Under a federal government program administered by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services that is becoming more and more popular, wealthy individual foreign nationals that have financial means and an interest in making business investments in the U.S. can obtain permanent resident status over time through what is known as the EB-5 program. Harris County, in which Houston is located, has been designated as one of 42 counties in the U.S. authorized to offer this program. Except for a small area east of Downtown Houston where there is high unemployment and a lower investment requirement, a minimum capital investment of $1,000,000 in a “new commercial enterprise” that will create 10 full-time American jobs within two years is required. The investor need not be involved in the day to day operations of the enterprise but must be engaged in its general management. If one is able to meet these conditions, he is able to obtain conditional residence status and receive a “green card” valid for that period. If, at the end of that period, the investor is able to prove that $1,000,000 has actually been invested in the concern and 10 jobs have been created, or maintained if they were to be otherwise lost, he or she becomes eligible for permanent resident status. Additional conditions are that the legal structure of the enterprise must comply with EB-5 regulations and the investor must prove that the funds invested were derived from legal activities.

The services of a qualified U.S. immigration attorney are required to assist in devising the proper legal structure. The IMD can provide contacts to several reputable lawyers for this purpose. One of the difficulties some investors have is proving that their investments have been made in “new commercial enterprises”. A “new commercial enterprise” can be created in one of three ways, as follows:

  • Establishing a brand new business.
  • Acquiring an existing business and undertaking significant restructuring or reorganization.
  • Expanding an existing business. This option requires the investor to prove not only the creation of 10 new jobs over two years but also an increase in net worth or the total number of employees of the business by at least 40%.

One attractive aspect of the EB-5 Program is that not only does it provide a path to permanent resident status to foreign nationals that wish to relocate to, or maintain a second residence in, the U.S. but also an opportunity to enhance personal incomes and earn fair returns on their investments. This appeals to wealthy individuals who may wish to achieve geographic diversity in their investment portfolios to lessen the risks that may be associated with total or primary dependence on future economic and political conditions in their current countries of residence.