The Immigrant Investor Program,
which was established by Congress over twenty years ago, has become an
extremely popular path to permanent U.S. residency for foreign nationals over the
last decade.  By investing at least
$500,000 in a commercial development in the United States and creating or
preserving 10 permanent full time jobs in the process, an investor from
overseas can secure a permanent residency visa, or green card for him/herself
and his/her family.  These green cards
are often referred to as EB-5 visas, for "employment-based, fifth preference"
(there are four other types of employment-based visas, numbered EB-1 through
EB-4).  Foreign investors have the option
of putting $500,000 into commercial projects in USCIS-designated rural areas or
areas experiencing high unemployment, or $1,000,000 anywhere else.  As long as at least 10 jobs are created
within two years as a result of that investment (along with certain other
requirements), the foreign entrepreneur will be awarded a green card.


The EB-5 program is designed to stimulate economic
development and job creation in the U.S. through foreign investments in
domestic commercial enterprises.  For
wealthy foreign entrepreneurs, the program offers a reasonably affordable way
to obtain green cards for themselves and their families.  While the U.S. has suffered through an
extended severe recession over the last several years, many other nations,
particularly China, India, and other nations throughout Southeast Asia and
South America, have experienced booming economic growth which has led to
prosperity for many, and extraordinary wealth for a few.  This combination of economic growth overseas
and recession in the U.S. has contributed to the steady increase in foreign
investment through USCIS' Immigrant Investor Program. This year alone, the
Program is on pace to create over 40,000 jobs domestically and pump over $2
billion into the U.S. economy.


USCIS must approve the investment plans of a foreign
entrepreneur, however, and will only grant EB-5 visas if all the requirements
of the program have been met.  For that
reason, most investors favor the use of Regional Centers, U.S.-based
development entities made up of managers and business professionals with
experience in domestic commercial enterprises who oversee EB-5 projects and
ensure that they are in compliance with the Immigrant Investor Program's rules
and regulations.


There are many reasons why Regional Centers are the most
popular route within the EB-5 program. First, investments from multiple foreign
nationals can be drawn and managed by a group of U.S.-based managers who can
help shepherd a commercial project to completion.  Once the petition has been verified, USCIS
can grant conditional visas to the investor and his or her family, allowing him
or her to stay in the U.S. for two years. 
The job creation requirement must be satisfied within the designated
time period.  In addition, the job
creation requirement for Regional Centers is slightly less strict than the
requirements made for non-Regional Centers. 
An immigrant investor in an EB-5 Regional Center can fulfill the job creation
requirement by demonstrating that 10 jobs have been made directly or indirectly as
a result of the investment, whereas an investor in a commercial project that is
not a Regional Center must show that 10 full-time jobs have been created as a direct result of the investment.  Out of the 10,000 EB-5 visas set aside each
year, approximately 3,000 are designated for foreign entrepreneurs who invest
in Regional Centers.  According to USCIS,
the 3,000 permanent visas represent a yearly minimum, and more could be awarded
if needed.