Most foreign workers wanting to start a new life in the United States are opting for the H-1B visa program – but this visa program has certain limitations and several strict requirements. As such, immigrants are now turning to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program as a viable alternative to achieving permanent resident status. Potential investors often use the help of employment immigration lawyers to guide them through their application.
What is the EB-5 Investment Program?
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program was created in 1990 by Congress as a means to allow immigrants to obtain permanent US residence through investing $1.8 million or $900,000 in a project that creates ten permanent, full time jobs for US workers.
To qualify for the lower investment amount, the H1B visa holder must opt for a project that’s located within a TEA or Targeted Employment Area – these are rural areas with less than 20,000 inhabitants or areas with a very high unemployment rate compared to the national average. H1B visa holders may opt to invest in an urban area of their choice but the investment minimum is raised to $1.8 million.
Potential investors may opt between regional center investments or direct investments – both of these choices having advantages and disadvantages of their own. If you have extensive managerial experience, you may opt for a direct investment, as this will allow you to retain control over your investment and manage it directly.
On the other hand, regional center investments tend to be more popular since they do not require any direct, hands-on managerial work. The job creation requirements associated with regional center investments are more lax, meaning that it will be easier to fulfill the EB-5 requirements. Investors must have a clear understanding of their options, requirements and obligations – so it’s strongly recommended to partner with an employment immigration lawyer.
Can I apply for an EB-5 Visa while holding an H-1B Visa?
Any valid H-1B visa holder may submit multiple petitions to the USCIS or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. You will be able to apply for the EB-5 program while working in the U.S. without canceling your H-1B visa. You will only need to maintain your H-1B status until the I-526 and I-485 petitions have been filed by your immigration lawyer, and approved by the USCIS.
Converting an H-1B to EB-5 Visa Process
After identifying an appropriate EB-5 investment project, you can begin the application process, which is done in three steps:
- Investing the required capital amount and filing the I-526 petition
- Filing Form I-485 which secures your conditional permanent residence
- Once two years have passed, filing the I-829 petition to remove the conditions associated with your residence status
This process may seem simple at first but in reality each petition requires substantial supporting documentation. EB-5 investors are encouraged to work with an immigration law firm to avoid potential delays or the denial of their petition.
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