Law & Legal & Attorney Immigration Law

Is the EB-5 visa program the safest way to Obtain a Green Card?

This is a question asked by many people looking into the EB5 immigration investor visa program and the simple answer is yes. This is proven by increasing numbers of permanent residents who entered the program five or so years ago, have long since had conditions removed from their green cards, and have received all their $500,000 investment back.

It is interesting to compare the situation of these successful EB-5 clients who are now safely living as permanent residents in the USA with the risks experienced by many E2, L1, H1B and F1 visa holders who face many ongoing difficulties along with the ultimate ongoing trauma of their visa not being renewed and perhaps being deported from the U.S. back to their homeland.

It must be said however that there are sadly a very small number of EB5 visa holders who have taken poor advice and applied unwisely through an insufficiently proven regional center program, or made an inappropriate judgment and opted for a center where there have been EB5 refusals at the I-526 or i-829 stage or indeed the loss of some or all of their funds. Often these problems could have been avoided if the correct advice had been sought in the first place.

Many successful EB-5 applicants have commented that their priority was to obtain the visa, have the conditions removed after two years, and see the safe return of all of their $500,000 within a five or six year period. To achieve this a number emphasized the importance of obtaining impartial advice on the regional center programs at the very beginning of the process and the need for such advice to be experienced, independent and without a hidden agenda.

It was felt important by these successful EB-5 applicants that advisers should have at least visited, several times, the proven programs, have successfully advised at least 150 plus EB-5 applicants and be independent of the regional centers themselves. It was critical, according to these successful EB-5 applicants, that advisers they work with could look behind all the positive advertising statements being promoted by the regional centers and identify which centers genuinely had excellent track records and which were hiding problems.

There has been a small minority who experienced problems such as refusals at I-526 or I-829 stage, or the loss of all or part of their investment.

Problems can occur when a regional center program fails to attract the required number of investors to fully fund its program. Unfortunately there are programs being marketed which are unlikely to ever get off the ground and therefore will not provide the requirements for successful EB-5 applications. For EB-5 visa holders who have already invested in such programs there are two obvious questions: If the program does not go ahead how will jobs be created therefore allowing I-829 approvals and permanent green cards? Will their original investment ever be returned?

Concern has been expressed regarding programs which simply see affluent foreigners as an easy source to fund risky and poorly planned schemes which cannot raise capital in other ways. Particular problems can occur if the potential EB-5 investors do not understand English and rely on overseas based commission earning agents who may fail to identify the weaknesses of a center.

A very small number of EB-5 visa holders experienced issues at the I-829 stage (removal of conditions). Clearly this is a significant problem for the visa holders who have been living in the USA for at least two years by this time. In one particular case the regional center involved made changes to the program that USCIS determined was a "material change" and therefore did not comply with requirements.

An extremely small number of investors lost their funds due to alleged fraud when monies were not submitted to a regional center or attorneys escrow account but to a third-party (currently under investigation). If the necessary advice had been obtained beforehand, the victims of this scenario could have been warned about the past track record of the individual they were working with. Checks on bankruptcy history and the New York stock exchange commission can often identify important background information.

If you are considering the EB-5 visa there are points you can follow to safeguard the process. Begin by seeking independent, impartial and experienced advice at the start of the process. Work with a company who have successfully advised over 150 EB-5 visa holders, have worked with different regional centers, not just one or two, have visited, at least, the proven regional center programs, have worked with people of many different nationalities and have access to a number of leading EB-5 immigration attorneys. Find out if any of the officers or principals of the company you are seeking help from have a checkered history such as investigations by the New York Stock Exchange Commission or other local or federal agencies. Are they viewed as experts in the EB-5 immigration field? Above all do not believe all you read and all you are told by the regional centers without taking independent third-party advice.

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