EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program
Fifth employment-based preference (EB-5) is one of the employment-based programs offered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The EB-5 program reserves 10,000 visas per year for immigrants seeking to enter the United States and invest at least $1 million in new commercial enterprises which will create at least ten full-time jobs for U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents or other employment-authorized aliens.
Immigrant Investor Pilot Program and Regional Centers
Due to disappointing results with the initial launch of the EB-5 immigrant investor program which set aside 300 total immigrants visas per year, Congress enacted a revision to the program on October 1, 1993. This revision first increased the annual visa numbers from 300 to 3000 and created the Regional Center Pilot Program. The five-year pilot program has been extended several times. President Obama signed the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010, which extended the EB-5 regional center pilot program until September 30, 2012. “In 2012, Congress reaffirmed its commitment to the regional center model of investment and job creation by removing the word “Pilot” from the now twenty-year old program, and by providing a three-year reauthorization of the regional center model through September 2015″ (USCIS 2013, PM-602-0083, p. 2).
A Regional Center is defined as any economic unit, public or private, which is involved with the promotion of economic growth, improved regional productivity, job creation, and increased domestic capital investment. A Regional Center obtains its designation by submitting a detailed application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). When an immigrant invests through a Regional Center, the new commercial enterprise does not have to directly employ ten U.S. workers. Instead, it is sufficient to show that ten or more jobs will be created directly (i.e. through the use of independent contractors) or indirectly (i.e. using one of USCIS-approved forecasting models).
Furthermore, when the investment is located in a Targeted Employment Area, the minimum requirement is reduced to US$500,000 from US$1,000,000.