The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced a rule change regarding employment-based fifth preference immigrant investor classifications (EB-5 visas) that may affect the ability of individuals to invest in the United States. The new rule takes effect November 21, 2019.
According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and recently reported by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the new rule includes the following changes to the EB-5 investor program:
- The minimum amount of cash required to secure an EB-5 investor visa will be increased from $500,000 to $900,000.
- TEA Designation reforms, including revising the standards for certain targeted employment area (TEA) designations, with the goal of preventing so-called gerrymandering as a way to qualify for reduced threshold amounts. The change means that development may become more likely in rural or distressed areas, as opposed to wealthier areas.
- Provides DHS with the authority to designate high unemployment TEAs, based on revised requirements in the regulation.
- Clarifies U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services procedures regarding the removal of conditions on permanent residence, revising the regulations to clarify that derivative family members must file their own petitions to remove conditions on their permanent residence when they are not included in a petition to remove conditions filed by the principal investor.
- Allows EB-5 petitioners to keep their priority dates by allowing priority date retention to EB-5 investors who file a new petition, unless a prior petition has been revoked by DHS.
Under the EB-5 program, individuals are eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence in the United States if they make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States and create or, in certain circumstances, preserve 10 full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The intent of the program, which was established by Congress in 1992, was to stimulate economic development throughout American communities via capital investment by foreign entrepreneurs. Under the program, 10,000 EB-5 visas are allotted per year for eligible investors.
In 2018, investors from Mainland China made up the largest group utilizing EB-5 visas, with just more than 48 percent, followed by those from Vietnam (7 percent), India (6 percent) and South Korea (5.5 percent), according to eb5daily.com. However, in 2018, the number of visas issued to individuals in Mainland China decreased by 3,000, while individuals in countries such as India, South Korea, China (Tawain-born), Venezuela, Hong Kong S.A.R. Mexico and Pakistan were issued more than double the number of visas than the previous year, according to eb5daily.
Many have advocated that foreign investors seeking EB-5 visas take swift action well before the November 21 deadline when the rule changes, however, it is important that petitions be thoroughly completed and contain all of the required documentation to avoid rejection by the USCIS. Therefore, it is advisable to engage a knowledgeable immigration attorney in the process of seeking EB-5 visas.