Can the COVID-19 Outbreak Be the Silver Lining for the EB-5 Visa Program?


The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program was created to encourage foreign investment in U.S. businesses. In exchange for investing in a business that creates jobs for U.S. workers, foreign nationals and their families are eligible to become permanent residents of the United States.

How is this relevant to the immigrant entrepreneurs, one may ask? The EB-5 program has an option that allows immigrants to invest in “troubled business”. A troubled business is one that has been in operation for at least two years and has an annual loss of at least 20% of the business’ net worth at some point over the 2 years prior to filing the immigrant investor visa petition. It is no surprise that many small businesses impacted by the COVID 19 situation may qualify as “troubled business” by the end of the year, since many have seen a drastic reduction in revenue and profitability due to the forced shutdowns. Many small businesses have been forced to let go of employees and some have even closed for good.

Immigrant investors looking for a path to a US Green Card should look out for an opportunity to make an investment in a business that has been impacted by the COVID 19 crises. EB-5 investors must invest $1,80,000 in the troubled business, or $900,000 if the business is located in a targeted employment area . When investing in a troubled business, the investor must either create or preserve a total number of ten jobs. Investors can help the US economy in these troubled times by saving jobs that would otherwise be lost if the business were to fail.

It is worthwhile to note that as part of the economic stimulus bill, the administration is considering provisions to modify the EB-5 jobs and immigration program by lowering the minimum investment amount to $450,000 from the current $900,000 amount and increasing the number of visas from the current 10,000 to 75,000. However, these provisions have not been finalized yet.

Just as Immigrant doctors, nurses, and other health care workers are on the front lines in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, immigrant entrepreneurs could be at the forefront of the economic recovery by enabling small business recover. While it would be a huge benefit to both the US economy and immigrant entrepreneurs if the number of EB-5 visas are increased, and/or the investment amounts are reduced, it would be no less of an achievement to have immigrant entrepreneurs save small business and get a US Green Card in return.

Other Changes to the EB-5 Visa Adjudications Process

COVID- 19 notwithstanding, there has been some welcome changes to the EB-5 program. On March 31, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) rolled out a new method for processing Form I-526. With these changes, USCIS intends to increase fairness in EB-5 visa programs. However, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could cause problems for investors looking to submit applications.

Before the change, the immigration office took EB-5 investor applications on a first-come, first-serve basis. This system did not help EB-5 petitioners from underrepresented countries. The new approach would improve fairness and allow those petitioners to have their petitions approved in a timelier manner. According to a statement from the USCIS , “Applicants from countries where visas are immediately available will now be better able to use their annual per-country allocation of EB-5 visas.”

Not only does this make the process fairer, but it also aligns with congressional intent for the program. Only time will tell if these changes are effective. Applicants and petitioners will still need to meet the requirements to get an EB-5 visa . However, the coronavirus outbreak has added a new complication to the process.

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Still Have Questions? Our San Jose EB-5 Attorney Can Help

As these new changes to the EB-5 system begin, EB-5 petitioners need both patience and guidance. If you have questions regarding EB-5, we are here to help answer those questions. We offer personalized solutions for all our business clients .

Immigration laws in this country are changing quickly. Businesses and individuals need to keep informed of all new changes. The best way to do this is to work with an experienced and skilled San Jose EB-5 attorney. At the Law Offices of Sweta Khandelwal, we have assisted businesses, firms and corporations in the Bay Area and throughout California with all their immigration issues. Call us at (408) 542–04999 or fill out our confidential contact form for more information. No matter how complex your immigration issue, we can help.

The Law Offices of Sweta Khandelwalassists businesses, families and individuals who wish to work, live or invest in the U.S.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.