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What’s the Difference Between the E-2 and EB-5 Investor Visas?

For foreign investors wishing to obtain a visa to live, work, and attend university in the United States with in-state tuition rates, there are two options available through the E-2 and EB-5 investor visa programs.

The E-2 Visa requires less startup capital (around USD $100,000 to $250,000) and is the fastest way to obtain a visa, although it is not a path to Legal Permanent Residency (Green Card). The E-2 is a temporary visa based on a reciprocal commercial treaty between the United States and the individual’s country of nationality.  The visa is only available to treaty countries, for which citizens of China, India, Russia, and Brazil are not eligible.  Its processing times are generally 2 weeks to 90 days.

The EB-5 Visa requires an initial investment of USD $500,000 to $1 million, and comes with Legal Permanent Residency (Green Card), and ultimately, US citizenship.  EB-5 investors must create 10 full-time, permanent jobs not including the investor and temporary visa holders.

For a “direct” EB-5 investment, the jobs must be created at the business in which the capital is invested (which issues the employee W-2s). EB-5 regional center investors are permitted to create direct or indirect jobs as measured by an economic model (i.e., RIMS II or IMPLAN) supported by proof of the capital spent on hard costs to build the project and its stabilized revenue. Currently, USCIS policy requires the jobs to be created within one year after filing the petition to remove conditional resident status (Form I-829). USCIS also requires there to be a nexus between the jobs created and capital invested.  Under certain circumstances, an E-2 visa holder can transition from an E-2 visa to an EB-5.

EB-5 Green Cards take an average of 20 months to reach Conditional Resident approval (about 14 months for the I-526 petition and four-six months for the immigrant visa). The current wait for China-born EB-5 investors is two to three years or more, depending on when petitions were filed. Once a Regional Center’s first I-526 is approved, often recently filed I-526s are also granted, which may significantly reduce immigration time, assuming retrogression for a Chinese immigrant does not delay the visa issuance.

For an EB-5 Green Card, the investment amount is at least $500,000 in a Targeted Employment Area (“TEA”) (a high unemployment or rural area) and $1 million elsewhere. Because of inflation, it is expected that the investment amount will increase soon to $800,000 in a TEA and $1.2 million elsewhere. Stay tuned for news after the September 30, 2015 as to whether this amount will change.

For a more detailed comparison of the two programs, and a detailed chart comparing E-2 to EB-5, click here.

About the Firm

The Grady Firm, P.C. represents local and foreign business owners in the areas of business, employment, and immigration law.  We help local and foreign entrepreneurs open and grow their business through entity formation, contract drafting, employment law compliance, and coaching.  We also assist foreign entrepreneurs and their families live and work legally in the United States on the basis of family relationships, employment, and investment in a bona fide US enterprise through E-2 and EB-5 visas.

To schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with The Grady Firm’s attorneys, call (949) 798-6298, or fill out a Contact Request Form.


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