Why the EB-5 Investor Visa remains the fastest way to obtain a Green Card

  • US green card
Published on 2023-01-24 at 14:04 by Ameerah Arjanee
In March 2022, the US government passed an act that allows standalone investors to remain legally in the US while their investment visa is still being processed. This de facto makes the EB-5 Investor Visa the fastest route to obtaining permanent residency in the US. It takes much less time than common routes like the H1-B and L-1 work visas. 

What is the EB-5 Investor Visa?

Like the website of the US Immigration and Citizenship Services says, the EB-5 Visa allows foreign nationals to enter and work in the United States after making a substantial investment in an American business. This program has existed since the 1990s to stimulate job creation. Expats who are already in the US on another visa (e.g., F-1 Visa for international students, H-1B Visa for skilled workers) can also apply for it and change their status. Their spouses and dependent children also automatically get the visa.

This EB-5 is only open to citizens of countries that have a treaty with the US: Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia, Morocco, Egypt, Senegal, among others. The full list of eligible countries can be consulted on the Travel.gov website of the US Department of State. Two major countries from which the US attracts many students and expats, China and India, are unfortunately not eligible. Most Gulf countries, Vietnam, Russia and multiple African countries (Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, etc.) also don't have the required treaty with the US.

As reported by Andy Semotiuk on Forbes, the general minimum investment required to obtain this visa is 1,050,000 US dollars. However, this is lowered to $800,000 if the person invests in a rural region, a region with high unemployment, or in infrastructure. This option with the lower investment requirement is called the Regional Center Program, and it was granted a 5-year reauthorization by the US government in March 2022 through the “EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act.” Applicants to the Regional Center Program must also prove that they will create at least 10 full-time jobs in the 2.5 years after their investor visa is approved.

Why is the EB-5 Visa the fastest route to permanent US residency?

As soon as standalone investors obtain their EB-5 Visa, generally within 2-3 years of applying, they become immediately eligible to apply for a Green Card, i.e., for permanent residency in the country. Their spouse and unmarried children under 21 can also apply for a Green Card. That is a much shorter time than the number of years required to apply for permanent residency as the holder of a common work visa.

The immigration firm Step Global published an article in The Gulf News comparing various US work visas with the EB-5 Investor Visa. The L-1 and H1-B work visas, for example, require the sponsorship of an employer for a good 7-10 years before the expat can apply for a Green Card. The paperwork to obtain an oversaturated work visa like the H1-B can be very tedious; it requires the employer to provide painstaking evidence to the state as to why they're hiring an expat rather than a US citizen. 

The L-1 work visa can last for a maximum of 7 years, so expats with this visa have to apply for a Green Card within these 7 years, or they'll have to leave. Here's the problem, though: the routes they can apply through, like the EB1-C (permanent Employment-Based Immigration), suffer from severe visa backlogs. In comparison, as mentioned above, standalone investors with an EB-5 Visa can apply for their Green Card, not after 10, 7 or even 5 years of working in the US… but after only 2 or 3 years! 

The “EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act”, passed in March 2022, also allows applicants to live and work in the US while their Investor Visa is still being processed. They don't have to worry about being deported or losing their right to work if their application is taking more time than expected to get approved. This advantage has made some H1-B and L-1 holders with enough financial means decide to switch to the EB-5 Visa to have speedier and more secure access to the Green Card, highlights Step Global.