Going from founding a startup to getting a green card so that you can live and work permanently in the US is a surprisingly logical and straightforward process.
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That said, there are hurdles to overcome along the way, so let’s talk you through how to go about this and what pitfalls to avoid as well.
Getting to grips with the EB5 program
The main thing to know about if you want a green card is the EB5 visa scheme, which was set up over three decades ago by the American government to encourage investors from other parts of the world to put their money into startups based in the US.
So long as you are establishing a new commercial enterprise, and crucially one which is run for profit, then you could be eligible for a green card as part of this program.
Meeting the requirements
When it comes to investing in order to acquire an EB5 visa, there are two tiers to consider before going any further.
First, there’s the $1 million minimum investment which applies if you just want to launch a startup without worrying about where in the country it’s based.
Second, there’s the $500,000 minimum which applies if you invest your capital in a targeted economic area (TEA). This lower starting amount is one of the advantages of TEAs for EB5 investments, since you don’t need quite as much cash on hand to get started.
A TEA can be a rural region, or an urban area where there are higher levels of unemployment, and thus is a place where the economic stimulus provided by overseas investment is the most needed.
Exploring staffing options
The next element of getting a green card with an EB5 investment which needs to be discussed is that of employment requirements.
Your startup has to offer a minimum number of jobs for US residents to take up, and again this number varies based on whether or not the business is located in a TEA.
For companies outside of TEAs, there’s a 10 employee baseline that you have to hit to be approved. For those founded in TEAs, this falls to 5.
There is some flexibility in terms of how these roles are calculated, so it’s worth reading the small print and consulting experts in order to ensure that you’ve ticked all the boxes and taken everything into account.
Understanding the risks
As you’d expect, the EB5 program hasn’t been put together in a way that allows for any form of exploitation by unscrupulous investors. So you can’t just invest your cash in a startup for a short time, then pull it out and still expect to hold onto your green card.
Your capital has to be at risk for at least two years, which means you’ll be responsible for keeping the startup afloat for this minimum period before you can even think about selling up.
You’ll also have to prove that the cash you’re investing came from a legitimate source in the first place, as obviously the US government doesn’t want the EB5 program to be used for money laundering or tax evasion.
Doing your research
Given that it’s necessary for your startup to succeed, at least in the first couple of years, you don’t want to be too enthusiastic about launching it stateside, without first carrying out market research and investigating how best to plan for your new business to thrive.
For example, even if it’s superficially attractive to invest in a TEA and reap the benefits of the reduced investment requirements, it might be wiser to pick a different location if doing so will give your business a better chance of survival.
Getting your green card by investing in a startup is a route to permanent US residence which a lot of people take. And if your business leadership has put you in the position where you’ve got sufficient capital to invest, then there’s every reason to expect you’ll do just as well with an American enterprise.
That said, you should trust others who know the ins and outs of the EB5 program to advise you, rather than trying to navigate it on your own.