The US is seen as the land of opportunity. The favorable business climate offers ample opportunities to build a thriving business and provide your family with greater opportunities. If you meet certain criteria set out by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you and your family, including unmarried children under the age of 21, could apply to become green card holders. Read on to answer the question, “Can you get a green card by opening a business?”
Understanding How You Can Get a Green Card by Starting a Business
It’s possible to obtain a green card by opening a business in the US through different visa programs. Under the EB-5 investment program, you will need to invest in a commercial enterprise in the US and create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for US workers. If that is too ambitious, there are other visa options, including the EB-1 and EB-2 visas, which could be a path to obtaining a green card.
What Is a Green Card?
A green card is the common name for an identification card issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for permanent residents. Green cards got their name from the green color of cards issued from 1950 to 1964, and it’s still used colloquially today.
A green card is a permanent residence card for the US that entitles the cardholder to live and work in the United States. Green cards have no expiration date, although you’ll usually need to renew the card every 10 years. For conditional permanent residence, the green card is valid for two years. A green card also entitles the holder to start the process of becoming a naturalized US citizen.
How to Get a Business Green Card?
There are several visa programs to start a business in the USA available to entrepreneurs and investors whose activities will promote economic growth and jobs in the US. If you’re ready to start a business in the USA or apply for a green card through visa programs, here is an overview of the EB-1, EB-2, and EB-5 visa programs you could apply for.
EB-1 Visa Program
The EB-1 visa program is employment-based. This first preference, employment-based visa, is open to non-U.S. citizens with extraordinary ability. This can include outstanding professors and researchers or multinational managers or executives. It allows foreign nationals to live and work in the US permanently.
You will have to prove extraordinary ability or proof of your status as an outstanding professor or researcher. For multinational executives and managers, your prospective US employer must petition on your behalf, and you must prove your professional expertise. A detailed list of criteria and minimums to qualify is available from USCIS here.
Benefits of the EB-1 Green Card
The benefits of getting an EB-1 green card are that it allows you to live and work in the US without limits. It is a faster process to obtain permanent residency than other options. You can work in the US and travel freely in and out of the country. An EB-1 green card also allows you to apply for dependent visas for your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years.
How to Qualify for the EB-1 Green Card
To qualify for an EB-1 visa, you will need to fall into one of the three categories:
- Extraordinary ability
- Outstanding researchers and professors
- Multinational manager or executive
Each of the three has requirements to qualify for an EB-1 green card. For extraordinary ability, you must be able to demonstrate extraordinary ability in the fields of sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics by meeting at least three of 10 criteria set by the USCIS and provide evidence of a one-time achievement like a Pulitzer Prize, Oscar, or Olympic Medal.
Outstanding professors and researchers must meet at least two of six criteria from the USCIS. Your potential employer must also show documented accomplishments and employ at least three full-time researchers.
For multinational managers or executives, you must have been employed for at least one of the three preceding years outside the US. The applicant must meet certain criteria, but in this case, the potential employer must petition for the employee in a managerial or executive capacity.
How to Obtain the EB-1 Green Card
The process of obtaining the EB-1 green card, assuming you meet the criteria, depends on the category you fall under.
- Extraordinary Ability: You can apply by filing a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker.
- Outstanding Professors and Researchers: Your U.S. employer must file a Form I-140. The potential employer must demonstrate a continuing ability to pay the offered wage with an annual report, federal income tax return, or audited financial statement.
- Multinational Manager or Executive: Your U.S. employer must file USCIS Form I-140. The potential employer must be able to demonstrate a continuing ability to pay the offered wage with an annual report, federal income tax return, or audited financial statement.
- Family of EB-1 Visa Holders: If your visa is approved, you can apply for your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 by filing a Form I-140.
EB-2 Visa Program
The employment-based visa program, second preference, or EB-2 visa program is an employment-based immigration visa. An EB-2 visa allows those with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in certain fields to live and work in the United States with a green card.
You don’t need an Oscar or a Pulitzer Prize to apply for an EB-2 visa, but you still must demonstrate exceptional ability or advanced degrees. Not only do you need an advantaged degree, but the job you’re applying for must require an advanced degree. USCIS defines exceptional ability for the EB-2 visa as “a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.”
