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Come on, Nightline?!

Maria del Carmen Ramos

Maria del Carmen Ramos

If it’s not bad news, it won’t get good ratings?  When Nightline recently reported on the EB-5 program, “Whistleblowers:  US gave visas to suspected Forgers, Fraudsters, Criminals,” alleging that it is prone to fraud, they were looking for good ratings.  Why not report on what the EB-5 program does for the U.S. economy?  Why not report about foreign nationals bringing large amounts of money to the U.S. to invest in businesses with the requirement that they create full time jobs for TEN U.S. WORKERS? Instead, viewers were misled into believing that there are not sufficient security checks and that these investors jump to the head of the green card line that others have been waiting in for years.  Interestingly, the Nightline program followed the introduction in Congress of bipartisan legislation, The American Entrepreneurship & Investment Act of 2015, which seeks to make the EB-5 Program permanent.

By way of background, the EB-5 program is a separate category of visa with its own limitations on the number of green cards that can be issued each year and it does not have any effect on other green card programs where there are long lines, waiting for visas to become available. To qualify for an EB-5 visa, a foreign investor must contribute $1 million to a new commercial enterprise (one created after November 29, 1990) or one that has been expanded (which is defined as a business that will expand to 140% of its pre-investment or net worth) that will create at least 10 jobs. If the commercial enterprise is in a targeted employment area (defined as a rural area or an area where the unemployment rate is 150% of the national average) and with a regional center, then required initial investment is only $500,000. If the EB-5 visa petition is approved, the foreign investor is granted conditional permanent residence for two years. After two years, the foreign investor can seek to have the conditions removed—and, therefore, become a legal permanent resident—if the investor has made the required capital investment and that investment has created or preserved at least ten jobs for qualified workers in the United States.

Foreign nationals wishing to obtain a green card by participating in the EB-5 program, however, must undergo the same background checks that those applying in other categories must undergo.  These include FBI and CIA background checks.  EB-5 investors must also undergo close scrutiny, verifying the source of capital invested in the U.S., including where the money came from and demonstrating the clear path of money from the investor’s accounts abroad, to the U.S.  In addition, supporting documentation must be provided such as personal and corporate tax returns, employment letters, invoices, receipts, contracts, business plans, economic development reports, and the list goes on.  These documents are reviewed and checked carefully by the immigration examiners.

Once the background checks have been completed and the bona fides of the investment have been verified, the initial green is issued for a period of two years.  Just prior to the two year expiration of the green card, the EB-5 investor must file another application to demonstrate that it has complied with the initial investment plan; it did invest all of the money required; and it created ten full-time jobs for U.S. workers.  The investor must provide a mountain of documentation to demonstrate this, and, if the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services is satisfied, then a permanent green card will be issued.

There are only 10,000 visas set aside for the EB-5 program in any government fiscal year, and this is historically less than 2% of green cards issued.  Clearly this is not a visa for those wanting to jump to the head of the line.  It is, however, an excellent vehicle for someone wishing to invest in the U.S. and willing to create ten full-time jobs for U.S. workers.  Over the last nine years, the EB-5 Program is credited with having created almost 100,000 American jobs and raised over $4.7 billion in investment capital.

Because the process can be difficult to navigate, one should have the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney.  For more information, please contact Maria del Carmen Ramos at 813.227.2252 or mramos@slk-law.com.

 

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