From H1B to EB5: A Comprehensive Guide to Transitioning to Permanent Residency Through Investment Visa Program EB5

Transitioning from an H1B Visa to an EB5 Visa involves a significant change in immigration status, moving from a temporary work visa to permanent residency through investment. Here's a comprehensive guide to help you navigate this transition

last updated Thursday, March 28, 2024
#h1b to eb5 #h1b to eb5 visa

John Burson     Subscribe


Key Takeaways:

  • Transitioning from H1B to EB5 offers a path to permanent residency.
  • EB-5 requires a substantial investment in a U.S. business.
  • The process involves maintaining H-1B status, investing, and filing the EB-5 petition.
  • Personal loans can help meet the investment requirement.
  • Understand the differences between H-1B and EB-5 visas.
  • Laid-off H1B workers may still be eligible for EB-5.
  • EB5 provides flexibility and potential citizenship pathways.
  • The green card process involves employer sponsorship and USCIS petitions.
  • Be aware of processing times and associated fees.
  • Seek guidance from an immigration attorney for navigating the process.

How does transitioning from an H-1B Visa to an EB-5 Visa offer a route to permanent residency in the United States? The H-1B Visa, tailored for foreign workers seeking employment in the US, can transition into an EB-5 Visa, granting you, your spouse, and your children green card status. Can h1b apply for eb 5? What steps are involved in this transition, and what investment is required to ensure job creation for American citizens? Before discussing this, it's important to know what H-1 B is and how anyone can change its status from H1B to Eb5 Visa for a Green Card in the US. 

Understanding H1B Visa

eb5 h1b

What is H1b visa?

The H-1B visa is a temporary work permit enabling U.S. companies to employ foreign individuals possessing specialized skills within the United States for a designated duration. These roles typically demand at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, with eligible occupations spanning various sectors like technology, finance, engineering, architecture, and more.

The law establishes specific standards to protect similarly employed U.S. workers from being adversely affected by the employment of nonimmigrant workers, as well as to protect the H-1B nonimmigrant workers. Employers must attest to the Department of Labor that they will pay wages to the H-1B nonimmigrant workers that are at least equal to the actual wage paid by the employer to other workers with similar experience and qualifications for the job in question or the prevailing wage for the occupation in the area of intended employment – whichever is greater.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it would hold a second lottery for the H-1B visa program for FY 2024. Learn more.

H1B visa eligibility

To be eligible for the H1B visa, you will need:

  • A valid job offer from a U.S. employer for a role that requires specialty knowledge
  • Proof of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience in that field
  • Your employer must show that there is a lack of qualified U.S. applicants for the role
  • The specific duties related to the job must be so complex and specialized that only someone with a bachelor’s degree or higher has the knowledge to do the job.

Therefore, the H-1B visa is available only to specific applicants who meet the criteria set by the USCIS.

The H1B visa process

H1B Visa Petitioning Process for Employers H1B Visa Process for Employees
  • Have a Labor Condition Application.
  • File a petition with USCIS.
  • Fill in form I-129.
  • Submit the forms and the documents file.
  • Wait for the review from USCIS.
  • Fill in Form DS-160.
  • Schedule an interview. 
  • Pay the H1B visa fees.
  • Submit the required documents for an H1B Visa.
  • Attend the H1B interview.

H1B Investment Options

The most common question -  Can I invest in stocks on H1b?

The H1B visa is a temporary work authorization for specialty occupations. It doesn't grant special investment privileges or options. You can invest your earnings from an H-1B job or other savings to grow wealth. The investment options are not limited to publicly or privately traded stocks or other investment vehicles.

Understanding EB5 Visa Program

h1b eb5

While you can invest your H-1B earnings, it's essential to understand how it relates to the EB5 visa program.

What is EB5 Visa Program?

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, or the EB-5 visa, is a pathway to permanent residency (Green Card) in the United States for foreign investors. The program allows wealthy foreign individuals to invest a significant amount of money in a U.S. business to obtain a green card for themselves and their immediate family members.

