Green Card – permanent residency is the goal for most immigrants.
The question is: How does one achieve this goal?
This answer to this question for many is “marriage.” Marriage to a U.S. Citizen is certainly an option, as long as it is a real marriage.
For a married couple who would like to jointly immigrate to the United States, marriage to a U.S. citizen is not an option. Thus, what are the alternatives? Speaking in general terms, two non-immigrant visas, an L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa, or an E-2 Investor Visa are widely popular as a starting point. However for foreign nationals with available economic resources, an investment of $500,000 or $1,000,000 may be the route to go as it leads immediately to the green card.
L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa
The L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa permits the transfer of a Manager, (which can certainly be the owner of an overseas company) to a branch, subsidiary or commonly-owned affiliate in the United States. The requirements are: a) the transferred employee has been in a managerial or executive position in the overseas company for one year in the past three years, b) the U.S. company is a branch, subsidiary or affiliate of the overseas company, c) the U.S. company demonstrates a viability and capacity for expansion that it will necessitate the hiring of U.S. workers.
The overseas and U.S. companies are not required to engage in the same business activity, nor is there a requirement for a set minimum amount of money that must be invested. However, the overseas company has to remain active and operating for the entire duration of the L-1 visa.
The L-1 visa for a start-up company will be issued for one year with the option of renewal for three years and then another three years for L-1A managers. The renewal of an L-1 visa requires a significant number of employees and a strong showing of business viability.
E-2 Investor Visa
For people who do not operate an overseas business or would like to receive more than one year of initial visa validity, the E-2 Investor Visa is a viable option. As a general rule, the E-2 Visa requires an investment of around $100,000 into the establishment of an U.S. company.
In order to apply for an E-2 visa based on a U.S. business, the investment has to be already completed. This means that the investor must have signed a fully legally binding business purchase contract and have placed the purchase monies in an escrow account for the purchase to be complete upon visa issuance OR the start-up business must be fully established. In those cases where the investor has purchased an existing business, it is important that the business already have employees. If the investor is establishing a new business, she is required to demonstrate that the business has the potential to employ U.S. workers and is already seeking to recruit them.
How to convert the L-1 & L-2
As previously stated, the L-1 and E-2 are temporary non-immigrant visas.
The next question is “how you can convert those visas into the green card and remain permanently in the United States?”
If your U.S. company is well established, which means that it is profitable and providing employment for U.S. workers, and your overseas company is also still operating, you can apply for a Multinational Manager Green Card based on the fact that you are needed in the U.S. on a permanent, full-time basis to manage the U.S. operations.
For the Multinational Manager Green Card it does not matter if you are in L-1 or E-2 status.
needed to manage the U.S. company on a permanent and full-time basis, and that you worked for the overseas company at least one year in the three previous years prior to coming to the United States. The L-1 visa is not a necessity to receive a Multinational Manager Green Card. It is important to note, however, that, if you closed your business overseas, you cannot apply for a Multinational Manager Green Card.
If you do not want to first apply for an L-1 or E-2 and go straight for the permanent residency, then you can apply for an immigrant investor green card. This is the Eb-5 program, which requires the investment of $500,000 to $1,000,0000 either in the establishment of your own U.S. company or by investing in a Regional Center. $500,000 is sufficient if invested in a designated rural or high unemployment area. Anywhere else you need to invest $1,000,000.
A Regional Center is basically a management company that collects money from foreign investors and then invests it in designated projects, such as the building of an airport, a solar field, housing or farms.
If you would like to invest in your own company, then $1,000,000 are mostly necessary. The investment has to be made, in cash, invested in the company. Retained earnings accrued over the years in a successful business do not count.
After the investment is complete, the Immigration Service issues a conditional residency valid for two-years. Within these two-years either your project at the regional center, or your own company has to create ten full-time jobs. If you can document these jobs, you will be granted permanent residency.
These are only three ways to receive your permanent residency. Besides these, there are also options to receive your green card through the Green Card Lottery, based on a job offer from a U.S. company, or based on extraordinary ability.
Currently the purchase of real estate alone does not provide you with a temporary or permanent right to stay in the United States, as it is considered to be a passive investment.