Benefits of the EB-2 Green Card
The benefits of getting an EB-2 green card are that you can live and work in the United States without restriction. Additional benefits include freedom to travel to and from the US and greater stability in your immigration status. It can also be the first step to applying for US citizenship. If you have children or plan to go back to college, you or your children could also qualify for in-state college tuition in the state where you reside.
How to Qualify for the EB-2 Green Card
The USCIS lists certain requirements that applicants for an EB-2 visa must meet. For the advanced degree category, you must demonstrate an official academic record showing a US advanced degree or foreign equivalent. You’ll also need letters from current or former employers showing that you have at least five years of progressive work experience in the specialty after obtaining the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree.
For the exceptional ability category, you must meet at least three criteria outlined by the USCIS. These include:
- Recognition for your achievements and significant contributions to your industry. This can be from peers, government entities, or a professional or business organization.
- Evidence of a salary or remuneration for services that demonstrates exceptional ability.
- Membership in a professional association(s).
- Official academic record showing that you have a degree from a university or other institution in the area of exceptional ability.
- Letters from current or former employers that document at least 10 years of full-time experience in your occupation
- A license to practice your profession or certification for your profession or occupation
How to Obtain the EB-2 Green Card
The process of obtaining the EB-2 green card is to fill out Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker. In addition, you must be sponsored by an employer, who will need to apply for and obtain a PERM certification unless you have a National Interest Waiver (NIW).
After filing Form I-140, you will need to attend all follow-up appointments and then finally prepare and submit the green card application.
EB-5 Visa Program
If you plan to invest significantly in the US, the EB-5 visa program could be an opportunity to obtain a US green card. The EB-5 investor visa is a US permanent resident visa program for foreign investors. Investors who invest in the United States can receive a green card in exchange.
Benefits of the EB-5 Green Card
The EB-5 green card provides foreigners with permanent residence in the US. Visa holders can live and work anywhere in the US. It offers freedom to travel to and from the US and creates long-term stability for EB-5 green card holders to establish roots in the US.
How to Qualify for the EB-5 Green Card
The requirements of getting an EB-5 green card include investment in an approved commercial enterprise and creating or preserving 10 full-time jobs for US workers within two years of the investor’s admission to the United States as a permanent resident on an EB-5 visa.
According to USCIS, the standard minimum investment amount has increased to $1.8 million to account for inflation. The minimum investment in a targeted employment area (TEA) is $900,000.
How to Obtain the EB-5 Green Card
To obtain the EB-5 green card, first you will have to file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor, or Form I-526E, Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor.
After the petition is approved, you will need to file:
- Form DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, with the U.S. Department of State or
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, with USCIS to adjust status to a conditional permanent resident within the United States.
Once USCIS approves your Form I-485 application, or when you enter the US with an EB-5 immigrant visa, you will get conditional permanent residence for two years.
Then, you must File Form I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status, within 90 days of when the two-year conditional residence permit expires.
If USCIS approves this petition, the conditions from your lawful permanent resident status will be removed, and you will have gained permanent residence—a green card—from the EB-5 visa.
Launching a Career in the USA
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How long does it take to get a business green card?
Typically, it takes five to eight months to process Form I-140. However, if there is a request for additional evidence, it could take three to six months longer.
Can I bring my family with me to the US if I obtain any of the business green cards?
Yes, you may bring your family with you if you obtain a business green card. However, family, in this case, is limited to your spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age.
Can I invest in any type of business to obtain a green card?
To qualify for a green card by investing, the intended project must be a new commercial enterprise. However, the minimum investment amount is less for a targeted employment area than for other industries.
Can I work in any field or industry with my business to qualify for a green card?
If you have employer sponsorship or investment capital and meet other criteria, most business endeavors could qualify for a business green card. Suppose you plan to qualify for a green card through employment. In that case, the USCIS notes extraordinary ability in the areas of sciences, business, education, arts, or athletics, which leaves room for interpretation.
Do I need prior business experience or education to apply for any of the business green cards?
Yes, for an EB-2 or EB-3 visa, you must satisfy educational and experience requirements. For an EB-5 visa, you must meet minimum investment and job creation or maintenance requirements.