EB-5 IMMIGRANT INVESTORS
USCIS administers the Immigrant Investor Program, also known as “EB-5,” created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Under a pilot immigration program first enacted in 1992 and regularly reauthorized since, certain EB-5 visas also are set aside for investors in Regional Centers designated by USCIS based on proposals for promoting economic growth.
The EB-5 Adjudications Policy Memorandum is the guiding document for USCIS administration of the EB-5 program. It builds upon prior policy guidance for adjudicating EB-5 and is applicable to, and binding on, all USCIS employees.
All EB-5 investors must invest in a new commercial enterprise, which is a commercial enterprise:
- Established after Nov. 29, 1990, or
- Established on or before Nov. 29, 1990, that is:
1. Purchased and the existing business is restructured or reorganized in such a way that a new commercial enterprise results, or
2. Expanded through the investment so that a 40-percent increase in the net worth or number of employees occurs
Commercial enterprise means any for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of lawful business including, but not limited to:
- A sole proprietorship
- Partnership (whether limited or general)
- Holding company
- Joint venture
- Business trust or other entity, which may be publicly or privately owned
This definition includes a commercial enterprise consisting of a holding company and its wholly owned subsidiaries, provided that each such subsidiary is engaged in a for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of a lawful business.
Note: This definition does not include noncommercial activity such as owning and operating a personal residence.
Job Creation Requirements
- Create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers within two years (or under certain circumstances, within a reasonable time after the two-year period) of the immigrant investor’s admission to the United States as a Conditional Permanent Resident.
- Create or preserve either direct or indirect jobs:
- Direct jobs are actual identifiable jobs for qualified employees located within the commercial enterprise into which the EB-5 investor has directly invested his or her capital.
- Indirect jobs are those jobs shown to have been created collaterally or as a result of capital invested in a commercial enterprise affiliated with a regional center by an EB-5 investor. A foreign investor may only use the indirect job calculation if affiliated with a regional center.
Note: Investors may only be credited with preserving jobs in a troubled business.
A troubled business is an enterprise that has been in existence for at least two years and has incurred a net loss during the 12- or 24-month period prior to the priority date on the immigrant investor’s Form I-526. The loss for this period must be at least 20 percent of the troubled business’ net worth prior to the loss. For purposes of determining whether the troubled business has been in existence for two years, successors in interest to the troubled business will be deemed to have been in existence for the same period of time as the business they succeeded.
A qualified employee is a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or other immigrant authorized to work in the United States. The individual may be a conditional resident, an asylee, a refugee, or a person residing in the United States under suspension of deportation. This definition does not include the immigrant investor; his or her spouse, sons, or daughters; or any foreign national in any nonimmigrant status (such as an H-1B visa holder) or who is not authorized to work in the United States.
Full-time employment means employment of a qualifying employee by the new commercial enterprise in a position that requires a minimum of 35 working hours per week. In the case of the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, “full-time employment” also means employment of a qualifying employee in a position that has been created indirectly from investments associated with the Pilot Program.
A job-sharing arrangement whereby two or more qualifying employees share a full-time position will count as full-time employment provided the hourly requirement per week is met. This definition does not include combinations of part-time positions or full-time equivalents even if, when combined, the positions meet the hourly requirement per week. The position must be permanent, full-time and constant. The two qualified employees sharing the job must be permanent and share the associated benefits normally related to any permanent, full-time position, including payment of both workman’s compensation and unemployment premiums for the position by the employer.
Capital Investment Requirements
Capital means cash, equipment, inventory, other tangible property, cash equivalents and indebtedness secured by assets owned by the alien entrepreneur, provided that the alien entrepreneur is personally and primarily liable and that the assets of the new commercial enterprise upon which the petition is based are not used to secure any of the indebtedness. All capital shall be valued at fair-market value in United States dollars. Assets acquired, directly or indirectly, by unlawful means (such as criminal activities) shall not be considered capital for the purposes of section 203(b)(5) of the Act.
Note: Investment capital cannot be borrowed.
Required minimum investments are:
- General. The minimum qualifying investment in the United States is $1 million.
- Targeted Employment Area (High Unemployment or Rural Area). The minimum qualifying investment either within a high-unemployment area or rural area in the United States is $500,000.
A targeted employment area is an area that, at the time of investment, is a rural area or an area experiencing unemployment of at least 150 percent of the national average rate.
A rural area is any area outside a metropolitan statistical area (as designated by the Office of Management and Budget) or outside the boundary of any city or town having a population of 20,000 or more according to the decennial census.
Treaty Investors and Traders
The E-2 nonimmigrant classification allows a national of a treaty country (a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation) to be admitted to the United States when investing a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business. Certain employees of such a person or of a qualifying organization may also be eligible for this classification. (For dependent family members, see “Family of E-2 Treaty Investors and Employees” below.)
See U.S. Department of State’s Treaty Countries for a current list of countries with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation.
If the treaty investor is currently in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status, he or she may file Form I-129 to request a change of status to E-2 classification. If the desired employee is currently in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status, the qualifying employer may file Form I-129 on the employee’s behalf.
A request for E-2 classification may not be made on Form I-129 if the person being filed for is physically outside the United States. Interested parties should refer to the U.S. Department of State website for further information about applying for an E-2 nonimmigrant visa abroad. Upon issuance of a visa, the person may then apply to a DHS immigration officer at a U.S. port of entry for admission as an E-2 nonimmigrant.
To qualify for E-2 classification, the treaty investor must:
- Be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation
- Have invested, or be actively in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise in the United States
- Be seeking to enter the United States solely to develop and direct the investment enterprise. This is established by showing at least 50% ownership of the enterprise or possession of operational control through a managerial position or other corporate device.
