The Future of the United States EB-5 Visa

The US EB-5 visa, known as the Employment-Based Fifth Preference or EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa, is one of the most popular and successful investment routes for foreign investors seeking to become permanent residents or “green card holders” in the United States.

Established nearly thirty years ago under the Immigrant Act of 1990, the initiative has helped bolster foreign investment and economic growth in the country. However, unless the initiative is renewed before 30 June 2021, a sunset provision will ensure the Programme expires and ceases to exist.

How Does the EB-5 Visa Work?

In order to qualify for the visa, applicants must invest in, and be engaged in the management of, a ‘new’ commercial enterprise, and create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified US workers. The investment threshold is determined by whether the investor makes an investment in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) or a standard investment in a non-TEA. The minimum investment amount for TEA investors is $900,000 (previously $500,000) or $1.8 million (previously $1 million) for a standard investment. There are two different ways to make your investment: either individually or in a Regional Centre designated by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Regional Centres are involved in “the promotion of economic growth, including increased export sales, improved regional productivity, job creation, and increased domestic capital investment.” Investments in Regional Centres are subject to less stringent requirements regarding job creation and management.

Since its inception, the EB-5 Programme has been particularly popular amongst investors from China, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom along with investors from Vietnam, India, Brazil, Mexico, and Nigeria, despite long backlogs in processing applications.

Renewal Process

Usually, the Programme is subject to automatic approvals to ensure its continuation with little hassle. However, during former President Donald Trump’s tenure, the Programme was decoupled from automatic approvals, meaning that it must first gain re-approval from Congress to be renewed. Due to a sunset provision that will lead to the expiry of the Programme by 30 June 2021, Congress must authorise the continuation of the EB-5 Programme before that date to ensure the Programme’s continuation. This has triggered concern amongst immigration experts about the EB-5 visa’s future.

However, if the 30 June deadline is met, under current President Joe Biden’s proposed Citizenship Act of 2021, there may be hope for those subject to EB-5 visa application backlogs.

A statement discussing the proposed Act reads: “This bill clears employment-based visa backlogs, recaptures unused visas, reduces lengthy wait times, and eliminates per-country visa caps. The bill makes it easier for graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the United States; improves access to green cards for workers in lower-wage sectors; and eliminates other unnecessary hurdles for employment-based green cards.”

However, improvements to the EB-5 Programme are contingent upon its renewal before 30 June 2021. As such, many investors are worried that if the Programme isn’t renewed, they will be left uncertain as to their status and without the benefits they sought when they made the investment.

Citizenship by Investment

For immigrant investors who want to secure second citizenship in a time-efficient and cost-effective means, a handful of nations offer citizenship by investment. The process entails an investor making an economic contribution to the nation of choice in exchange for citizenship. With that citizenship, an investor can apply for a second passport and gain access to a plethora of benefits.

Most notably, this usually includes increased travel freedom to over 100 countries and territories, including key business hubs. Additionally, investors gain the right to live, work and study in the nation, as well as alternative business prospects and, in most cases, the invaluable ability to pass down citizenship for generations to come.

Citizenship by investment is a concept that was birthed in the Caribbean with the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis introducing the world’s longest-standing programme in 1984. With over three decades of experience, the dual island is internationally recognised as offering the ‘Platinum Standard’ of the industry.

The Commonwealth of Dominica is another Caribbean island that offers citizenship by investment. Established in 1993, Financial Times’ Professional Wealth Management magazine has ranked the nation as offering the best route to second citizenship for the last four consecutive years. The special report, titled the CBI Index, listed the programme’s affordability, efficiency, due diligence procedures, and family eligibility as some of the reasons for its high ranking.

For investors who are interested in the EB-5 but worried about the uncertainty surrounding it, citizenship by investment offers a wide range of benefits with a level of security.