An alternative to the EB-5 visa

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It seems lately that every time I run into anyone involved in real estate they want to ask me about the EB-5 investor visa.  The very basic requirements for the EB-5 visa are:

1.  $1,000,000 investment or $500,000 if investing in a targeted employment area (a rural area or an area that has experienced high unemployment at least 150 percent of the national average).

2.  Benefit the US economy by providing goods or services to US markets.

3.  Create full-time employment for at least 10 U.S. workers.

The EB-5 has a certain allure to it because it offers a green card for a million dollar or five-hundred thousand dollar  investment.  As a practical matter the EB-5 may not be the best option for those with the resources to obtain it.  You can lose the green card if your business can’t employ 10 US workers or if you can’t jump through numerous hoops associated with the EB-5 within the two-year conditional period given upon approval of the EB-5 visa.

When people ask me about the EB-5 I usually tell them to consider obtaining an L-1A visa first.

The basic requirements for an L-1A visa are:

1.  An overseas company has a branch, subsidiary, affiliate or parent company in the US.  If one of these entities does not already exist in the US a startup company can be formed in the US to meet this criteria.

2.  The US company and the overseas company must continue to do business throughout the duration of the employee’s L-1A status.

3.  An employee is coming to the US to serve as an Executive or Manager for the US operation.

4.  The employee must have worked for the overseas company for at least one out of the past three years.

Notice that the L-1A doesn’t require a minimum dollar amount to invest in the US.  It also does not require the US company to employ 10 workers.  I would rather have an investor come to the US and buy or start a business in the US for $250,000 and have the remaining $750,000 in reserve for any expenses required to maintain the US operation.

In a typical L-1A situation we will have the client continue to run the US operation while in L-1A status and then file for renewal of the L-1A status ninety days prior to the visa expiration.  Once the L-1A is renewed we file for permanent residence under the EB-1-3 multinational executives and managers category.  There is no two-year conditional period for permanent resident status under the EB-1-3 category.

While nothing is guaranteed in immigration law it is clear that the financial risks associated with an L-1A visa can be much lower than those associated with an EB-5 visa.  I’m not saying that the EB-5 is bad for everybody.  In some situations it is ideal for certain candidates.  However, in most situations where I have been asked about EB-5 visas and then explained the L-1A and EB-1-3 combination to a green card, people have opted for the L-1A route.

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