Visa Qualified Businesses: Rules for Foreign Entrepreneurs that Want to Invest in the U.S. (Part I)

For most of the world, America is seen as the “land of opportunity.” There is no better way for an immigrant to experience the American Dream than to own his or her own business. The USCIS has a program to help immigrant investors do just that. It is called the EB5 visa. This program was created in 1992 to help create (or sustain) jobs and bolster the economy through foreign investments.

Many of the businesses for sale in Arizona and throughout the country are qualified under this program. There are also certain requirements the individual must meet to demonstrate that they are a good fit for the business they want to buy.

Here is a list of the general rules for foreign investors looking to buy into an American business:

The business must be classified as a new commercial enterprise

This sounds like a pretty stringent requirement, until you understand that in this case, the USCIS has a very loose definition of the word “new”. To qualify as a new enterprise, the business must have been established after November 29 1990; which is roughly a quarter of a century ago. There are also conditions for businesses established before this date that may allow them to still qualify. These include:

  • After the purchase, the business will be reorganized and/or restructured, resulting in a new commercial enterprise, or…
  • After the purchase, the business will undergo an expansion resulting in a 40% increase in either net worth or employees.

The USCIS definition of commercial enterprise is also very loose; it includes sole proprietorships, limited or general partnerships, corporations of all kinds, holding companies, business trusts, and virtually any other commercial entity you can think of. The only type of entity that is restricted is non-profits; the investor must be buying a for-profit enterprise that will hopefully create more jobs and increase economic activity in whatever community it is located.

In Part II of this series, we will discuss the two more general rules for visa-qualified businesses.

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