Immigration and Investment: The Changing World of the EB-5 Program
- Mar 28, 2017
Currently the EB-5 program is an inexpensive and popular way of becoming a resident of a country – particularly the United States. However, beginning in 2017, changes are going to occur in the U.S.-based EB-5 Program.
Congress created the EB-5 Program in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Initially the EB-5 applicant had to create an entirely new business. But in 1992, Congress created the Immigrant Investor Program, also known as the Regional Center Program. A regional center is a third-party managed investment vehicle (private or public) that manages the investments and fulfills the requirements for the EB-5 applicant.
The regional center sets aside EB-5 visas for participants who invest in commercial enterprises associated with regional centers approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS” – a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) based on proposals for promoting economic growth. For example, a developer can form their own regional center in order to solicit EB-5 investment funds to build a hotel or apartments.
USCIS administers the EB-5 Program (https://www.uscis.gov/eb-5). Under this program, entrepreneurs (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) if they:
- Make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States; and
- Plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers.
There is a maximum of 10,000 green cards issued every year. Since 2014, there has been over $10B invested into the States with the majority of investments originating from China.
Requirements of the EB-5 program:
- Investment in a new for-profit commercial enterprise or investment in a targeted employment area (TEA) which is defined as an economically distress area (high unemployment) or rural area.
- Evidence that you have invested or are in the process of investing the amount required ($1 million in new commercial enterprise or $500,000 if project is located in TEA). In addition, you must provide evidence that the investment funds were obtained through lawful means (source of funds).
- Job creation – evidence that the new commercial enterprise will create at least 10 full time positions. The number of jobs must be maintained for 2 years.
The rules outlined above are scheduled to “sunset” on April 28, 2017.
The most significant proposed changes are with respect to the minimum investment amounts:
- Increase TEA investment amount from $500,000 to $1.35 million.
- Increase non-TEA investment amount from $1 million to $1.8 million.
We suspect there to be some tweaks to current policy including:
- Rules with reference to on sight visits of regional centers / commercial enterprises.
- Better fraud controls.
- Tighter security for the source of funds compliance.
With the new administration’s eye on national security, how will the EB-5 program be overhauled? With the increase in investment, will it weaken the investment appetite by EB-5 applicants? 2017 should be an interesting year and we will keep you updated as rules and regulations progress.
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Richard A. Cahlin
Richard A. Cahlin is a Tax Services Group Director advising corporate executives and high net worth individuals on business and personal financial planning and providing clients with informed advice related to the protection and growth of wealth.
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