EB-5 visa eligibility

To be eligible for the Eb-5 visa, you will need:

  • To get the Eb-5 Visa, you need a certain amount of Investment, which you can check below.
  • The investment must create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.
  • You must provide documentation proving the lawful origin of the funds used for the investment.
  • The invested capital must be considered "at risk," meaning there's a potential for loss.
  • If you're directly managing a new commercial enterprise, you must demonstrate active involvement in the business.

EB-5 investment

EB-5 Investment requirement

The EB-5 program requires a minimum investment of $800,000 (or $1.05 million in certain targeted employment areas).

EB-5 investment options

Although the original text listed investment options, it didn't explore EB-5 specific strategies. Here are two common approaches:

  • EB-5 Riginal Center Project Investment
    Invest in a USCIS approved EB-5 project. These Reginal Centers manage the investment, job creation requirements, and other EB-5 regulations and requirements.

    Learn more about eb 5 regional center investment

  • EB-5 Direct Investment
    Invest directly in a new commercial enterprise that creates the required jobs for the EB-5 program. This option requires a more active role from the investor and carries higher risk and higher return on investment.

    Learn more on eb5 direct investment projects

Considerations for Investment

If you're aiming to use your investments to qualify for the EB-5 program, keep these factors in mind:

  • Return on Investment
    The EB-5 program requires a substantial investment to reach the minimum threshold. The higher potential returns often come with increased risk.
  • Liquidity
    Some investments, such as retirement accounts (401k, IRA), may have limitations on withdrawing funds before retirement, making them less suitable for the EB-5 program, where you might need access to capital.

The EB 5 visa process

Learn more about EB5 visa guide

Transition from H1B to EB5 visa

Can I apply for EB 5 while on H1bB?

Yes, you can. To change from an H-1B Visa to an EB-5 Visa, maintain your valid H-1B status. Next, submit Form I-526 (Immigration Petition by Alien Investor) to the USCIS.

EB 5 visa requirements 2023,  2024 to meet

Here are the most critical requirements your application has to meet:

  • Investment
    You must invest a specific amount of capital into a U.S. commercial enterprise. The current minimum investment is:
    • $800,000 in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) - a rural area or area with high unemployment.
    • $1,050,000 in any other area outside a TEA.
  • Job Creation
    The investment must create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.
  • Legal acquisition of your source of funds for investment must be proven.

Application Process

The EB-5 program involves several stages, each requiring specific forms and documentation. Here's a simplified overview:

  1. I-526 Petition (Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor)

    • This is the initial petition proving your investment. You'll need extensive documentation, including:
      • Proof of lawful source of funds for the investment.
      • Business plan for the investment project (if applicable).
      • Evidence that the investment meets the job creation requirement.
    • USCIS will review your petition and issue an approval notice if everything meets the criteria.
  2. I-485 Application (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status)

    • Once your I-526 is approved, you can file this application to adjust your status to a conditional permanent resident (green card holder).
    • You'll need additional documents like medical examination results and proof of your current immigration status.
  3. I-829 Petition (Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence)

    • After two years as a conditional permanent resident, you must file this petition to remove the conditions of your residency.
    • You'll need to prove that your investment meets the EB-5 requirements.
    • Upon approval, you become a permanent resident without any conditions.

Lending Solutions for EB-5 Investors

Here are 10 investment options for H-1B Visa holders to help raise EB-5 Visa minimum capital.

  1. A High-Yield Savings Account (HYSA) offers interest rates approximately 20 to 25 times higher than the national average for a standard savings account.
  2. A Certificate of Deposit (CD) is a savings product where interest is earned on a lump sum for a period. While offering low risk, the returns are also modest. CD interest rates are slightly higher than HYSA rates but still below inflation.
  3. A 401k plan is a retirement account provided by companies in lieu of pensions. Funds in a 401k can be invested in various assets such as bonds, stocks, and REITs.
  4. A Traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA) allows for pre-tax or post-tax contributions, with investment options based on chosen brokerage and asset classes.
  5. A Roth IRA permits tax-free growth and withdrawals during retirement, offering tax advantages.
  6. An Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) allows employees to buy company stock at a discounted rate through payroll deductions.
  7. A Taxable Investment Account offers flexibility in withdrawals but lacks tax advantages. Investments can include stocks, bonds, and money market funds.
  8. Real Estate Investments are properties intended for investment rather than personal use. H-1B Visa holders cannot directly manage such businesses and may need a property management company.
  9. A Foreign Currency Non-Resident Account (FCNR) is a fixed deposit held in a foreign currency, offering protection against forex rate risks but with relatively low-risk and reward returns.

