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Regional Center Approval Means Jobs for Indiana and Visas For Foreign Investors 

Energize-ECI, East Central Indiana’s partnership for regional economic development, recently obtained approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to become an EB-5 Visa Regional Center, a geographic zone that allows foreign investors to obtain green cards in exchange for capital investment that creates jobs for Indiana workers. The approval represents the culmination of a rigorous, 17-month application process whereby Energize-ECI, with assistance from Bingham Greenebaum Doll and others, proved to USCIS that the region could offer multiple EB-5 compliant investment opportunities in new or qualifying existing commercial enterprises in target industries. The new Energize-ECI Regional Center hopes to bring millions of dollars in foreign investment and thousands of new jobs to East Central Indiana over the next five years.

What is an EB-5 visa?

An EB-5 visa is a type of permanent work visa. Permanent visas are commonly referred to as “green cards.” Once granted, they provide the holder what is known as “lawful permanent resident” status, meaning the foreign national beneficiary may live and work anywhere in the U.S. Further, after maintaining five years in lawful permanent resident status, the green card holder may apply for U.S. citizenship.

There are five categories of employment-based green cards. The EB-5 is, as its title suggests, the fifth category, and it was created by Congress in 1990 to encourage foreign investment that results in job creation in the U.S. economy. There are two basic routes a foreign national may use to obtain an EB-5 visa: the traditional route and the regional center route. Under the traditional route, the foreign national must invest $1,000,000 in a new commercial enterprise that employs at least 10 full-time U.S. workers and engage in the business through day-to-day management or policy formation. If the investment is made in a “targeted employment area,” defined as a rural area experiencing high unemployment of at least 150 percent of the national average, then only $500,000 need be invested. Under the regional center route, the foreign national’s investment is made through a USCIS-approved “regional center,” which is defined as “any economic unit, public or private, engaged in the promotion of economic growth, improved regional productivity, job creation and increased domestic capital investment.” The primary benefits of the regional center route are that the investment need not result in direct job creation, and the foreign investor need not play a role in the day-to-day management of the commercial enterprise.

The Energize-ECI Regional Center

The Energize-ECI Regional Center is the first Indiana owned and operated EB-5 Regional Center in the state. The defined geographic business investment development area authorized by USCIS for the Engergize-ECI Regional Center includes the counties of Blackford, Delaware, Fayette, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Rush counties—all areas hit especially hard by the domestic auto industry downturn and the lingering recession. All of the nine counties included within the Regional Center offer some $500,000 rural and targeted employment area investment level opportunities. The Engergize-ECI Regional Center will focus on offering EB-5 compliant investment opportunities in new or qualifying existing commercial enterprises in six target industry categories, including:

  1. agriculture, food processing, forestry, fishing and hunting;
  2. construction;
  3. manufacturing and advanced technologies;
  4. information technologies;
  5. transportation, warehousing, distribution and logistics; and
  6. manufacturing and processing—green technologies and recycling.

The pathway to a “green card”

The Energize-ECI Regional Center offers a three-step pathway to a green card for a foreign investor. First, the investor must identify an EB-5 compliant investment opportunity within the Regional Center’s geographic zone, and submit a petition to USCIS requesting EB-5 approval for the investment. The petition must be accompanied by sufficient evidence regarding a legitimate source of the funds for the investment and evidence regarding how the investment will create 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers, either directly or indirectly. Second, if USCIS approves the petition, the foreign national may apply for and receive a visa giving him or her permission to enter the U.S. and two years of “conditional permanent resident” status. Third, at the end of the two-year conditional permanent residency period, the foreign national may petition USCIS to remove the conditions and grant unconditional lawful permanent resident, or “green card,” status. The petition must be accompanied by sufficient evidence that the foreign national’s investment remained invested for the full two-year period and that the requisite number of jobs have been created.

The approval of the Energize-ECI Regional Center ushers in an exciting new era for Indiana economic development, and significant opportunities for new and existing businesses as well as for foreign investors wishing to immigrate to the U.S. For more information, contact Andrew Gruber.

  • Partner

    Andy is the Chair of the Labor & Employment Practice Group. Working exclusively in the areas of labor and employment law, Andy provides advice, counsel and litigation defense to employers in all areas of employment law, including ...

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