What options do I have to obtain an investor visa for the USA?
That is a question probably a lot of investors and entrepreneurs around the world are asking themselves. The United States is the world’s largest economy, closely trailed by China with other contenders such as Japan and Germany following further behind.
However, what makes the USA unique is that it combines size with relatively affluent population, and unlike China where the economy is driven by exports, the USA relies on strong consumer spending. Other factors that contribute to the USA’s attractiveness as an investment destination is its developed infrastructure, advanced legislation, rule of law and independent judicial system.
These qualities make the USA an attractive destination for investors from both developed nations such as France and Germany as well as for investors from developing nations such as China, India and Brazil that are attracted to USA for the presumed safety of their investment.
In addition, individuals from countries where personal safety can be a concern are also looking for an investor visa in the USA to secure their safety and that of their families.
But what are the options to obtain an investor visa for USA? Below we examine different options and both their advantages and disadvantages.
First, we need to clear the two major categories of visa that are available for the United States.
The first category is nonimmigrant visas. This type of visas is available to people who wish to either visit the country or to live temporarily in the USA to study or to conduct business.
The other major category is called immigrant visas and they are for people who wish to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. Typically, holders of immigrant visas are eligible to apply for US citizenship after certain conditions are met.
There are both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas available to foreign investors who wish to put their money in the USA.
The investor visa USA are:
EB-5 Investor Visa is an immigrant visa that allows an individual who has made an investment of either $1.8 million or $900,000 in a rural or high unemployment area to move to the USA and eventually obtain a permanent residency (Green Card). EB-5 investments must lead to the creation of 10 full-time jobs in the USA for at least two years. Members of the investor’s immediate family, spouse and children under the age of 21, are also eligible to apply for a green card at the same time as the investor.
The investor has the option to invest directly in a new enterprise. This would require the investor to take an active role and to maintain direct managerial control over the business. This option is suitable for individuals with business experience and skills that want to maintain direct control of their investment.
Another option for an investor seeking an EB-5 visa is to invest in a so called “Regional Center”. A Regional Center is defined as any economic unit, which is involved with the promotion of economic growth, improved regional productivity, job creation, and increased domestic capital investment. In order to be eligible for EB-5 investment, a regional center must be accredited by the USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Services). The advantage of regional centers is that the investor is not required to have any business acumen or experience. However, regional centers can have lower return on investment and if not managed properly can lose their accreditation from the USCIS.
The main disadvantage of the EB-5 investor visa is the large amount of investment required. Here it should also be noted that a passive investment in real estate by itself does not count towards the amount required for the EB-5. For example, purchasing a home for $1,050,000 does not give an individual the right to an EB-5 visa.
E-2 Investor Visa is a non-immigrant visa that gives an individual, who has made a substantial investment in a US business, the right to reside and manage their business in the United States.
To qualify for an E-2 Visa, the individual must be a member of treaty country (for a list of treaty countries please click here). The word “substantial investment” in the context of E-2 visa means an investment that is sufficient to give the business a strong chance of success. For example, a restaurant business might require an investment of $100,000 while a small manufacturing business will need upwards of half a million.
The period for which the E-2 investor visa is granted depends on the treaty the USA has with the applicant’s country and can range from as little as 6 months to five years. E-2 visas can be renewed multiple times and the investor’s immediate family members can live in the USA as well. The wife or husband of the investor is authorized to work incident to status which gives them the right to work for any employer or to start another business.
This visa has the advantage that it can be obtained with much less investment as compared to EB-5 but does not give the investor or his/her family permanent residence (green card). Also, there are no regional centers for E-2 and the investor must actively manage their business.
For investors that want some help and less involvement with the day-to-day operations, business franchise opportunities are a suitable choice and often used with E-2 visa.
L-1 Visa is a nonimmigrant visa which allows a non-US company to transfer an executive or manager to one of its offices in the United States. Alternatively, non-US company which does not yet have an office in the U.S. can send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing one. To learn more about L-1 visit for Canadians visit our page.
Unlike E-2 or EB-5, L-1 visa does not require a substantial investment to be made before obtaining the visa. However, the petitioning company must have secured office space in advance and be well-funded to support operations and pay employees in the US office.
L-1 visa is suitable for investors who have well-established and profitable businesses in their home country and want to expand that business to the US.
The investor seeking to obtain a L-1 must have been employed with their company for at least 1 of the 3 years preceding the investor visa application and expected to take on an active role in the management of US branch, subsidiary or affiliate.
The initial term of the L-1 visa for new office is for 1 year (otherwise 3 years) and can be extended for up to 7 years in 2-year increments. The immediate family members of an L-1 visa holder have the same rights as those of an E-2 holder.
Unlike the E-2, the L-1 is dual intent visa and allows the holder to apply for a green card under another program and still be able to travel between outside of the US while awaiting permanent residency.
In addition to the investor visa USA options listed above, there are other ways an investor can obtain an immigrant or a nonimmigrant visa for the USA.
These include mainly visas related to extraordinary ability, intracompany transfers or national interest waivers.
Because investors often work hard, they often are recipients of prestigious awards, maintain memberships in prestigious organizations or act as judges on panels in professional contests. A combination of these factors might qualify an investor for an EB-1 extraordinary ability green card or an O-1 extraordinary ability visa.
Some investors might be able to obtain a national interest waiver for an EB-2 immigrant visa if they have achieved higher levels of education (or equivalent) in addition to other high achievements.
Finally, some investors can qualify for investment-based greed card under the EB-1 intracompany transferee program.
Malescu Law can assist
Malescu Law P.A. – Business Immigration Lawyers