THE EB-5 investor visa programme enables foreigners who make an investment in a US business to obtain a green card and become lawful permanent residents, and eventual citizens, of the US. Reuters
Wealthy South Africans considering moving to the United States and seeking permanent residence there can do so via the EB-5 investment visa, but pending changes to the requirements will push up the minimum investment amounts significantly, possibly cutting off this option for many would-be émigrés.

Andrew Rissik, director of immigration and international investment specialists Sable International, says: “The new regulations propose increases to the minimum investment levels to obtain the US EB-5 visa, from $1 million (R14.6m) to $1.8m for direct investments and $500 000 to $1.35 m for investments in target employment areas.

“Investors seeking to obtain a US green card via the EB-5 programme should be advised that the new regulations, with higher minimums, are set to become effective 30 to 60 days after publication in the US Federal Register, so we anticipate that they will come into effect at the end of next month. Investors wishing to use the existing rules and get in at the lower investment level are advised to move quickly on their decision.”

The EB-5 investor visa programme enables foreigners who make an investment in a US business to obtain a green card and become lawful permanent residents, and eventual citizens, of the US. To meet the EB-5 visa requirements, foreign investors must make an “at risk” capital investment in a for-profit US business entity. The required investment amount varies depending on which type of project you invest in.

If you invest in a targeted employment area, the investment is $500000, if you invest elsewhere the minimum required investment is $1m. EB-5 investments must lead to the creation of 10 full-time US jobs for at least two years. These minimum amounts, however, are expected to increase, as detailed above.

There are four steps that investors must complete to become US permanent residents through the EB-5 visa programme:

* Find a suitable business project to invest in, ensuring it meets the investor requirements.

* Make the required capital investment amount in the project that you have chosen. These investments are often made into an escrow account. An immigration attorney must provide proof of this investment by filing an I-526 petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It typically informs applicants whether or not their I-526 petition has been accepted after 12 to 18 months. Most regional centres will refund your investment if your I-526 is denied.

* Become a two-year conditional resident of the US so that the project funded by your EB-5 investment can be implemented. EB-5 investors are eligible to become US residents once their I-526 petition has been approved by USCIS.

* Become unconditional permanent residents by the removal of your two-year conditional status.

The investor, his or her spouse, and their unmarried children under the age of 21 can then permanently live and work in the US and have the option to become US citizens after five years from the date they received their initial conditional residency.

“It’s a complex process, but it’s the most efficient way to obtain a US green card for a family.

“Together with our US-based partners we have successfully moved over 600 families there,” Rissik says. 

 Supplied by Sable International