Visas for Investors
Foreign national investors may be able to obtain either a nonimmigrant temporary investor visa or an immigrant investor visa depending on eligibility requirements.
North Carolina Attorney for Investor Visas
Goulder Immigration Law Firm assists foreign national investors with US immigration and visa solutions. We have experience assisting foreign investors with nonimmigrant investor visas and immigrant investor visas. US immigration law is federal law. This enables Goulder Immigration Law Firm to assist individuals and companies throughout the US and around the world with E-1 Treaty Trader and E-2 Treaty Investor Visas and EB-5 Investor Visa for permanent residence.
North Carolina Visa Attorney for E-1/E-2 Treaty Trader/Investor Visa
E-1 (treaty trader) and E-2 (treaty investor) visas are issued pursuant to bilateral treaties of friendship, commerce and navigation between the United States and various other countries. Most Western European countries are parties to such treaties with the U.S.
These treaties provide that a national of the treaty country may live and work in the US for an employer sharing his/her nationality in certain specified capacities. In the US, these are accomplished through the E visas.
The E visa (whether E-1 or E-2) has several unique features. First, it is the only nonimmigrant visa to permit employment in the US without the prior approval of a nonimmigrant visa petition by USCIS. As a result, the direct submission of the application package to the appropriate Consulate or Embassy speeds up the approval process considerably. Nonetheless, there are strict documentary requirements on E visa applications that can be quite rigorous.
A second advantage of the E visa is that an E visa potentially allows an indefinite duration of authorized stay in the United States. The E visa is usually issued for a period of five (5) years or less; however, there is no statutory limitation as to the number of times it may be renewed so long as the conditions of visa eligibility continue to be met.
Both the E-1 and E-2 visas require that the employing company and the transferring individual meet certain eligibility requirements. For the US company to qualify, it must be at least 50%-owned by a company which is owned by treaty country nationals or it must be at least 50% directly owned by treaty nationals who are not lawful permanent residents of the US. The foreign national to be transferred to the US must be of the same nationality as the ultimate owner(s) of the U.S. company.
For an E-1 (treaty trader) visa, the US company must document that it is engaged in “substantial trade” between the US and the treaty country. Substantial trade primarily refers to regular and frequent trade in goods or services. The trade between the U.S. and the treaty country must account for more than 50% of the US company’s trading revenues.
For the E-2 (treaty investor) visa, the foreign parent (company or individual investors) must have made a “substantial investment” in the US company. The term “substantial investment” is not defined by a minimum dollar amount. Rather, the State Department defines a substantial investment as a bona fide or real, active commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking, (other than a marginal enterprise) which produces a service or commodity. The State Department uses a proportionality test, to weigh the investment against the total value of the business or the usual amount needed for successful similar businesses and to determine whether a substantial investment has been made. Small- and medium-sized businesses should generally plan to invest at least half of the value of the business or the usual amount required to start up similar businesses.
In the case of the E-2 visa, the foreign nationals who are to come to the US must fill executive, managerial or essential skills positions. The executive and manager classifications require that the employee have broad discretionary authority over either the entire operation or a distinct division thereof. The essential skills classification requires that the employee possess special qualifications that make the services s/he will render essential to the efficient operation of the enterprise. Mere technicians rarely qualify for E visas except in start-up situations, and then for only a short period of time. Essential skills employees may have difficulty obtaining a visa for longer than a few years.
The USCIS Premium Processing Service allows businesses to request expedited adjudication on certain pending and newly filed petitions, including those for the E-1 or E-2 classification, by filing a completed Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing Service) and paying a fee of $1,225. This fee is in addition to the normal filing fee of $325 and must be paid by separate check or money order.
The USCIS premium processing services guarantees that within fifteen (15) calendar days of receipt, the employer will receive either an Approval Notice, a Notice of Intent to Deny, a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Investigation for Fraud or Misrepresentation. If USCIS fails to meet its 15-calendar-day guarantee, it will refund the $1,225 to the company but will continue to process the petition expeditiously.