Additional Considerations

  • Concurrent Filing
    USCIS now allows "concurrent filing" for specific situations. This means you might be able to file your I-485 alongside your I-526, potentially speeding up the process. However, consult an immigration attorney to see if you qualify.
  • Legal Counsel
    The EB-5 program has complexities, and immigration law can be nuanced. Consider consulting an experienced immigration attorney to guide you through the process, ensure proper documentation, and navigate potential challenges.
  • Maintaining H-1B Status
    Maintaining your valid H-1B status throughout the EB-5 application process is crucial. This can take several years, so ensure your employer sponsorship remains active and you comply with all H-1B requirements.

It's worth noting that your other petitions for permanent residency can still be processed concurrently with your application for an EB-5 Visa from an H-1B Visa.

Advantages and Disadvantages of transitioning from an H1B visa to EB5 visa

Here's a table outlining the pros and cons of transitioning from an H1B to an EB-5 visa. The table below provides a concise overview of the advantages and disadvantages of transitioning from an H-1B visa to an EB-5 visa, aiding individuals in making informed decisions about their immigration status.

Advantages Disadvantages
Pathway to permanent residency Requires a substantial investment
Independence from employer sponsorship Longer processing times compared to H-1B extensions
Flexibility to work and live anywhere in the US Limited availability of EB-5 visas
Access to benefits like healthcare and social security Risk of investment loss
Opportunity to contribute to job creation and economic growth Potential complications with immigration laws
Potential pathway to US citizenship The complexity of the immigration process

tab 1. H1B visa to Eb5 visa advantages and disadvantages


How Long Does it Take to Get EB-5 from H1B?

The duration of the visa application process for h1b to EB5 processing time varies based on the volume of petitions received by USCIS each year, including those awaiting approval. Transitioning from an H-1B Visa to an EB-5 Visa can take 29.5 to 61 months.

As an H-1B Visa holder residing in the United States, you can simultaneously submit both the I-526 and I-485 Adjustment of Status applications for the EB-5 visa. This concurrent filing of the I-526 and I-485 forms can result in obtaining a Travel Document within 2 to 12 months, depending on the processing times at the USCIS Service Center.

  • I-526 Petition or Initial Investment Petition
    USCIS can process this in 29.5 months to 61 months, depending on the current workload.
  • I-485 Application or Green Card Application
    Processing times can vary depending on whether you file concurrently with I-526 (potentially faster) or after I-526 approval. It can range from 7 to 29 months for processing within the U.S. or 6 to 12 months for consular processing abroad.
  • I-829 Petition or Removal of Conditions
    This is usually filed after two years of conditional residency and takes an additional 22 to 48.5 months for processing.

Adding it up
Assuming a standard processing time for each stage, you might look at a timeline of around 5 to 8 years from starting the eb5 h1b process to obtaining a permanent green card. However, keep in mind this is an estimate, and several factors can influence the actual timeframe:

  • Current USCIS workload
    Processing times can fluctuate depending on the applications USCIS receives.
  • The complexity of your case
    If your investment or source of funds is intricate, additional scrutiny might extend the processing time to get an H1B to Eb5 green card.
  • Concurrent filing
    The process could be expedited if you qualify for concurrent filing of I-485 with I-526.

What is the Best Personal Loan for H1B Visa Holders?

