Know the Law: Make an Investment, Get a Visa

Published in the Union Leader
By Shiva Karimi

Q. Is there a way of getting a visa or green card by making an investment in the United States?

There are two types of visas which can be obtained through investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States.  The more common is a nonimmigrant visa known as an E-2 visa.  The other is the increasingly popular EB-5 visa which leads to permanent residence.

The E-2 visa is a treaty investor visa. That is, it is for nationals whose countries have entered into a treaty with the United States that specifically allows for treaty investor visas. The E-2 visa requires the foreign national to invest in a commercial enterprise in the U.S. which is more than 50% owned by treaty nationals of the same country.  The foreign national must either develop and direct the business or perform services which are essential.  The visa allows the foreign national investor to live and work in the United States because of his or her investment so long as the individual continues his role in the business pursuant to the terms of the visa. The investor’s spouse and children can obtain dependent visas and seek employment authorization.  Although the visa can remain valid indefinitely, it is a nonimmigrant visa which means that it will end when the person is no longer involved in the business in the way set forth in the visa.  The investment amount can often start under $100,000.

The EB-5 visa is an immigrant visa, or a green card, commonly referred to as the Immigrant Investor Program.  The investor must invest either $1,000,000  or $500,000  in a United States commercial enterprise and in doing so, create at least ten jobs for U.S. workers.  The investment amount is reduced to $500,000 when the investment is made in a commercial enterprise that is located in a targeted employment area (TEA) which is a rural or high unemployment area. Investors can also invest $500,000 in a qualified and approved Regional Center. A Regional Center is an entity that seeks to promote economic growth through investment within a defined geographic area and that has been designated by the USCIS as eligible to receive immigrant investor capital. Investing in a Regional Center has several advantages such as an expanded definition of job creation to include indirect job creation.  EB-5 visas are granted for an initial conditional period of two years. Prior to the two-year expiration, the investor must apply to remove the condition on the green card by showing that the minimum jobs have been created and that the investment remains committed.  The EB-5 visa allows the immigrant investor, spouse and dependents to live, work and study freely in the United States.

Shiva Karimi can be reached at

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by The McLane Law Firm.
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