If you are a citizen of a different country interested in doing business or investing within the United States, there are a number of different visa options available. One of the most important and previously under-utilized options is the EB-5 Visa for Immigrant Investors. This visa provides a way for foreign nationals willing to meet certain requirements and make significant investments in the United States to get a green card. Every year, up to 10,000 visas may be authorized for entrepreneurs who meet the requirements for this type of visa, as described below. Two other commonly used visas for this investment-related activity are Treaty Trader (E-1) and Treaty Investor (E-2) Visas.
If you or your business are facing immigration issues and need the advice of an experienced Maryland investor visa lawyer, contact Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC. We serve clients throughout Maryland and the Washington, DC area.EB-5 Visas
This visa is appropriate for entrepreneurs who invest in a commercial (for-profit) enterprise in the United States. The investment must generate or maintain 10 permanent full time jobs for United States workers (not including the entrepreneur, his spouse, or his minor children) within two years of the investor’s entrance into the United States as a Conditional Permanent Resident. To qualify for this visa, you must either invest $1,000,000 or $500,000 in a targeted employment area (TEA).
A TEA is an area that has been designated as such by the government because it is a (1) a rural area that is both outside of a metropolitan statistical area and outside of a town or city having a population of at least 20,000, or (2) a non-rural area within the metropolitan statistical area or outer boundary of a city with at least 20,000 people that has experienced unemployment of at the least 150% of the national average rate of unemployment. If the location of the enterprise is not already a TEA, you can gather statistics and submit a petition to ask the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to determine a new TEA area for your investment.
In exchange for the investment, the USCIS may give you conditional permanent residence or a green card. If your petition is approved, you and your dependents will be granted conditional permanent residence for two years. You must submit evidence documenting that you have invested the required amount and have (1) maintained jobs for 10 people, (2) generated 10 jobs, or that (3) 10 jobs will be created by you in a reasonable time frame.
Historically, the application requirements were so onerous that the EB-5 Visa program was not used as often as Congress expected. In recent years however, the requirements have been made less stringent to encourage participation. Applications jumped from 800 filed in 2007 to 3800 applications filed at the end of 2011. In a current Pilot Program, investments can be made in new or existing “troubled businesses” or into a “regional center,” which is an investment vehicle managed by a third-party.E-1 and E-2 Visas
Citizens of countries that have a trade treaty with the United States who hope to invest in businesses in Maryland or the United States may be eligible for E-1 or E-2 visas. Types of trade that are eligible for this class of visa include: international banking, tourism, transportation, communications, and insurance. Your family (spouse and unmarried children under 21) can apply to come with you on these visas.
To qualify for either an E-1 or E-2 visa, you must be entering the United States from a treaty country with the intent to either (1) be involved with substantial trade (encompassing trade in technology or services) in qualifying business mainly among the United States and the treaty country or (2) you must be entering the United States to put together the operations of a business in which you have invested “substantial” capital.E-1 Treaty Trader Visas
To acquire an E-1 Treaty Trader Visa, you must be a treaty country citizen and an essential employee of a trading firm. At least 50% of the trading firm on whose behalf you enter the United States must be owned by people who are treaty country nationals. Trade between the United States and the treaty company must constitute 50% of that firm’s international trade. Overall international trade has to be substantial.
On an E-1 visa, you can stay for up to two years and request to stay longer in increments of two years. While there is no limit to extensions, you must maintain an intention to depart the United States when your status is terminated.E-2 Treaty Investor Visas
The E-2 is for investors from other countries. The investment must be one in which the investor puts funds or assets at risk in the commercial sense in order to create a profit.
The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa allows you to enter and work inside the United States if you are a national from a treaty country and if: (1) you make a substantial investment in a bona fide enterprise in the United States; (2) you retain 50% or more ownership of the business or possession of operational control of the business and (3) you are entering the United States for the sole purpose of developing and directing the investment. This visa can be renewed an unlimited number of times, but you need to reapply at least every two years.
In the case of start-ups, the investment must be large enough to capitalize on your venture. While $200,000 is considered substantial in some cases, it wouldn’t be enough in others, such as for the construction and development of a shopping mall. Similarly, simply buying bonds or stocks within the United States is not enough to qualify. Once your business related to this investment is concluded, you must return to your country of origin or alter your status.Other Visas Applicable to Business
Other nonimmigrant visas may be functional if you want to do business or invest in the United States. The immigration visa system is complicated and you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney regardless of your situation. However, the information below may be useful to you as an investor.
For example, if you have worked for a multi-national corporation outside the United States for at least 1 year, you may be eligible for L-1 status to come to work for that same company in a United States office. However, if you are an investor who is entering the United States in order to research opportunities or negotiate contracts for a brief duration, the appropriate visa to apply for may be a B-1 business tourist visa.
In addition to nonimmigrant visas, there are also permanent residency options for those doing business or investing in the United States. Multinational managers and executives can file for permanent residency in the Employment Based 1st Preference category. Those who invest in the United States economy such that they create jobs in the U.S. can also qualify for permanent residency.
The appropriate visa category depends on the nature of your business plan and its viability. We recommend that you contact an experienced Maryland investor visa lawyer at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC so that we can help you assess which immigrant or nonimmigrant visa category may be appropriate for your business plans. Call us at (301) 519-2801, or submit our online contact form today.