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Investment Immigration

Houston Investor Visa Lawyer

Investors and entrepreneurs seeking entry into the United States, whether long-term or short-term, face unique challenges in the immigration process. The process is complicated, involving tremendous time commitment, especially if you are not familiar with the process. Further, without experience, you risk making errors that could lead to the denial of your visa request. Make sure you work with an experienced team of lawyers to help you through the process.

At Herrera Law Firm we love helping investors get their business ideas working in the United States. The US regulatory scheme for investors makes sense in facilitating investment in the United States and creating jobs.

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The Investment Scenario
Most investors start with an immigration attorney as they want to start a business or purchase an existing business in the United States. Investors recognize that running a business involves work, and any kind of work in the United States requires a visa.

Preliminary Steps: Does the Investor Need a Visa?
An investor will usually need to come to the United States to either investigate potential businesses to purchase, or to review conditions firsthand for starting the business. Investors from other countries could utilize the Visa Waiver Program or the B-1 business visa. Both these programs specifically allow visiting the United States for the purpose of negotiating contracts and reviewing business opportunities. We would normally recommend the B-1 business visa as the better option because it allows for change of status, which will be explained later.

What Is the Appropriate Investment Visa?
Once an investor has reviewed the opportunities for investing, we can give you advice on the appropriate visa. For investments of $500,000 or less, the only appropriate visa is the E-2 visa, provided that the investor is from a treaty country. For those who would like to invest more capital, or for investors from non-treaty countries, the the main alternative is the EB-5 Green Card program.

E-2 Investor Status or E-2 Investor Visa
When the E-2 investor has negotiated all the details and is in the position to sign a contract, an immigration attorney is now essential. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State (DOS) both have regulations that govern the required terms for your contract to be successful in the investor status category or visa process. There are two ways to file for an investor visa. Firstly, an investor can file for an investor visa with the US consulate in his home country. On the other hand, if the investor is in the United States on the visa, he or she can apply for an adjustment of status to an E-2 investor status.

Stages of the Process for Investment Visa
Filing for an adjustment of status is often a good idea if the investment is close to the USCIS or DOS minimums for investments. In principle, the standard for evaluating investor status or an investor visa is the same. In practice, it frequently appears that the USCIS is more willing to give an investor a chance than the DOS. It is frequently a deliberately better choice to obtain an E-2 investor status, and build up the business for a half year to a year. With the business working well, we can then re-apply the submission to the USCIS or the DOS with the updated financials. In this way, the investor can have the benefit of the investor visa and the ability to travel.

E-2 Investor Status: Functional Lawful Permanent Residency
Accomplished this way, an E-2 investor status can be practically equal to being a lawful permanent resident. As long as the E-2 investor owns the business and operates it profitably, and has US employees, the USCIS or DOS will renew the investor status or investor visa. The investor’s spouse may also receive work authorization from the USCIS, and their children may attend schools in the United States as well.

True Lawful Permanent Residency through Investment
Congress designed the EB-5 investment visa program to provide an immigrant visa for the investor and their family in reward for making a significant investment in the United States that provides full-time employment to US workers. The program has two tiers. Investors making investments in areas where the US unemployment rate is high are offered an incentive of a lower investment threshold, presently $500,000. Otherwise, the investor must make an investment of $1 million. In both cases, the investment must result in the creation of 10 full-time jobs for a period of two years for US workers.

Regional Center EB-5 Investment
While it is possible to obtain an EB-5 investment visa through direct investment, such as purchasing or creating a business that meets the employment goals, the vast majority of investors choose to make investments through regional centers. USCIS approves regional centers to develop projects that meet EB-5 job creation requirements in areas of high unemployment. A regional center can package the EB-5 investor’s capital with other EB-5 investors to finance larger projects, such as commercial real estate development of a hotel or office building.

There are more than 800 companies that have filed with the USCIS for regional center designation. Some companies have national projects, while other companies restrict their projects to a single state.

Evaluating Regional Center EB-5 Investments
As an immigration law firm, we find the following questions helpful in assessing a regional center investment in terms of its ability to deliver an EB-5 Green Card to the investor. These questions include:

  • What number of USCIS approvals of the initial EB-5 petition has a regional center investment received?
  • After two years, does the USCIS agree with the regional center that it created the necessary jobs through the removal of conditions process?
  • Has a regional center returned any investment funds to the investor after the investor received their Green Card?

Division of Labor in the EB-5 Investment Visa Application
Understanding this perspective provides a simple division of labor in helping the EB-5 investor that is interested in qualifying through regional center investments. We can provide you with a definitive shortlist of regional centers that have successful immigration track records. The investor can then use their sophisticated financial skills to analyze the proposed investments in a regional center. Once the investor has identified the most promising investment from the shortlist, we guide the investor through the EB-5 immigrant visa process to its successful conclusion. After its approval, we can then help you with consular processing or adjustment of status.