Investment is one of the most prestigious avenues for foreign nationals to achieve both lawful resident status and financial opportunities in the United States, specifically, real estate investment. In 2016 alone, foreign nationals bought more than 214,885 U.S. properties spending a total of $102.6 billion.
This is mostly achieved through the EB-5 immigrant investor program, which enables foreign nationals to acquire a U.S. green card by investing a minimum of $500,000 or $1 million in a U.S. enterprise. For foreign nationals seeking a U.S. green card through real estate investment, here is a complete guide.
How Does Getting A Green Card Through Real Estate Investment Work?
The foreign investor track has two major programs, namely the Basic Program and the Regional Center Pilot Program. The basic program means you will play an active role in the day-to-day operations of your investment. Regional centers are USCIS-approved organizations where you can invest your capital as a partner and a partial owner. To qualify for either of these two types, you will need an EB-5 investment amount of $1 million in a U.S. business enterprise or $500,000 if the business is located in a Targeted Designated Area (TEA). Your investment must create at least 10 U.S. jobs.
Getting your green card through real estate investment using the EB-5 program can be done in two ways:
1. Invest In a Real Estate-Focused EB-5 Regional Center
Many approved EB-5 Regional Centers deal with real estate and are always keen to have foreign investors on board. The handlers of the programs will do all the groundwork such as reviewing proposed land for construction, land entitlement, development documentation and overseeing the building process.
Some of the lucrative properties these centers invest in include resort hotel developments, student housing, restaurants, office components, senior living home facilities, and shopping centers.
As a foreign investor, if you choose this EB-5 route, you would be granted partial ownership of the project having the opportunity to participate in the cash flow and profit sharing of the business.
2. Buy A U.S. Property to Start Your EB-5 Enterprise
If you would like to play an active role in running your EB-5 investment, another way you can get a green card through real estate investment is to own the real estate on which your business operates. Since the requirement of the creation of 10 full-time employment for U.S. workers must be met, your best bet will be to buy a building to start a new enterprise or invest in an existing business.
This can help you fulfill two requirements at once as you can use the bulk of the investment amount for the purchase of the building and use the remaining part of the money to meet all other new commercial enterprise requirements of EB-5 program including employing the specified number of employees.
To save a substantial amount on their EB-5 investment, foreign investors sometimes buy distressed properties, which can be purchased at a low acquisition cost to start their new commercial enterprise. So long you invest the minimum amount and adhere to the USCIS requirements of the program in the usage of the property, this may be a viable option. However, you should speak with your EB-5 attorney before doing so.
Unique Benefits of Real Estate Investment for Foreign Immigrants
You stand to benefit significantly if you choose this part towards acquiring your permanent resident status in the U.S. The following are some of the advantages you stand to enjoy:
Green Card for You and Your Family
For most foreign nationals, the central attraction of the EB-5 program is the acquisition of the U.S. green card. Once you have directly or indirectly invested $500,000 or $1 million in real estate for a business enterprise and you have fulfilled every other EB-5 requirement, you will be able to apply for your green card. Also, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 will also have the opportunity to become lawful U.S. permanent residents.
Apart from achieving your dream of becoming a permanent resident, another benefit of a green card through real estate investment is the return on investment from your EB-5 enterprise. If your investment is made in real estate regional centers, you stand a good chance of increasing your net worth through the annual payments received as a partial owner.
In the same vein, if you choose a new enterprise approach, the property you buy will likely appreciate in value over time just as the business you operate on it also yields profits.
Affordable Education for Your Children
Being a green card holder in the U.S. will give your children the opportunity to receive a quality education in the country. As lawful permanent residents, your children are considered to be eligible noncitizens with access to the U.S. federal and state government financial aids, loans, and grants. This will afford them the ability to achieve their academic goals in a very supportive environment.
If your goals include acquiring the United States citizenship, getting a green card through real estate investment is a great place to start. After your investment in real estate, and having proven to be a law-abiding permanent resident for at least five years after the issuance of your green card, you and your family will qualify to become citizens.
All you need to do is file an N400, Application for Naturalization and participate in the interview and civics test. However, if you are not interested in becoming a U.S. citizen, you can continue to maintain your permanent resident status for as long as you want by simply renewing your green card whenever it is about to expire.
How Lucrative is Real Estate Investment in the U.S.?
Real estate in the U.S. is one of the most consistent ways of building wealth as there are various ways through which you can generate income from it. Whether you choose direct or indirect investment in real estate, the U.S. market can snowball the value of a single property into the purchase of more buildings that could lead to a reliable business unit, financial freedom, and a fulfilled retirement.
For example, if the property is used as a commercial rental property, you will be generating regular cash flow as leftover after you have made your investment amount from the rent collected. Also, a U.S. property has the potential of appreciating for as high as 20%, especially when there is a boom in the market.
How Do I Process My Green Card Through Real Estate Investment?
The EB-5 investor green card process involves many stages which must be duly followed before you can become a green card holder, and the success of one step will lead to another. Prospective investors are usually advised to follow these guidelines:
- Consult An Immigration Attorney: Before you begin the process, book a consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer. The lawyer will guide you from the beginning to the end of your application process and help you in choosing the right real estate business that best fits your needs and situation. You will work with your attorney to complete the rest of the application steps, which are:
- Finding an EB-5 approved real estate project to invest in;
- Formulating your business plan, which must comprehensively reflect EB-5 investor program requirements;
- Preparing supporting documents;
- Investing capital of $500,000 or $1 million in the project; and
- Filing the I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur
If your I-526 petition is approved, you will be issued a conditional permanent card which will be valid for two years. You are expected to have invested the capital and generate 10 new U.S. jobs within the two years. After that period, you will be eligible to file an I-829 to remove conditions on your status and receive an unconditional green card which is valid for ten years at a time.
Filing Fees for Green Card Through Real Estate Investment
The processing fee for a green card through real estate investment varies depending on the type of you choose to invest in, and your location.
However, the following are some of the costs you should prepare to cover:
- $500,000 or $1 million initial investment amount
- $3,675 for the I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur
- $1,140 for the I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence
- $85 for the USCIS biometric fee
- $3,750 for the I-829, Petition to Remove Condition: This is not part of the initial process, but will be done after the expiration of your conditional green card two years after issuance. It is the process that will lead to the issuance of unconditional permanent resident status, which is renewable after ten years.
- Administrative Fee of $30,000 to $60,000 if you are investing in a regional center.
- Immigration Attorney Fee: You will also need to factor this in when calculating your real estate investment costs. There aren’t any fixed fees for this, as the cost for attorneys varies from firm to firm.
Potential Increase in the Amount for Real Estate Investor Program
In 2017, there was an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that sought changes to the investor program. The rulemaking focused on the request for public comments in 2018, and there is sentiment that the Department of State is working on its actualization. Among other things, it sought an increase in the investment amount from $500,000 to $1,350,000 in a TEA and from $1,000,000 to $1,800,000 for a non-TEA business.
The discussions subsided after President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriation Act in February to allow the continuation of the program and its existing rules for another seven months (March to September).
However, many EB-5 stakeholders have advised that it is essential for prospective investors to get their green cards now because the implementation of the new rule might happen by the end of this current extension.
How Our Immigration Attorney Can Help
At Immi-USA, we will help you acquire your green card through real estate investment, and also ensure your capital is rightly invested for high profitability. We have a team of immigration attorneys who have helped many foreign investors acquire their green cards. You can schedule an appointment with us by simply filling out this consultation form.