Permanent Residency (Green Card) Option for New Zealand Nationals Investing or Starting Businesses in the United States (EB-5)

One of the fastest routes to permanent residency is through an EB-5 investor visa. If your application is approved, you, your spouse and any children under the age of 21 will receive 2 years of conditional U.S. permanent residency. After 2 years, you will lodge a new application proving that your investment did indeed end up complying with the legal requirements and thus you are eligible for “regular” permanent residency.

General Description of the EB-5 Requirements:

Applicants may structure the investment themselves directly in a business or through a Regional Center. A Regional Center is an entity that has been approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) as a qualified entity through which EB-5 investments may be made.

To satisfy the EB-5 requirements (whether through your own business or a Regional Center investment), you must invest in a new commercial for-profit enterprise that will result in the creation of (or, in some instances, the preservation of) 10 or more full-time jobs for U.S. workers. The minimum amount of the capital investment is $1 million USD. However, that minimum requirement is reduced to $500,000 USD for investments made in areas that the government defines as Targeted Employment Areas. It is essential that the supporting evidence submitted with your application prove that the invested money was obtained by you through lawful means.

Regional Center Investment Option:

The majority of EB-5 applications related to investments made through Regional Centers. Regional Centers typically pool the investment dollars of multiple individuals into a single large-scale project. There are hundreds of these projects open each year in varied arenas such as hotel building, agriculture and infrastructure construction. While you will have some decision-making power with the life of the investment, the Regional Center will take much of the responsibility for running the business and making sure the investment complies with the EB-5 requirements.

Many Regional Centers offer investment opportunities that meet the USCIS definition of Targeted Employment Area and thus only require the reduced $500,000 USD investment minimum.

Under the laws of the U.S., only certified investment advisors can counsel you about what investment to choose. However, we do introduce our clients to different Regional Centers that we know to have good track records of success and we will evaluate the deal documents for any investment you choose to make sure it will comply with the immigration laws.

Direct Investment Option:

If majority operational control over your business is important to you, direct investment may be your best option. You can move a business to the U.S., build a new one, rescue a troubled one, or purchase an existing one. Another common way to structure this is to invest the requisite amount of money in someone else’s business and then act on the Board of Directors of the company (without the need for a daily management function).

The required Business Plan that details the product/service, competitors, financials projections, job creation estimates, etc. is essential to the success of an EB-5 petition. We work closely with a team of specialized financial business plan experts to create polished business plans for our clients.

Source of Your Investment Funds:

One of the most important parts of your EB-5 application package is proving the actual “clean” source of the $500,000 or $1 million that you invested. A good way to think of it is that you need to track each of those dollars from the time they are invested in the qualifying U.S. business back to the point at which they were earned lawfully. For example, if you earned your money as salary and bonuses from a job, you would show past tax returns, employment contracts, payroll documents, etc. If the money was gifted to you, you would need to show legal receipt of the gift and show how the person gifting the money lawfully obtained it.

Lack of sufficient documentation of the source of funds is a common reason that USCIS delays or denies applications. We work very closely with our clients to make sure we put in the strongest source of funds documentation possible. To date, we have never had an EB-5 application denied.

Creation of 10 New U.S. Jobs:

Your investment dollars must create 10 new full-time U.S. jobs (and in some cases saving U.S. jobs will qualify). While the strongest applications have already created these 10 jobs at the time they are submitted, you can also submit an application with a strong business plan that shows credible projections to create those full-time positions in a reasonable amount of time (2-3 years).

If you are doing a direct investment, those 10 full-time positions need to be within the new commercial enterprise. One benefit of investing through a Regional Center is that the law allows Regional Center investors to utilize economic models and count “indirect” jobs created by your investment dollars, meaning they are not directly employed by the business you invested in but your investment tangentially created the need for these full-time positions. The reputable Regional Centers will provide an economist’s report that analyses the direct and indirect jobs that will be created and attests that at least 10 jobs will be created by your investment dollars.

Can I Work At Other Companies if I Receive an EB-5 Green Card?

Yes. Your green card (even the conditional green card given during the first 2 years) and your spouse’s green card serve as general work authorization in the U.S. It is common to obtain an EB-5 visa based on a Regional Center investment and then enter the U.S. and seek daily employment at a U.S. employer or start a small business of your own.

I Do Not Have $500,000 USD to Invest, Are there Other Options?

If you are an Executive or Manager for a business in the New Zealand, you may be eligible for an L-1A visa that would allow you to move to the U.S. to lead the start-up on a new company that has a qualifying relationship to the continuing business in New Zealand. After being in the U.S., people holding this visa often apply for permanent residency based on this position (EB-1C).

You can e-mail us or call our office (1-312-803-0360) to discuss your investment options.