An investment is the treaty investor’s placing of capital, including funds and/or other assets, at risk in the commercial sense with the objective of generating a profit. The capital must be subject to partial or total loss if the investment fails. The treaty investor must show that the funds have not been obtained, directly or indirectly, from criminal activity. See 8 CFR 214.2(e)(12) for more information.
A substantial amount of capital is:
- Substantial in relationship to the total cost of either purchasing an established enterprise or establishing a new one
- Sufficient to ensure the treaty investor’s financial commitment to the successful operation of the enterprise
- Of a magnitude to support the likelihood that the treaty investor will successfully develop and direct the enterprise. The lower the cost of the enterprise, the higher, proportionately, the investment must be to be considered substantial.
A bona fide enterprise refers to a real, active and operating commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking which produces services or goods for profit. It must meet applicable legal requirements for doing business within its jurisdiction.
The investment enterprise may not be marginal. A marginal enterprise is one that does not have the present or future capacity to generate more than enough income to provide a minimal living for the treaty investor and his or her family. Depending on the facts, a new enterprise might not be considered marginal even if it lacks the current capacity to generate such income. In such cases, however, the enterprise should have the capacity to generate such income within five years from the date that the treaty investor’s E-2 classification begins. See 8 CFR 214.2(e)(15).
General Qualifications of the Employee of a Treaty Investor
To qualify for E-2 classification, the employee of a treaty investor must:
- Be the same nationality of the principal alien employer (who must have the nationality of the treaty country)
- Meet the definition of “employee” under relevant law
- Either be engaging in duties of an executive or supervisory character, or if employed in a lesser capacity, have special qualifications.
If the principal alien employer is not an individual, it must be an enterprise or organization at least 50% owned by persons in the United States who have the nationality of the treaty country. These owners must be maintaining nonimmigrant treaty investor status. If the owners are not in the United States, they must be, if they were to seek admission to this country, classifiable as nonimmigrant treaty investors. See 8 CFR 214.2(e)(3)(ii).
Duties which are of an executive or supervisory character are those which primarily provide the employee ultimate control and responsibility for the organization’s overall operation, or a major component of it. See 8 CFR 214.2(e)(17) for a more complete definition.
Special qualifications are skills which make the employee’s services essential to the efficient operation of the business. There are several qualities or circumstances which could, depending on the facts, meet this requirement. These include, but are not limited to:
- The degree of proven expertise in the employee’s area of operations
- Whether others possess the employee’s specific skills
- The salary that the special qualifications can command
- Whether the skills and qualifications are readily available in the United States.
Knowledge of a foreign language and culture does not, by itself, meet this requirement. Note that in some cases a skill that is essential at one point in time may become commonplace, and therefore no longer qualifying, at a later date. See 8 CFR 214.2(e)(18) for a more complete definition.
Qualified treaty investors and employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of two years. Requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to two years each. There is no maximum limit to the number of extensions an E-2 nonimmigrant may be granted. All E-2 nonimmigrants, however, must maintain an intention to depart the United States when their status expires or is terminated.
An E-2 nonimmigrant who travels abroad may generally be granted an automatic two-year period of readmission when returning to the United States. It is generally not necessary to file a new Form I-129 with USCIS in this situation.
A treaty investor or employee may only work in the activity for which he or she was approved at the time the classification was granted. An E-2 employee, however, may also work for the treaty organization’s parent company or one of its subsidiaries as long as the:
- Relationship between the organizations is established
- Subsidiary employment requires executive, supervisory, or essential skills
- Terms and conditions of employment have not otherwise changed.
See 8 CFR 214.2(e)(8)(ii) for details.
USCIS must approve any substantive change in the terms or conditions of E-2 status. A “substantive change” is defined as a fundamental change in the employer’s basic characteristics, such as, but not limited to, a merger, acquisition, or major event which affects the treaty investor or employee’s previously approved relationship with the organization. The treaty investor or enterprise must notify USCIS by filing a new Form I-129 with fee, and may simultaneously request an extension of stay for the treaty investor or affected employee. The Form I-129 must include evidence to show that the treaty investor or affected employee continues to qualify for E-2 classification.
It is not required to file a new Form I-129 to notify USCIS about non-substantive changes. A treaty investor or organization may seek advice from USCIS, however, to determine whether a change is considered substantive. To request advice, the treaty investor or organization must file Form I-129 with fee and a complete description of the change.
See 8 CFR 214.2(e)(8) for more information on terms and conditions of E-2 treaty investor status.
A strike or other labor dispute involving a work stoppage at the intended place of employment may affect a Canadian or Mexican treaty investor or employee’s ability to obtain E-2 status. See 8 CFR 214.2(e)(22) for details.
Treaty investors and employees may be accompanied or followed by spouses and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. Their nationalities need not be the same as the treaty investor or employee. These family members may seek E-2 nonimmigrant classification as dependents and, if approved, generally will be granted the same period of stay as the employee. If the family members are already in the United States and are seeking change of status to or extension of stay in an E-2 dependent classification, they may apply by filing a single Form I-539 with fee. Spouses of E-2 workers may apply for work authorization by filing Form I-765 with fee. If approved, there is no specific restriction as to where the E-2 spouse may work.
As discussed above, the E-2 treaty investor or employee may travel abroad and will generally be granted an automatic two-year period of readmission when returning to the United States. Unless the family members are accompanying the E-2 treaty investor or employee at the time the latter seeks readmission to the United States, the new readmission period will not apply to the family members. To remain lawfully in the United States, family members must carefully note the period of stay they have been granted in E-2 status, and apply for an extension of stay before their own validity expires.