Last Updated on March 1, 2013
Individual investors may choose among four U.S. immigration categories
L-1A International Managers
- Manager or executive works for foreign company that is related to a US company by 50% or more common ownership. The manager must have worked for the foreign company for one of the past three years and must be coming to the US company to work in a managerial or executive capacity.
E-1 Treaty Traders
- Manager or executive from a treaty country controls substantial trade between the US and the treaty country. Substantial as a general rule means $500,000 or more a year of trade.
E-2 Treaty Investors
- Owner or Developer of the new enterprise from a treaty country (see list of treaty countries) has 50% or more ownership in a substantial US employment creating investment. As a general rule substantial means $200,000 or more. Although smaller investments are often approved the risk of denial increases as one heads south of $200,000.
Eb(5) Immigrant Investors.
- Individual invests $500,000 in a high unemployment area (150% of national unemployment rate) or $1,000,000 elsewhere and hires 10 persons within 2 years, or invests in a Regional Center and may use job multiplier studies instead of direct employment. Because this category has been controversial INS processing times are slow and unpredictable.
None of the investor categories have language, education or business experience requirements.
The Investor Decision Tree
1. You own or control a business in your home country and want to establish a branch office, affiliated company or subsidiary in the USA.
- Use the L1A visa. INS grants 1 year to start up the US business with a total extension periods of seven years. The biggest advantage of the L1A visa is that it can be easily converted to a green card after doing business in the U.S. for one year.
2. You own or control a business in your home country that already own a U.S. branch office, affiliated company or subsidiary company.
- You can apply for a green card as a managerial transfer from abroad without coming to the US, you can come to the US as an L1A (above), or you can come to the US as E1 or E2 if you are from a treaty company. In all cases you may apply for a green card as long as you qualify as an international manager (serving one of past three years as manager or executive of the foreign company).
3. You want to establish a US business that is not connected with an overseas company.
- If you are a citizen of a treaty country you can use E1 if the US business is based on trade or in all other cases use E2. If you do not also qualify as a managerial transfer you will probably never qualify for a green card unless you invest $500,000 or $1,000,000 per the Eb5 category. If you want to know why, you need to contact us. Otherwise take our word for it. Its too complicated to describe in summary form.
Now you need to know the basic differences between the E visas and green cards.
The green card lasts forever, and permits one to work, invest, study or do none of the above with complete freedom. Green card holders are subject to US world wide taxation and must make the US their permanent residence. Green card holder dependents also receive green cards valid for the rest of their lives.
E visa holders may only work for themselves or the E visa enterprise. E visas may be extended as long as the E visa enterprise is operating. E visas are generally issued in five year increments. E visa dependent children loose their E visa status when they turn 21 years of age. At that time they need to find another status. E visa holders and dependents may study in the US. E visa holders do not have to live in the US any particular amount of time and may arrange their affairs so they are not subject to world wide taxation.
Those wishing to retire in America, live in America say six months a year and have no kids under 21 years of age, should consider an E visa investment. In this case the E visa is more flexible both for tax purposes and there’s no requirement to come to the US for at least one time every six months. The US does not have a retirement visa category. The E visa is as close as it gets.
Families with young children need to consider the fate of their children once they turn 21. In this case green cards are the better alternative. If a green card is not possible, then consider that children can go to university on F1 visas, upon graduation qualify for H1B visas and at some point they will get married, more than likely to a US citizen. If you don’t qualify for a green card and don’t want to expose your children to the added immigration pressure of having “ify” status then stay home or invest under Eb5 below.
If all else fails consider EB-5.
EB5 has been controversial. If you check around you will here a variety of horror stories. Here’s the truth according to us. First, your are only considering this because you don’t qualify for another visa category and you want a green card. If you invest in a pooled immigrant investor fund, INS will deny your file. Its that simple. If you as an individual invest the required capital amount in a job producing enterprise INS should, after a long processing period approve your case if you have a detailed business plan, a verifiable source of funds, and if you add some value to the business either through your experience/education or as an owner operator. Because of the uncertain processing times, we suggest that you apply for an E visa first, then apply for the EB5.