Investing in America: A Brief Introduction to Investment Visa Options

Like many countries, the United States has a special category of visa available to foreign investors who want to invest in American businesses in exchange for conditional or permanent residency. Investment visa requirements vary from one type to the next, but they enable qualifying foreign nationals to contribute to the U.S. economy and become future citizens.

EB-5 Investment Visa

This particular visa is called EB-5 after the name of the employment-based fifth preference visa issued to participants. The EB-5 visa is available to:

  • Foreign investors who invest one million dollars or more in a new commercial business in the United States. (If the investment is made in a targeted employment area -rural or high unemployment area – the minimum is $500,000.)
  • Their spouses and unmarried children under 21

The enterprise they support must also create 10 full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. In this instance, ‘qualified’ means an American citizen, legal permanent resident or other immigrant legally authorized to work in the U.S. If they purchase an existing company and expand it, they must increase either the number of qualified workers or the net worth of the enterprise by at least 40%.

EB-5 visa holders are eventually able to apply for a green card and citizenship. Green cards for investors, however, are limited to 10,000 a year, and quantities are also limited by country.

E-2 Investment Visa

The E-2 Treaty Investors visa is intended for foreign investors who are also citizens of a country that has a treaty of navigation and commerce with the United States. E-2 applicants must buy or start an active commercial enterprise. In other words, the business offers a tangible product or service and is not passive or speculative in scope. The regulations do not specify the required investment amount, although the general rule of thumb is $100,000 or more. The applicant must also own at least 50% of their U.S.-based business.

Unlike the EB-5, the E-2 visa must be renewed every two years, with no limit on renewals. Once the business venture the person has invested in is complete, they must change their status if they want to remain in the country, as an E-2 does not lead directly to a green card and citizenship.

E-1 Treaty Trader Visa

Investors who are citizens of certain E-1 treaty trader countries may apply for this visa, provided their business engages in significant levels of international trade with the United States and at least 50% of the company is owned by citizens of the treaty country. Trade volumes must be enough to provide employment in United States and at least 50% of the investor’s imports and exports must be from or to American businesses.

Like E-2s, E-1 visas may be renewed an unlimited number of times in two-year increments, enabling the visa holder to remain in the country for an extended period to ensure the continued success of the business.

L1 and L2 Visas

Also known as the intracompany transfer visa, the L1 is a temporary visa that enables foreign companies with U.S. offices to transfer certain types of qualified employees to their U.S. locations. Its original purpose was to transfer national executives or managers with expert or specialized knowledge, but now smaller businesses use it to expand their operations into the United States.

  • L1A visa:  intended for executives and managers coming to work at an American branch or open a new one. These visas are issued for three years for an existing business and one year for a start-up.
  • L1B visa: intended for employees with expert knowledge and skills. Like the L1A, how long it is valid for depends on whether the business is established or a start-up.

The L2 visa is a issued to dependents of L1 visa holders, namely spouses and children under the age of 21.

If you are a foreign investor interested in opening or investing in a U.S. business, call Rotella & Hernandez today at (786) 571-8472 for our Miami office, or (561) 571-0872 for our West Palm Beach office. We have helped many of our clients receive the investment visas they need to do business here and eventually contribute to the economy as lawful permanent residents.

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