United States Investment Visa Options – Learn about investments visas in the US

Investment Visa USA

The two main options for individuals looking to gain an investment visa in the United States are the E2 visa and the EB-5 visa. Overseen by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, E-2 visas or the EB-5 program allow applicants to gain residency, or even citizenship, and to operate commercial enterprises in the United States

Investment USA visa option 1: The E2 visa 

The E2 visa is one type of investor visa that is offered by the United States. These visas are meant for citizens of countries who have commerce treaties with the United States. Applicants from these treaty countries are afforded an immigrant visa and the right to live and work in the United States in exchange for their capital investment. For most investors, this translates to the right to operate and expand their business in the United States market.

Who can be included?

This right sometimes even extends to high-ranking employees of the investor’s company, who can be sent to the United States on the investor’s behalf to operate their business. The E2 visa also applies to the family of the investor, including their spouse and children under 21 years old, allowing them to also move to the United States. Further to this, the spouse of the investor is allowed to work, and the investor’s children can study as a domestic student in the United States on this visa, a unique quality about the E2.

The visa itself is open only to citizens of countries which have signed a treaty with the United States, which does not include nationals of India or China.

This includes: 

Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Taiwan, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Grenada, Honduras, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Yugoslavia.

What is the length of an E2 investor visa?

The E2 visa can be issued for different lengths of time. Normally, the visa is issued for a period of time varying anywhere between three months to five years. This designation depends on a variety of factors, such as the recipient’s citizenship. However, the E2 visa can often be renewed indefinitely, although there are limitations on the number of renewals for certain nationalities.

Moreover, there is no upper limit on the number of visas that can be issued every year, so this takes the competitive pressure off potential applicants. There is no threshold for the required investment to obtain an E2 visa, so long as the company or enterprise is large enough to register as an E2 business.

What are the benefits of an E2 visa in the United States?

There are several key advantages to the E2 visa. The direct investment required to qualify for the visa is significantly less than for an EB-5 visa, and the investment itself is also under the investor’s control. The E2 visa also has lower presence requirements and a faster processing time, as it is not an immigrant visa. You must only be in the United States for 122 days of the calendar year, which affords mobility to international business owners.

In fact, the E2 visa has been particularly attractive and uniquely utilized by those who wish to renounce their United States citizenship, but still have business interests in the country. Its advantages are consistent with business owners, such as tax benefits. Only income generated by the investment and the business in the United States is taxed.

It should be noted, however, that the E2 visa cannot lead to a green card (residency) or citizenship in the United States. The E2 “business” visa is aimed at just that – investors who want to actively operate and oversee their business by being physically present in the United States. It is not suitable for passive investments such as in stocks or bonds.

Who is eligible for this United States investment visa?

Regarding eligibility, investors can purchase an existing business, company or enterprise in the United States and register it as an E2 Treaty investor business. However, the agreement to purchase the business can be conditional to the E2 visa being approved. Additionally, the investor does not have to make the investment in a business based in the United States before their application is submitted for the visa. All that is required is a realistic plan and the access to funds meant to start a business in the country.

The requirements to qualify for the E2 visa are somewhat vague. Although the E2 business must employ United States workers, there is no numerical figure associated with this – sometimes even a couple of employees is sufficient. The investment must be composed of “substantial amounts of capital”, and the investor must “develop and direct the enterprise”. However, no minimum investment has been established: investments of as low as US$ 10,000 in a commercial enterprise have qualified in certain business sectors, and directing an enterprise typically requires at least a 50% ownership of the business.

What is the process and documentation required from investment visa applicants?

The process to obtain the visa, however, is quite simple. Once all documentation required (birth certificate, marriage certificate, application form, letters, etc.) for the application is gathered, one must only submit an online application along with an application fee. After you attend an interview at the United States Consulate, your visa documentation will be mailed to you if your application is approved.

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USA investment visa option 2: The EB-5 immigrant investor program

Another type of United States investor visa is the EB-5 immigrant investor program, which paves the path to permanent residence in the United States, in exchange for foreign investment. It is one of five types of employment-based visa programs in the United States. The program is aimed at foreign investments made into American businesses, employment creation and economic growth.

The EB-5 visa program started in 1990 through the Immigration Act as a way to stimulate the United States economy. It is run by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which sets out regulations and oversees compliance.

THe EB-5 visa is a fast-growing option as an investment visa

Now, the program has grown in popularity, with nearly the 10,000 quota of EB-5 visas being given to foreign investors in the last few years. This is due to the efficient path to citizenship status, and has a number of distinct advantages that the EB-5 offers its recipients, such as the status of permanent resident after 2 years.

What is the structure of the EB-5 investment visa?

The general structure of the program is that a non-US citizen will invest at least US$ 1 million in a business that will hire 10 Americans, a substantial investment. The foreign national also has the choice to invest only US$ 500,000 into a targeted employment area, which are areas with high unemployment, determined by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Thanks to the flexibility of the EB-5 program, investors can make this investment in the business directly, or can join a pool of investors. The latter option has become particularly popular in recent years, especially in real estate projects.

What are different investment options for CIB applicants?

Real Estate Development

Real estate projects have become a popular investment options for EB-5 visa applicants. They offer significant advantages to immigrant investors:

  • Real estate is an option that fits the EB-5 investments of either a US$ 1 million or US$ 500,000, as these developments can be very capital intensive.
  • Real estate development projects can easily accomplish hiring the 10 jobs that are required to receive the EB-5 visa. Options like hotels, restaurants, and resorts are all good options for EB-5 investments, as they offer sustainable employment. There are construction and contracting jobs during development, and service jobs once the project is complete. 

For context, some well-known projects that have been funded through the EB-5 program include the Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, the Resorts World Las Vegas, the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal in New York, and the JW Marriott Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Regional Centers

As previously mentioned, often applicants will join a pool of investors through EB-5 regional centers. These regional centers are third-party economic units who connect foreign investors with each other and with real estate developers who seek funding for their projects.

A regional center will also help foreign investors to track the job creation that the investment makes. These may be private entities, which are approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Now, there are over 800 of these entities, which are largely for-profit and will charge a commission for making these connections.

Targeted Employment Areas

Originally, to qualify as a Target Employment Area (TEA), it must have had an unemployment rate that was 150% of the national average. However, this allowed for certain regions which were actually wealthy to position themselves to gain funding. Now, any state-designated location is accepted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services as a TEA.

Currently, no centralized list of Targeted Employment Areas exists. However, investors can do their own research into a specific area, compile statistics and data, and petition the government or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to designate the area as a Targeted Employment Area.

What is the application process to receive an EB-5 US investment visa?

In terms of the process, the applicant must first invest the required sum and create 10 jobs into the project, whether directly or indirectly through a regional center. Once the applicant makes the investments, they are afforded a conditional permanent residency that is valid for two years. Within these two years, the foreign national must invest in a business that creates 10 jobs for Americans.

Once this two-year probationary period is over and the conditions of the EB-5 visa are met, the conditional residency is converted into permanent residency. The investor and his family (including their spouse and unmarried children under 21) will all receive a green card.

What are the benefits of an EB-5 visa?

A key benefit of the EB-5 visa is that it can eventually lead to citizenship to the United States. This green card means that its holders can legally live, work, or study anywhere in the United States, through the EB-5 program. This also means that the family of the investor can be included on the visa! In fact, the EB-5 program offers many advantages:

  • Facilitates other types of visas and green cards for permanent residency;
  • Its holders may be eligible for US citizenship in just five years;
  • The nature of an EB-5 visa often allows for a return on investment, which will pay off the initial investment or even lead to profits. This is especially true for businesses in the real estate sector!
Discover if the EB-5 program and an investment visa is the right choice for you and your family

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Which US investment Visa is Right for You? E2 or EB-5?

Immigration to the United States is a dream for many, known for its strong economy and high quality of life. Wealthy investors who want to take advantage of the land of opportunity, can immigrate to the United States by making an investment. Both the EB-5 and the E2 visa are directed at businesses, so which is right for you?

The EB-5 and E2 citizenship by investment programs both have advantages and disadvantages

1. The EB-5 exposes investment visa applicants to risks related to commercial enterprises

Those investing in the EB-5 regional center are making a passive investment into commercial ventures which comes with relevant risks. However, the investment is returned to you at the end of five years. By comparison, those making a direct E2 investment have full control over the investment.

2. The E2 visa can be obtained in less time, but only citizens of specific countries can apply

Investing in an E2 visa may be the fastest way to enter the United States. However, the E2 visa is only granted to citizens of countries with an investment treaty with the United States. The E2 visa typically requires less time and less of an investment, and you can use your own company to invest in.

3. The E2 visa is an investment visa that cannot lead to US citizenship status and a green card!

Unlike the EB-5 visa, there is no route to citizenship and a green card for the E2 visa as it is a non-immigrant visa. As a result, the EB-5 program is much longer and elaborate, as it is an immigrant visa.

Choosing the right investment visa options for the United States

Now that the differences between these programs have been highlighted, the best fit for you should be clearer. However, it is still important to consult with an advisor before deciding on which visa you will apply for. 

Talk with JH Marlin before deciding on an investment visa in the United States!

Advisors can help find the right program that will suit your needs and give you an idea of how likely it is that your application will be successful. Law firms can also aid in the visa application process itself, as the documentation associated with the application can often be hefty.  Discover how JH Marlin, an attorney specialized in citizenship by investment and investment visas, can help you and your family!

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