Investing for a Green Card: EB-5 over L-1 visa?

Understanding your investment options to immigrate to the USA.

With all the political, social, and financial instability witnessed around us daily, many South Africans are considering better and safer options to live and work, as well as to raise and educate their children.

The USA remains one of the more popular options for South Africans, but a lot of people do not consider America as an immigration option because they do not think they are eligible… or they try and gain permanent residency (commonly known as a Green Card) in the USA through sometimes less convenient methods, such as the L-1 visa.

One of the ways to gain entry in the USA is through investment. There are a few options available, and many people consider using the L-1 visa to do so, but they have not yet considered the EB-5 visa.

We will briefly look at the L-1 visa method of gaining permanent residency (which is the ultimate goal of many people using this visa), compared to the EB-5 Investment Programme visa. 

The L-1 visa at a glance

The United States L-1 visa (currently on hold as part of a selective visa ban put in place by President Donald Trump as a response to COVID-19) is a non-immigrant visa which allows overseas companies to transfer employees under two types of L-1 visa schemes.  It is considered a non-immigrant visa because it is not intended to facilitate immigration as the primary objective. One can apply for a Green Card once you have obtained the L-1 visa, but it is not an automatic process, and it isn’t always simple.

There are a couple of things that one needs to consider when looking at an L1, the business outside the US would need to continue trading after the L1 visa holder has entered the US. The US business needs to maintain physical offices for the new business, which means that you are geographically tied down to a specific location. For the renewal of the L1 you would need to support that the business has achieved what was submitted in the original business plan.

Once you have passed the USCIS inspection you are free to apply for a Green Card. Remember though, the L-1 visa is granted and extended based on the business plan and ultimate success of the United States based business. Should your business not perform as anticipated, the L-1 could be denied, along with any potential path to a Green Card.

If you are not interested in having your legal residency depend on the success of your business, you should probably choose a different route, such as the EB-5 Investor Visa. With few exceptions, this is the only path to a Green Card that is direct and guaranteed, as long as you are able to make the necessary investment and meet certain basic requirements.

EB-5 is an easier way for you and your family to get a Green Card.

Obtaining US residency with an EB-5 visa offers numerous benefits ranging from educational benefits to healthcare, innovation, and business advantages.  An EB-5 investment is a direct route to a Green Card for permanent residency in the US whereby investors can sponsor a spouse and unmarried children (under the age of 21). As a Green Card holder, your children will be able to take advantage of in-state tuition rates, grants, and scholarships. Another advantage of this visa is that you can live anywhere in the United States, regardless of where the investment is made. There is no requirement to actively manage your investment daily, giving the investor the freedom to explore other business interests.

It also offers economic and political security, making it an ideal programme for those with financial means who desire permanent residency in the US.

Comparing apples with apples

If you intend to immigrate to the USA to get your Green Card,  then you have the option to use the L1 visa which is designed to be a dual intent visa, or you jump all the hurdles & uncertainty & invest directly through an EB-5 which is your fast track to a Green Card

Leading Immigration Attorney, Leon Versfeld from the US Immigration Law Firm of  Versfeld & Hugo, LLC, holds the following opinion:

“In our initial complimentary consultations, we try to ascertain the client’s ultimate objective.  More often than not, clients want to permanently immigrate to the United States.  Non-immigrant visas like the L1 visa is temporary in nature and has an expiration (1 year or 3 years).  There is an assumption that an extension of a previously approved visa is just a rubber-stamp process.  To the contrary, each application is reviewed de novo.  This uncertainty on the renewal of a non-immigrant visa creates a lot of anxiety when you have moved over to the US permanently.  We have successfully represented a lot of South Africans in both L1 visas and EB5.  And if you are in a position and can afford to do the EB5 investment green card, it is by far the best immigration option to create a great degree of certainty to permanently immigrate to the US.  “

American Dream led the way in introducing the EB-5 Programme in South Africa. We also distinguish ourselves by having a full-time presence in South Africa. This means we support our South African clients with a capable team of legal and financial experts, who will assist investors through every aspect of their emigration journey. The EB-5 programme does have a worldwide quota system in place, but South Africa does not yet utilise our portion of the quota, so a successful South African applicant will not be subject to any waiting period.  If you want more information on how you can live, work, and retire in the US, please contact one of our agents today.

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