The United States has been the destination
of choice for immigrants from around the world for many years.  Even now, with the U.S. mired in the Great
Recession, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, or
USCIS, receives thousands of applications for visas every year from foreign
nationals eager to come to the States and contribute to American society.


In fact, now may be a better time than
ever for citizens of other nations to seek permanent U.S. residency visas, or
green cards, through a federal program designed to encourage foreign investment
in domestic commercial enterprises and at the same time, promote economic
growth and job creation in areas in need of stimulus.  The Immigrant Investor Program was
established by Congress two decades ago and is administered by the USCIS, and
it offers foreign entrepreneurs two paths to green cards (and potentially, full
citizenship) through investment in businesses in the United States.


One option for overseas investors with
entrepreneurial spirit is to put $500,000 into a business in a Targeted
Employment Area, which is defined as either a rural area or an area
experiencing extremely high unemployment. 
A foreign investor also has the option of investing $1,000,000 in any
desired location in the United States. 
Whichever option the foreign entrepreneur chooses, the commercial
investment must lead to the creation or preservation of at least10 permanent
full time jobs within two years.  An
immigrant entrepreneur who meets these and other requirements of the Program
will be given an "employment-based, fifth preference" visa, or EB-5 visa for
short, which allows the investor and his or her family to permanently live and
work in the United States.  However, a
foreign entrepreneur does not have to wait for the investment in a commercial
enterprise to pay off before entering the U.S., because as soon as an EB-5 visa
application is approved, USCIS will grant a conditional visa to the successful applicant. 


Wealthy investors from overseas, as well
as USCIS, favor the EB-5 regional center
path to permanent U.S. residency.  EB-5
regional centers are commercial projects that are usually led by U.S.-based
teams of business professionals and project managers who essentially shepherd
an EB-5 project to completion.  EB-5
regional centers can involve diverse commercial enterprises in various
industries and sectors, including real estate, agriculture, information
technology, dining, hospitality and entertainment, among others.  The EB-5 regional center is a sensible and
reasonably affordable option for many foreign investors, since a reputable and
experienced development team can manage the complex aspects of an EB-5 visa
application, attract additional financing to a project as needed, and most
importantly, ensure the enterprise is moving forward and remains on pace to
create or preserve the requisite number of jobs.  In this way, as long as a foreign investor
fronts the necessary initial investment, he or she can enter the United States
and leave the actual day-to-day planning and operations to experienced
professionals.  Of course, it behooves an
investor to monitor an EB-5 regional center to make sure his or her money is
being spent wisely and according to USCIS' guidelines.


The EB-5 regional center is by far the
most popular permanent visa option for investors from overseas.  It has proven over time to be a safe and
reliable investment vehicle that brings much-need money and jobs to
economically hard-hit parts of the United States, while offering foreign
entrepreneurs and their families the incentive of permanent residency visas for
their financial contributions.  And, an EB-5
visa holder is also eligible to apply for full U.S. citizenship after five
years. 


For that reason, a growing number of
investors from other countries are taking advantage of the Immigrant Investor
Program, and the EB-5 regional center approach in particular, as a way to
secure green cards in exchange for a relatively modest investment.  Although a successful EB-5 regional center
could be financially rewarding for an investor, the ultimate return on their
investment is the permanent residency visa that is awarded for helping generate
jobs and money in communities throughout the U.S. that need both.