Permanent Residency (Green Card) Option for Australian Nationals Investing Money or Starting Businesses in the United States (EB-5)
One of the fastest routes to permanent residency is through an EB-5 visa. If your application is approved, you, your spouse and any children under the age of 21 will receive a 2 year conditional permanent residency. After 2 years, you lodge an application to show 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:
To satisfy the EB-5 requirements, 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. Currently, the general 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. The evidence submitted with your application must prove that the invested money was obtained through lawful means.
Individuals may structure the investment themselves 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.
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 and then act on the Board of Directors of the company (without the need for a daily management function).
A solid written Business Plan that presents a viable commercial enterprise that will satisfy the EB-5 requirements is crucial to the success of an EB-5 petition. We work with a team of specialized financial experts to create these business plans for our clients.
Regional Center Investment Option:
If you prefer a more passive role in your investments, investing through a Regional Center may be the best option for you. Regional Centers are designed to pool the investments of multiple individuals into a single project. 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.
Only certified investment advisors can legally provide you counsel 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.
Source of Your Investment Funds:
One of the most important parts of your EB-5 application package is voluminous evidence showing the source of your $500,000 or $1 million investment. In essence, you need to track each of those dollars from the time they are invested 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. Other examples are earnings from the sale of stocks or property, inheritances and gifts—these examples all require that you go back one step further, for example how you earned the money to initially purchase the stock or how the person gifted you money earned that money.
USCIS commonly delays or denies applications because the source of funds is not properly documented. We work very closely with our clients to make sure we put in the strongest documentary evidence 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 of submission, 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 employed within the new commercial enterprise. One benefit of investing through a Regional Center is that the law allows them to use economic models and count “indirect” jobs created by your investment dollars, meaning they are not directly employed by the enterprise you invested in but your investment tangentially created the need for these full-time positions. The reputable Regional Centers will provide a report from an economist 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 allow you to work at any U.S. employer. So it is common for people to invest through a Regional Center and then enter the U.S. and seek daily employment at a U.S. employer or start a small business of their own.
I Do Not Have $500,000 USD to Invest, Are there Other Options?
There is a temporary visa “version” of the EB-5 called the E-2 treaty investor visa that Australian nationals are eligible for. There is no legal minimum requirement for how much you need to invest to qualify, though the law says it must be “substantial” and $100,000 USD is an amount that is often considered to be substantial.
If you are an Executive or Manager for a business in the Australia (or anywhere outside the US), 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 Australia (or wherever it is located). 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.