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Benjamin Frear, Esq.

Immigration Lawyer For Entrepreneurs & Employers

Intro—3 Investor Visa Options

There are a number of options that will enable you to secure a US visa after making an investment. This post will walk you through three options that are commonly explored by foreign nationals who want to obtain an investor visa for the USA.

Investor Visa to USA | OPTION #1: The E2 Visa

Perhaps my favorite option for those who want an investor visa to the USA is the E2 Visa. This visa allows entrepreneurs from certain countries to enter the US to run a business in which they have invested. The E2 Visa option does not have a minimum investment requirement. However, it does require you to commit sufficient funds to make your business a success.

If you are someone who wants to run a US business and your country of origin has the required treaty, then the E2 Visa could be a good fit.

The E2 Visa Advantages

Here are some of the reasons why I love this option:

    • No minimum investment;
    • Unlimited renewals/extensions;
    • Spouses can work in the US;
    • Children can attend school in the US;
    • The E2 Visa can be secured relatively quickly(oftentimes within 3-5 months)

E2 Visa Drawbacks

While the E2 is a great option for some people, it does have some drawbacks which include:

    • Limited to nationals of countries that have an E2 Visa Treaty with the US;
    • Children “age out” when they turn 21;
    • No direct path to a green card;
    • Not a good option for a passive investor;
    • Not a good option for a committed solo entrepreneur(due to the prohibition against “marginal” businesses

Investor Visa to USA | OPTION #2: The EB5 Visa

The EB5 is the classic investment based green card option. The Eb5 program was designed to encourage foreign nationals to invest in new commercial enterprises that create jobs for US workers. 

In order to obtain the Eb5 green card, you will need to invest 900,000 or 1.8 million dollars into a new commercial enterprise. The minimum investment amount depends on whether the commercial enterprise is located in an area in which the government has designated as a Targeted Employment Area(TEA). If the investment is made in a TEA, you will be able to make the lower investment(900,000). Additionally, your investment must generate 10 full time positions.

Eb5 Regional Center Cases

Most people who are interested in an Eb5 green card will ultimately make a passive investment through a regional center. There are a number of reasons why regional center investment is so popular. Here are a few of the advantages of a Regional Center Eb5:

  • Indirect Job Creation: Those who invest with a regional center can show the creation of jobs for theoretical persons. This can be done through economic models that project the impact of the commercial enterprise in which the investment was made.
  • Smaller Investment Required: Oftentimes, the smaller investment amount(900,000) will be required when the investment is made through a regional center. The reason for this is due to the fact that regional centers can oftentimes successfully use census tract information to show that the project falls within an area of high unemployment.

EB5 Non-Regional Center Cases

Despite the benefits of investing through a regional center, many entrepreneurs can’t stomach the idea of relinquishing control of their invested funds. For people in this group, it is worth considering a direct investment into a business. If you are considering this route it is important to know that EB5 investors who invest in a business that is not affiliated with a regional center must demonstrate the creation of 10 full-time jobs for actual people. This can be difficult even with a substantial investment.

Summary of EB5 Advantages

  • Your investment(if handled properly) will lead to a green card;
  • Passive investment is permissible;
  • You can receive a return on your investment;
  • Family members can qualify for a green card for the same investment;
  • No limitations based on Nationality

Summary of EB5 Disadvantages

  • Non regional center EB5 applicants can have difficulty creating 10 full time jobs;
  • Large investment is required;
  • The wait for a visa can be long if your country is backlogged

Investor Visa to USA | Option #3: National Interest Waiver Green Card

In addition to the options listed above, an entrepreneur who wants to either start or expand a business in the US can consider a National Interest Waiver Green Card.

This option requires a master’s degree or a demonstration of exceptional ability. In addition to satisfying that requirement, you must show:

  • The proposed endeavor(ie. your business) has both substantial merit and national importance;
  • You are well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor;
  • It would be beneficial to the United States to waive the traditional requirements of a job offer and labor certification

Given the high bar that is associated with NIW green cards, this option works best for seasoned entrepreneurs who have successfully built businesses in the past. 

Paths from E2 Visa to Green Card 

Many people who begin with an E2 Visa, start to think about paths to a green card after establishing roots in the US. Thankfully, for people in this group there are a few possible paths to a green card.

E2 Visa to Green Card–Path #1: Scale up your investment and apply for an EB5 Green Card

As your E2 business grows, you may get to a point where you want to invest additional money to scale up your business. If your total investment will meet the threshold for EB5, then you could use this investment to qualify for a green card as long as your investment will create 10 full time jobs.

E2 Visa to Green Card–Path #2: Qualify for a National Interest Waiver Green Card

The National Interest Waiver can be a great option for entrepreneurs who have used the E2 Visa to establish a successful US business.

When a relatively new entrepreneur comes to the US, they don’t yet have an established track record. Without a proven track record, a national interest waiver green card attempt would likely fail.

However, someone without a record of success could still likely qualify for an E2 Visa. Once an entrepreneur arrives and builds a successful business that employs US workers they will have laid the groundwork for a solid national interest waiver case.

Which Option is Best for You?

Ultimately, your best option for an Investor Visa to the USA will depend on your unique background and family situation. In order to further explore your options, I encourage you to reach out to a knowledgeable immigration lawyer who will be able to help you develop a plan that is tailored to your circumstances.


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