The 1990 EB-5 green card program has been a controversial one for Americans, even as thousands of foreign nationals and American citizens reap the benefits of the program. Through the program, impoverished areas in the United States attract new investment funds and receive new employment opportunities in exchange for EB-5 green cards for the investors.
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What Is An EB-5 Green Card?
The EB-5 program extends almost 10,000 visas to foreign investors every year. These visas are not subject to the limitations and quotas established for the other education backed visas or permanent visa applications. To qualify for an EB-5 visa, applicants must:
- Make an investment in an American company or start a new company in the United States that conforms to USCIS guidelines
- Create at least 10 jobs for Americans or permanent residents
The EB-5 green card application covers not only the investor, but the investor’s spouse and any children under the age of 21.
The EB-5 program has been controversial because of the investment requirements to qualify. As originally intended, the EB-5 green card was to be a reward for investing in a rural area. The minimum investment was $500,000, and the area in which the investment was made had to fall within the government’s “targeted area” for the program.
Under the newest guidelines, Congress raised the minimum qualifying investment to one million dollars; however, investors may lower their minimum to $500,000 if they spend that money in a Targeted Employment Area (urban locations with unemployment rates of at least 150 percent of the national average) or rural location. Furthermore, investors may not use debt to cover their investment costs. The changes diversified the program and brought thousands of new investors into the United States.
Loosening the requirements, and raising the limits, was a significant boost to the program. In 2014, the number of applicants exceeded the number of available visas for the first time, a problem that continues today.
The EB-5 green card program is under review, and Congress is expected to make a decision on the future of the program in September or October 2016. Some are pushing for an elimination of the program all together, while others seek a more balanced distribution of investment dollars among affluent and impoverished areas.
The EB-5 application process can seem complicated and overwhelming. It is best to seek the assistance of a qualified and experienced attorney before starting an application.