The Immigration Act of 1990 provided that up to 7.1% of the worldwide
level of visas, or approximately 10,000 visas would be granted to investors.
In order to qualify, a person must invest a minimum of $1 million in
a new commercial enterprise which employs at least 10 U.S. workers (exclusive
of the immigrant, his spouse and his sons and daughters). However, if
the investment is made in either a rural area or in an area experiencing
high unemployment (at least 150% of the national average), the minimum
amount required for the investment may be as small as $500,000. However,
no more than 3,000 investor visas may be granted annually to persons
investing in these "targeted employment areas."
Due to the small number of applications received from persons seeking
green cards through investment, the INS has issued regulations making
it substantially easier for investors to qualify for permanent residence
that a literal reading of the law would suggest.
The structure of this provision of law is based upon the Immigration
Marriage Fraud Act of 1986. In order to deter fraud, all alien registration
cards issued by INS based on this provision are conditional, with a
two-year expiration date. The condition is removed if, at the end of
the period, the investor remains in full compliance with the law.
By regulation , all investor petitions as well as extensions and changes
of status to E-1 Treaty Trader applications and E-2 Treaty Investor
applications must be submitted to either the California or the Texas
Service Centers. Applications and petitions which were formerly submitted
to the Nebraska Service Center must be submitted to the California Service
Center while applications and petitions which were formerly submitted
to the Vermont Service Center must be submitted to the Texas Service
Center. Investor petitions include form I-526 (Petioner for Alien Entrepreneur)
and form I-829 (Petition for Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions).
The INS has become increasingly concerned that certain organizations
are offering to obtain permanent residence for individuals under schemes
which are debt instruments rather than real investments. The INS General
Counsel concluded that participation in such a scheme does not qualify
an individual for permanent residence. In June and July of 1998, the
INS issued four precedent decisions setting forth the rules for obtaining
permanent residence through investments.
Unlike the temporary treaty investor visa ("E-2" visa) which is limited
to countries having treaties with the U.S., investors and entrepreneurs
from all countries may qualify for green cards.