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What is the EB-5 Investor Visa and How Does it Work?

Specifically, EB-5 program authorizes the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to grant up to 10,000 immigrant visas each year to foreign nationals who wish to establish a permanent residence in the U.S.

Interested parties are required to invest at least $1,000,000 in an American startup or existing business anywhere in the country, and create 10 jobs by way of their financing.

However, the USCIS now accepts investments of at least $500,000, provided that the targeted business lies in an area in which the unemployment rate exceeds the national average by at least 150 percent, or has been approved as an EB-5 regional center.

Companies can apply to become certified as an EB-5 regional center, a group of which can collectively issue up to 3,000 visas each year and match foreign investors with American startups.

Over the past year, the number of enterprises certified as EB-5 visa program regional centers, has grown from about 20 to 82, according to the USCIS.

Ron Drinkard, director of the Alabama Center for Foreign Investment told NPR, “To qualify [for investment], a company needs to show loss of a minimum of 20 percent of its net worth in the past 12 to 24 months.”

He added, “There’s virtually not a company out there that couldn’t show that right now.”

The popularity of the EB-5 investment opportunities has not been limited to regional centers.

According to the State Department, the number of approved EB-5 visas in all investment areas has nearly tripled between fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

In exchange for their investment, foreign nationals may become permanent U.S. residents within 5 years of their initial application.

Brian and Jane Thompson, a couple from Essex, England recently became interested in the EB-5 visa program after targeting Florida as an ideal retirement spot, noting its low real estate costs, the Daily Mail reports.

After investing in a Seattle-based real estate company, Brian told the news source, “I feel as confident as you can.”

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