The U.S. Congress created the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program in 1990 to attract foreign investment capital to the U.S. to bolster the creation of domestic jobs. In order to entice investors, they are granted conditional permanent residency status (generally known as Green Cards), which become unconditional if the required ten domestic jobs are created and maintained through the conditional residency period.
Other key requirements of the EB-5 Program are that the business is located in a ‘Targeted Employment Area’ (defined as a locality with more than 150% of the national unemployment rate); and that the invested equity capital is ‘at-risk’ prior to the removal of the immigration conditions (when the I-829 is positively adjudicated).
Early on in the program, many investment projects had difficulty in meeting the direct job creation requirement. In response, Congress instituted the Regional Center program in 1992, which allowed an investment sponsor to become qualified as a Regional Center. The main benefit of this qualification was that Regional Center sponsored projects could count indirectly created jobs as well as direct.
Stand-Alone projects are generally superior compared to Regional Center sponsored projects in several material aspects. Firstly, the processing time for EB-5 applications can be substantially shorter as stand alone projects are given priority status in processing.
U.S. Citizenship and
As of December, 2014, USCIS processing time for all EB-5 petitions is 14.8 months, with most legal practitioners reporting Regional Center based petitions taking well over a year, compared to 4-8 months for Stand-Alone (direct) projects. The delay for Regional Center based applicants may grow as the USCIS has forecast continued growth in the number of applications coming from Regional Center based projects.
Secondly, Sponsors of Stand-Alone projects also avoid the lengthy and expensive regional center approval process. The direct benefit to EB-5 investors is that Stand-Alone project sponsors can pass along the savings in the form of higher investor returns. For example, typical regional center investor returns can be as low as 1%, where compared to direct investments, which are often much higher