While there isn't a single "best" personal loan for all H-1B visa holders, here are some lenders known to be more open to them and factors to consider when choosing:

Lenders Open to H-1B Visa Holders

  • Upgrade
    Known for offering personal loans with no origination fees, adjustable credit limits, and various repayment terms, Upgrade might be a good option for consolidating debt or establishing credit. Upgrade offers multiple credit line choices: Upgrade Card, Upgrade Cash Rewards Card, Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card, and Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Card.
  • SoFi
    It caters to immigrants with valid visas, including H-1B. It offers loans with potentially higher borrowing limits than other lenders open to H-1B holders. SoFi provides the highest loanable amount, up to $100,000. Loan terms can be between 24 and 84 months.
  • Stilt
    Stilt focuses on borrowers with good credit history, so it could be a good fit if you have a strong credit score. Stilt offers flexible loan conditions and extensive eligibility requirements for H-1B Visa holders. You can loan up to $35,000, and loan terms can be between 12 and 36 months.
  • Earnest
    Earnest is an online loan broker that offers loans up to $100,000 and may offer competitive interest rates for H-1B visa holders with a good credit profile.
  • Marcus by Goldman Sachs
    Another option to consider, although their requirements for H-1B holders might be stricter. Marcus by Goldman Sachs gives loans to those with a credit score. Those without a credit score can apply if they reside in the US, have a US bank account, and have a Social Security number.

Choosing the Right Loan

  • Interest Rate
    This significantly impacts the total loan cost. Aim for the lowest possible rate based on your creditworthiness.
  • Fees
    Be aware of origination fees, prepayment penalties, and any other charges associated with the loan.
  • Loan Amount and Term
    Choose a loan amount that fits your needs and a repayment term you can comfortably manage.
  • Minimum Credit Score Requirement
    Check the minimum credit score needed to qualify for a loan with each lender.
  • Documentation Requirements
    Some lenders might have specific requirements for H-1B holders regarding proof of income or visa status.

Can a Laid-off H1B Worker File for an EB-5 Visa?

Facing a layoff on your H-1B visa doesn't have to derail your dream of permanent residency in the US. The EB-5 investor visa program offers a compelling alternative.

Here's why:

  • No Employer Sponsorship is Needed
    Unlike H1B, EB5 allows you to pursue a green card based on your investment, not employer sponsorship. This gives you more control over your immigration journey.
  • Concurrent Filing Option
    Recent changes in immigration law allow you to potentially file for both your investment petition (I-526) and green card adjustment (I-485) concurrently. This can streamline the process and potentially lead to faster results.
  • Work Authorization and Travel Benefits
    While your EB-5 application is pending, concurrent filing can grant you work authorization and a travel document. This allows you to remain employed and travel freely while you wait for your green card.

In short, the EB-5 program empowers laid-off H-1B workers to take charge of their immigration future and achieve permanent residency in the US.

What are the Differences Between H1B and EB-5 Visa?

Feature H-1B Visa EB-5 Visa
Work Limited to specific jobs & employer

Work anywhere in the US; no sponsorship is needed

Politics It may be seen as a threat to the US workforce It creates jobs & boosts the US economy
Visa Requirements
  • Bachelor's degree or higher
  • Higher than average salary for job *
  • Employer can't find US worker
  • Minimum investment ($800,000 TEA / $1.05 million non-TEA)
  • Create 10 full-time US jobs
  • Manage business (direct investment)
Family Spouse can work with H-4 visa (limited conditions) Spouse & unmarried children (<21) get green cards
Annual Quotas 85,000 visas 700 visas per country
Permanence Temporary, needs renewal Permanent residency (green card) path to citizenship
Transition N/A Offers a path to a Green Card

Make informed EB-5 decisions. Eb5 Processing times and Eb5 Visa eligibility explained on

How to create jobs without violating H-1B status & do EB-5 real estate investment?

As an H-1B visa holder, owning a business is possible, but managing it is tricky. Direct involvement in daily operations violates your visa terms.

  • Individuals in H-1B status or without legal U.S. immigration status can own a stake in a U.S. business but cannot actively manage it to avoid unauthorized employment.
  • An alternative for those from E treaty countries is to convert to an E visa based on their investment, requiring a shift from H-1B status.
  • Another common choice is to invest in an EB-5 regional center project, allowing active involvement without unauthorized employment in the job-creating enterprise (JCE).
  • Active involvement in the new commercial enterprise (NCE) involves participating in policy decisions, which are considered acceptable under H-1B status.
  • Regional centers and projects vary, requiring careful research before making investment decisions.
  • USCIS certification/designation of regional centers doesn't imply vetting underlying projects' financial strength; due diligence is crucial, treating it like any significant financial investment.

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