Spouses and minor children of the E-1 or E-2 principal may receive E-1 or E-2 visas, and spouses are entitled to obtain separate work authorization by applying to the USCIS following arrival in the US.
Green Card through Investment
Obtaining a Green Card through Investment Permanent Residence may be gained by qualifying in the business-related Fifth Preference (EB5) immigrant visa category, often referred to as the EB-5 Investor Green Card, as an investor in an employment-creating new enterprise. This category is an excellent option for foreign investors seeking the opportunity to live and work in the U.S. permanently.
There are two EB-5 programs: (1) the Regular program; and (2) the Regional Center program.
To qualify for permanent residence under the EB-5 Regular program, the applicant must:
- invest in a new commercial enterprise;
- document investment of at least $1 million (or $500,000 in certain cases) into the business; and
- create employment for at least ten (10) full-time U.S. workers.
The investment may consist of the contribution of various forms of capital, including cash, equipment, inventory, property and other tangible equivalents. An investment amount of $1 million is generally the minimum. However, an investment of $500,000 is acceptable if the business is situated in a “targeted” employment area, that is one that has experienced unemployment of at least 150% of the national average rate, or a rural area as designated by the US Office of Management and Budget. In meeting the investment amount, an infusion of new capital (not merely a retention of profits of the enterprise) is required.
The EB-5 Regional Center program does not require the investor actively manage the investment, and allows has an “indirect employment” feature. The Regional Center program removes the ten (10) full-time workers requirement and substitutes it with a less restrictive “indirect employment creation” requirement, allowing the investor to qualify by proving a combination of ten (10) direct and/or indirect employees who are new to the Regional Center.
An investor in the Regional Center program may be a limited partner and still qualify as long as the limited partners have a policy-making role. For those who are not interested in day-to-day management or running an active business, Regional Center programs offer a more inactive form of investment than the Regular program investments with the requirement to be actively involved. Regional Center programs also have an advantage that does not require the investor live in the location of the investment. Instead, the investor can live anywhere in the U.S.
Each Regional Center program must be pre-approved by USCIS in order to be eligible as a vehicle for EB-5 lawful permanent residence.
To obtain lawful permanent residence through investment, the applicant must present evidence that traces the legally obtained funds invested through bank transfer and other acceptable documentation from the investor directly to the investment enterprise. The money can be the investor’s own funds or those obtained in the form of a loan or gift.
With either the Regular or Regional Center EB-5 program options, total processing time is approximately sixteen (16) to twenty-one (21) months. Processing time however does vary depending on case-by-case circumstances.
When EB-5 lawful permanent residence is granted, initially, only conditional residence, 2-year permanent resident status, is granted. Conditional residence expires after 2 years. A conditional resident must petition to remove the conditions on residence during the 90-day period preceding its expiration date. In this petition to remove conditions on residence the EB-5 investor must satisfy the USCIS that the investment has been made or is still in place and the employment requirement has been fulfilled or maintained.
When and if USCIS removes the conditions on residence, it grants 10-year permanent resident status.
The entire process from the initial application through removing the conditions on residence can take 3-4 years or longer. Thereafter and depending on the terms of the investment agreement, investors in Regional Center programs may sell their investment and still maintain their green cards.
Gerald Goulder is an experienced North Carolina immigration lawyer helping individuals and businesses in North Carolina and throughout the United States and around the world with investor visas, including nonimmigrant visas for treaty traders and treaty investors and EB-5 investor visas for permanent residence. US immigration law is federal law. This enables Goulder Immigration Law Firm to assist individuals and companies throughout the U.S. and around the world.
If you seek an investor visa solution for either a nonimmigrant visa or the immigrant investor visa, call immigration attorney Gerald Goulder at Goulder Immigration Law Firm (336) 808-1119 or ask him a question using this online email form: