Green cards through investment
Candlestick Park in San Francisco, the sports stadium that was the home field of San Francisco 49ers football team for many decades, will be demolished in 2015.
While the demolition has not started, plans for rebuilding the area into a mixed-use development of housing units, retail and commercial spaces had begun.
Foreign nationals manifested interest in the project because this development is among hundreds of the regional centers that welcome foreign investors. The program for foreign investors is referred to as the employment-based fifth preference (EB-5) or green cards through investment.
EB-5 immigrant visa
US immigration laws allow individuals to qualify for immigrant visas or green cards based on investment under the EB-5.
This requires the applicant to either invest $500,000 or $1 million in a business or enterprise that will produce 10 full-time US workers. The EB-5 is different from a nonimmigrant E1/E2 visa. There is no specific amount required for the E1/E2 visa and the standard is merely “substantial” investment.
Those who wish to avail of the EB-5 may either apply for (1) an individual EB-5 or (2) a government-approved regional center. For the individual EB-5, the investor is responsible for establishing his or her own US enterprise and invest the total amount of $1,000,000 and must prove that 10 full-time US employees shall be hired in the investment enterprise.
On the other hand, a regional center is an organization or an agency approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and is designated as a geographic area within the United States that seeks to promote economic growth through export sales, improved regional productivity, creation of new jobs and increased domestic capital investment.
Generally, both the individual EB-5 and the approved regional center require an investment of $1,000,000. This investment may be reduced to $500,000 if the investor can show that the it is located in a rural area or in a targeted employment area that has experienced unemployment of at least 150 percent of the national average rate.
Filing the investor petition (I-526)
To start the process of applying, a petition must be filed in the USCIS and accompany it with supporting documents. The investment money may be put in escrow until the petition is actually approved.
The USCIS may take up to eight months to adjudicate a petition. Once it is approved, the resident status or green card is granted for a conditional period of two years.
The conditional status may be removed within 90 days from the two-year anniversary of the approval of the initial petition by showing the full required investment has been used in the enterprise and that 10 employees have been approved.
The redevelopment in San Francisco of the former Candlestick Park is an example of a regional center.
There are other US organizations that handle various regional centers located in different states, which may be potential investment enterprises.
For the interested investor, due diligence must be taken to ensure that the investment immigrant petition is approved.
Considering the significant amount of money involved, the enterprise should not simply be a vehicle to obtain the green card but can also be a wise business investment.
(The author may be reached at [email protected], facebook.com/tancincolaw, www.tancinco.com or at  721-1963.)
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.