Are you considering investing in a U.S. business? You may qualify for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa. The qualifications are highly specific, however, including the amount you invest, the type of enterprise you choose, and much more.
Despite these stringent guidelines, prospective foreign and immigrant investors benefit from substantially fewer restrictions compared to other classifications. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration implemented a variety of policies designed to curb immigration in all its forms, but immigrant investors are relatively safe from this onslaught. For example, a recent executive order halted immigration for 60 days, but immigrant investors are exempt from the ban.
If you are considering investing in a U.S. commercial enterprise, read on to learn how you might qualify for temporary or permanent legal status.
The E-2 Visa for Temporary Investors
To qualify for an E-2 nonimmigrant visa, you must be seeking entry into the U.S. to direct and/or develop commercial operations. You must also have invested a substantial amount of capital into this enterprise—enough to ensure its success. These funds must be in your control and fully committed, and the enterprise must be generating substantially more income than just what you and your family are taking home. Finally, you must be a citizen of a treaty country (i.e. a country that maintains an international agreement of commerce and navigation with the U.S.). View the current list of qualifying countries here.
If you meet the above criteria, you (and qualifying dependents and essential/executive employees) may be eligible for E-2 status, which can last anywhere from 3 months to 5 years and can be continuously renewed.
To obtain E-2 status from outside the U.S., you will need to apply for the nonimmigrant visa using Form DS-160. If, however, you are already in the United States on a different nonimmigrant visa, you can file Form I-129 to change your status to the E-2 classification. Take great care not to change your activities until you are officially granted the change of status.
The EB-5 Visa for Immigrants
For many investors, moving to the country where their commercial enterprise is located makes the most practical sense. The EB-5 immigrant visa is for foreign investors seeking permanent legal status in the U.S.
Named after its fifth-preference status in the employment-based immigration category, the EB-5 visa was created in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy. As such, the amount of capital you invest and the number of jobs you create are critical qualifications.
Specifically, you must invest at least $1,800,000 (or $900,000 if your enterprise is in a targeted employment area). These are the new minimums, having substantially increased in November of 2019.
You must be the legal owner of the capital you invest, and the capital can include:
- Cash/cash equivalents
- Other property
*Generally, your indebtedness must be secured by your own assets—not the assets of the commercial enterprise. You must be personally and primarily liable. Currently, a class action lawsuit is seeking to prevent USCIS from denying applications based solely on loans secured by company (rather than personal) assets, but the court has not yet ruled on this decision.
Additionally, the commercial enterprise must create (or maintain) at least 10 full-time jobs within two years of your entry into the U.S.
To apply, you will use Form I-526. The filing fee for the EB-5 visa is $3,675. Unlike other employment-based immigration categories, you can self-petition (i.e. apply without a sponsor). Once this is approved, you will use either Form DS-260 if you are abroad or Form I-485 if you are adjusting your status from within the U.S.
Let Us Help You Accomplish Your Business Goals
This is a very basic overview of the qualifications and application processes for investor visas. For more personalized information and strategic guidance, get in touch with our team at Kanu & Associates, P.C. We have handled innumerable investor visa cases, and we know what it will take to complete your application successfully. Whether you are coming to the U.S. on a temporary or permanent basis, we have the legal knowledge you need to accomplish your goals.