Navigating the Path to US Residency: Investment Visas Explained


Did you know that it’s possible for foreign investors to become US residents? Through certain capital investments, you may be able to qualify for an investment visa, also known as a ‘golden visa’. This kind of exchange was initially set up to foster job creation and capital investment in the US, to boost the economy. But it’s also become a way for foreign investors and their families to secure permanent residency in the country. 

There are two main ways to do this; through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, or the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. However, choosing the right option depends on your long-term goals, investment capabilities, and the specific requirements for each visa. 

Below, we’ll help you navigate the path to US residency through investment visas. 


Understanding Investment Visas

An investment visa allows you and your family to live, work and study in the US. Each year, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers 10,000 of these visas to qualifying applicants.

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program

An EB-5 visa is aimed at investors looking for permanent residency. It is a way of getting a green card, in exchange for a significant capital investment in US businesses. The investment must also provide full-time jobs for US workers within two years of your admission into the country as a Conditional Permanent Resident.

E-2 Treaty Investor Visa

These investment visas don’t lead directly to residency, and are better suited for someone who has a short-term goal of working in the US. They allow members of countries with which the US has treaties in place to live in the US while operating a business in which they’ve made a large investment. The E-2 visa can be renewed indefinitely, as long as your business continues to function and meet the requirements. 

In addition to the two options above, there are other ways to apply for a green card.

Inter-Corporate Transferee EB-1C

This is an immigrant visa that allows a foreign company to transfer a member of staff to a related US company. To qualify, you must have a US employer and work in an executive or managerial role. You also need to have been employed outside the US for at least one full year. If approved for this visa, you can get a US green card for yourself, your spouse, and unmarried children under 21 years old.

E-1 Treaty Trader Visa 

These investment visas apply to citizens of countries that have commerce treaties with the US. To qualify, you must be coming to the US to conduct trade between the US and your own country. Your spouse can also apply for authorization to work in the US at the same time. With this visa, you can apply for a green card by marrying a US citizen, or by getting a US employer to sponsor an employment-based visa.


Deep Dive into the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program

The Immigrant Investor Program was started by Congress in 1990. It requires that you invest in a new commercial enterprise associated with government-approved regional centers. Your enterprise must also promote economic growth.

To qualify, you’ll need a net worth above $1 million from legal sources, without borrowing any money. Then, you must meet one of three investment options:

  • Investing $800,000 into a targeted employment area (TEA) project. A TEA is designated for economic enhancement by the US government. They are generally rural areas or those with high unemployment rates. 
  • Investing $1,050,000 into a non-targeted employment area project.
  • Create or maintain ten permanent full-time jobs for qualified US workers. These can be classified as direct, indirect and induced jobs. Direct jobs are part of your company’s workforce, while indirect and induced jobs are created through the economic benefits of your chosen project. Note that if you employ family members, they cannot be counted towards this requirement. 

Where to invest 

There are two options for the above investment visas. Direct investment requires you to fully own your commercial enterprise, or share ownership. You need to be involved in the management, decision-making, and day-to-day operations of the business. If you invest directly, you can only count direct jobs towards your job-creation requirements.

Alternatively, you can use the regional center pathway. Here, you invest towards a project designated by the USCIS, along with multiple other investors. This means you’ll have a limited role in daily management. However, unlike direct investment, regional center investors can include direct, indirect, and induced jobs to fulfill their visa requirements.


If your application is approved, you’ll receive a conditional green card for two years. Thereafter, you can complete Form I-829 for a full legal residency, once you can prove to US immigration authorities that you have created and maintained the ten jobs mentioned above. Also, your funds must stay invested in your chosen project for at least three years, although some projects require an investment of up to seven years.


Benefits of the EB-5 

There are many benefits to using an EB-5 visa to get your green card. One of them is that it has minimal application requirements, and you don’t need any specific business experience or language proficiency. It also means that once your project is completed, you’re entitled to the return of your investment funds.

