Several countries have developed immigrant investor programs, which offer permanent residency visas to qualified investors. The most prominent countries that have developed such programs are Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The U.S. immigrant investor program provides for the issuance of “conditional” or temporary (two year) resident status to qualifying investors and their families who invest a minimum of $1 million ($500,000 in designated target areas) in businesses that create at least ten full-time permanent jobs for U.S. workers. Provided that the investment is maintained and achieves the job requirements of the Program, “unconditional” or permanent residency will be issued after two years.
The U.S. immigrant investor program, which grants an EB-5 investor visa, was introduced in 1990 pursuant to the Immigration Act of 1990 and attracted a relatively small number of immigrants. In 1993, the U.S. government modified its 1990 immigrant investor program. It retained the 1990 regulations, but established a Pilot Program under which “regional centers” designated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), now the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), could be established.
In a regional center, the job creation requirements are more flexible and “passive” investment opportunities (via limited partnerships) for a substantial number of potential pooled immigrant investors are created. Regional centers have been allotted 5,000 of the total 10,000 EB-5 visas available through the U.S. immigrant investor program on an annual basis.