The EB-5
visa program has become an increasingly popular option among foreign investors
seeking a pathway to permanent residency in the United States.  The Immigrant Investor Program, as it is more
formally known, was established in the early 1990s as a way to encourage
commercial investment in the United States that could lead to job creation and
economic development.

investors can invest either $500,000 in a commercial business located within a
Targeted Employment Area, or $1,000,000 in a commercial business situated
within any desired location in the United States, and if that investment creates
or preserves at least 10 permanent full-time jobs, a green card will be issued
to the investor and his or her immediate family.  The green card that is granted is called an EB-5 visa,
for the category of employment-based visa it represents.  

Regional Center approach to EB-5 investments has also taken off in the last few
years.  Regional Centers are federally
recognized development entities that manage EB-5 commercial projects from start
to finish.  Regional Centers can be
public-private partnerships between investors and local governments, or they
could be entirely privately or publicly financed.  There are several benefits using the Regional
Center model.  First, jobs created
indirectly as a result of the investment count towards the job creation requirements
of the Program.  Regional Centers can
also accept investment money from multiple foreign investors, and that allows
them to develop large-scale projects with a greater potential to create
jobs.  Moreover, Regional Centers are
generally managed by U.S.-based teams of managers and experienced
businesspeople, which makes it more likely that the commercial enterprise(s)
will be successfully completed.

An application for a permanent residency visa through the
EB-5 program is a three-step process. 
First, a foreign investor must file an I-526 petition.  A foreign investor must provide relevant
information necessary for the government to determine whether the EB-5 visa
application can move forward.  That
information includes the amount the investor intends to invest, evidence that
the investor is able to make the investment, the type of commercial enterprise
that will be invested in, how many and what types of jobs are expected to be
created based an economic analysis, where the commercial enterprise will be located,
and a business plan that includes the strategies the foreign investor will use
to move the project forward.

If the government approves an I-526 petition, the foreign
investor can move on to step two: the filing of Form I-485.  Form I-485 is a conditional visa
application.  A foreign investor can
apply for a conditional visa for him/herself and his/her immediate family.  A conditional visa permits the investor
immediate entry into the United States for a period of two years - the
timeframe established by the EB-5 program for the job creation requirements (10
permanent full-time jobs) to be met.  In
some cases, the two-year period can be extended depending on the circumstances.

Finally, if after two years the requirements of the EB-5
program are met and the I-526 business plan successfully carried out, the
foreign investor can ask the government to remove the conditions on his/her
visa by filing an I-829 petition. 
Removal of the conditions effectively converts a conditional visa into a
permanent visa, or green card.  A green
card holder can apply for citizenship within five years of having received a
conditional visa.