The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program

The immigrant investor program requires that a foreign national applying for a United States visa, invest in a new business, or expand an existing business in the United States, facilitating, in the process, job creation and increased domestic capital investment. However, the job creation aspect of the program tends to discourage many investors. As a measure to surmount this reluctance in potential foreign investors, the regional center program was created.

The regional centers can be defined as any project, either private or public, that benefits the American economy and creates employment in a particular region of the United States. The EB-5 pilot program was created in 1993. Currently, there are 10,000 EB-5 green cards issued annually in the USA of which 3000 are earmarked for foreign nationals who invest into a regional center program. An unofficial estimate indicates that nearly 90% of EB-5 visas are issued based on investment in a regional center. The program is set to expire September 30, 2012.

This program makes it possible for foreign investors who have the required funds, but are not keen on managing an American business and hiring American workers, to still be eligible for green cards. They are required to deposit their investment capital into a specially created escrow account. On deposit of the required funds, they can immediately apply for a green card. As soon as the visa is approved, these funds are released to the earmarked project.

The regional center program does not put the onus on the investor to prove the required employment level. Instead, the project can rely on the direct as well as the indirect employment created by its existence. In most cases, such projects would be on much larger scales than in the scenario of an investor investing directly into a business or expanding an existing business. In such cases, if the job multiplier statistics (provided by the state development agencies) indicates that the particular regional center has the potential to create, say, 800 direct and indirect employments, the project may look for 80 investors. The governance of a regional center program can be assumed by individuals, corporations or government agencies.

A regional center is designated by submitting a detailed proposal to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The proposal must clearly state the types of businesses in which the capital will be invested, the expected number of new employment generated and any other possibilities that will impact the American economy positively.

The minimum required capital for the immigrant investor program is $500,000. This program is most suited for, and has been most often utilized by retirees looking to permanently reside in the USA. The program has also been popular with parents who are interested in giving their children an American education with all its benefits like lower tuition fees and excellent state universities. The other category of people who have been found to favor this program are wealthy young people wanting to live the American dream.

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