a two-year conditional period of permanent residence, and then must apply for and obtain removal of the condition from the permanent residence. While the investor has the two-year conditional permanent residence and later the unconditional permanent residence, he or she and their family members are free to live in the U.S. without managing the daily operations of their own business, without being employed by a specific employer in a specific job, without being tied to any certain geographic region due to the location of the business or job. The investor in the EB-5 regional center program, if he or she wishes, is also free to retire. On the other hand, the investor can engage in investment activities that would typically not qualify him or her for an E-2 or L-1 visa, such as investment in real estate or other business activities that are passive in nature or businesses without any employees or regular activity.

Immigration through the EB-5 regional center program gives the investors the most freedom to live their lives the way they choose. Moreover, immigration through the EB-5 regional center program frees the immigrant investor from the obligation of operating business, particularly when the immigrant investor would otherwise have to run that business in a way that satisfies the visa requirements, plus deal with potentially cut-throat competition, rather than having the freedom to run the business in a way that makes the most sense from a business perspective. Perhaps most importantly, immigrant investors under the EB-5 regional center program become permanent residents through their investment. Finally, the EB-5 regional center investor avoids the visa renewal merry-go-round to which E-2 and L-1 investors are subject. In some cases, the visa renewal process can lead to real heartache, such as having their children lose their eligibility to remain in the U.S. as dependents at 21 years of age, and thus the parents have to help the child to navigate the treacherous path to his or her own long-term visa and green card. Immigration through investment in an EB-5 regional center program is clearly the preferable way to immigrate to the U.S., since it gives the investor the greatest freedom and peace of mind for leading his or her new life in the U.S.

Stephen Parnell and Andrew Bartlett have advised hundreds of British residents on relocating, investing and buying a home in Florida. They can be reached by email at or through the company web site at

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