With this visa, you and your family are allowed to enter the US healthcare and education systems. It allows for flexible physical presence requirements, and the possibility to apply for US citizenship after legally living in the country for five years. As a bonus, the two-year conditional residency duration counts towards this five-year requirement. 


Overview of The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa

Required investments for an E-2 visa, while still substantial, are lower than those for an EB-5. The application process is also faster. To apply, you can be both the sponsor of the visa, as well as the employee. Additionally, you can explore visa sponsorship vacancies in US for employment opportunities that might support your visa application. The chief criterion for these visas is your nationality. You cannot apply unless you are from a country with an E-2 treaty with the US. 

For this visa, you need to invest in a US business. Unlike the EB-5 visa, there is no minimum investment amount. But this does still need to be a high enough amount to buy or start up a business. You also have to indicate a genuine commitment to the business’ success, through successful development and management. Also, you must be an English speaker, with a degree and five years’ experience in your field of expertise. 

The larger your investment, the easier it is to prove your commitment. These funds can come from various sources, like your savings, or gifts, inheritances, contest winnings, and loans. However, you need to prove that you have full control of this money. 

Once you have the visa, it’s possible to apply for an EB-2 green card with an I-140 petition. 

How these programs compare 

The table below summarizes the main differences between these two investment visas: 

 EB-5 visaE-2 visa
Minimum investment amount$1,050,000 for non-TEA investors, and $800,000 for TEA investorsNo fixed minimum (although the USCIS recommends at least $100,000)
AvailabilityAvailable to foreign nationals from any countryAvailable to citizens of E-2 treaty countries
Suitability Ideal for foreign investors who want to eventually become US residentsSuited for foreign investors who want to work in the US


The Application Process

Before applying for one of the above-mentioned visas, it’s important to consider which one best suits your needs, and that you meet the minimum eligibility requirements for both. 

If in doubt, it’s best to consult with finance and legal professionals. 


The first step in applying for this investment visa is to file a petition on Form I-526 with the USCIS. If this is approved, it will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). Then, you will have to pay the necessary visa fee, and submit your visa application (Form DS-260) and passport, before an interview is scheduled. 

If you’re living in the US when you file the petition, you can apply for an Adjustment of Status, to become a conditional permanent resident, through Form I-485. Otherwise, you’ll undergo Consular Processing, and apply for an immigrant visa at your US consulate. When that is approved, you can enter the country as a conditional permanent resident.

Once you’ve been a conditional permanent resident for two years, and have met all the requirements of the EB-5 program, you can fill out Form I-829 (Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions) to become a lawful permanent resident. Thereafter, you have ten years to renew your green card.


Challenges and Common Pitfalls

One of the most significant challenges to applying for an EB-5 or E-2 visa is that there are a limited number of these granted each year. Once the USCIS has approved 10,000 visas, any other names on the waiting list must wait until the next year for their application to be reviewed. 

There are also many scams surrounding the process. These visas are not a way to ‘buy’ a US visa and residency – you must be able to provide evidence with your application, and all claims made. If you apply, you’ll be subjected to very strict background checks to ensure everything is in order and that you do not pose a security risk to the US. 

Immigration laws also play a large part in these applications – especially with regard to the treaties for E-2 visas. Ensure that you do your due diligence, and if in doubt, consult with an immigration lawyer. 

Most importantly, you need to be able to prove that you have met all the requirements of the visa – including job creation. Not meeting these requirements will mean that your visa will be ineligible.

Financial risks

Both visa types require a large financial investment, which naturally comes with many risks. For example, your investment may not perform as expected, resulting in significant losses. When applying for an E-2 visa, you need to have proof of investment before you submit your application, even if your petition is unsuccessful. Finally, you must familiarize yourself with the tax implications of US investments

For help with US investments and their tax implications, schedule a Discovery Call with one of our CPAs. 

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