What's the Lowest Possible Dollar Amount to Get an Investment-Based Green Card (EB-5)?

Although an $800,000 investment might be sufficient for category EB-5, there are additional requirements to fulfill.

By , J.D. · University of Washington School of Law

The EB-5 immigrant visa is the only that allows a foreign national to obtain a U.S. green card based primarily on wealth. It is not, however, a straight one-time payment in exchange for U.S. residence. One of the main requirements for getting a U.S. green card based on investment is that the would-be immigrant pumps a minimum dollar amount into a U.S. business; anything from a corner hot dog franchise to a major manufacturing plant. The idea behind this visa is to grow the U.S. economy.

If the businesses can come in different sizes, how high is the required investment amount? There are actually two potential minimum dollar amounts to look at. This article will explain why that is, and how to qualify to invest at the lower tier if you are trying to economize.

What Is the Current Minimum Investment Amount for an EB-5?

In 2022, the U.S. Congress announced that the minimum investment amounts for an EB-5 visa would be updated to $800,000 in "targeted economic areas" or TEAs (normally rural or high-unemployment areas) and $1,050,000 in other locations. Starting on October 1, 2024, these amounts will be regularly adjusted based on current economic conditions.

(In the past and for many years, the minimum EB-5 investment was between $500,000 and $1 million, with the lower amount applicable when investing in rural areas or TEAs.)

For the regulations concerning this visa, see 8 C.F.R 204.6(e).

Smaller Investments Allowed in Areas of High Unemployment

The purpose of allowing EB-5 eligibility based on lowered investment amounts in some areas is economic stimulus. Thus if the business is located in a rural area, or in an urban area with a high unemployment rate, it might qualify as a TEA. The unemployment rate must be at least 150% of the national average.

State governments can identify which parts of their state have high unemployment and send U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) a list of those qualified. This has led to accusations of gerrymandering and inappropriate designations, however. And it goes without saying that, in an area that is economically depressed, your chance of success or high business returns might be reduced.

Investing in Regional Centers Rather Than an Individual Business

One of the more convenient ways to qualify for an EB-5 visa is, rather than investing directly in an individual business (and having to manage it or make high-level decisions), to invest in a "regional center." There are hundreds of them across the nation. To attract investment, almost all regional centers operate in rural or high-unemployment areas, so that the minimum investment is held to the lower tier.

Regional centers are designated and approved by USCIS (here is its list), but run privately. The regional centers work to promote economic growth through increased export sales, improved regional productivity, creation of new jobs, and increased domestic capital investment. For example, real estate development projects, such as office and retail developments, shopping centers, and resort hotel developments, are popular projects for regional centers.

Investors in regional centers need not prove that they themselves provided new jobs for ten U.S. workers, only that by virtue of their investment the regional center created ten or more jobs, directly or indirectly, or that it increased regional productivity. In other words, if the regional center's existence stimulated the local economy such that other businesses brought new workers on board, those can "count" toward your ten. Of course, regional centers will be trying to collect investments from numerous parties, so it will need to create ten or more jobs for each intending immigrant, not ten in total.

Some immigration attorneys report that regional centers offer one of the most desirable ways to pursue an investor visa, because they allow wealthy investors to make cash investments without creating or managing a new enterprise. The key, however, is to make sure that you are signing up with a well-managed regional center, since you won't have any say in its operations. The mere fact that USCIS has designated the center does not protect the investor from risk of losing the investment (perhaps because other investors failed to materialize) or failing to obtain an EB-5 visa. Do your research, and examine the center's past performance before you invest.

Also double check with the regional center that it is operating within a rural or high unemployment area so that your investment will qualify you for the EB-5 visa.

Another concern for a would-be EB-5 immigrant is timing. The regional center program is not permanent, but regularly sunsets (expires). Congress must then act to renew and extend it, and it hasn't always done so in a timely fashion (sometimes taking months). The current sunset date is September 30, 2027.

Getting Legal Help

You could make your path to an EB-5 immigrant visa and green card significantly easier by hiring an experienced immigration attorney to handle your application for U.S. lawful permanent residence. The attorney can analyze your potential eligibility for an EB-5 immigrant visa, identify the speediest paths by which you could qualify for it, spot any potential problems in your case, prepare the paperwork, and monitor the progress toward approval.

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