History of EB-5 Program - An Outlook For International Investors

Gain insights and guidance for international investors in this detailed outlook on U.S. residency through exploring the comprehensive history of the EB-5 Program.

last updated Thursday, March 14, 2024
#History of EB-5 Program #eb 5 program history

John Burson     Subscribe
History of the EB 5 program


Changes Summarized

  • 2009: USCIS consolidated EB-5 processing into the California Service Center, closing the previous centers in California and Texas.
  • 2009: President Obama's extension of the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, set to expire on September 30, 2012.
  • September 28, 2012: President Obama extended the program again, this time until 2015.
  • Recent updates: The program received further extensions, the latest being by President Trump until September 30, 2020.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, introduced through the Immigration Act of 1990 by the U.S. Congress, marked a significant overhaul in the American immigration system. 
This legislation brought comprehensive changes, including alterations to non-immigrant visa categories, EB 5 extension, modifications in deportation regulations, and increased legal immigration quota.

The primary EB-5 program aimed to boost the U.S. economy by allowing foreign investors to gain permanent residency and employment rights in the U.S. after investing in American commercial ventures.
To further enhance the attractiveness of the EB-5 visa, in 1993, Congress initiated the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program. This initiative led to the formation of EB-5 Regional Centers, unique business entities authorized by the USCIS to manage EB-5 investments and foster job creation.

EB-5 Reform Acts of the 1990s

In the late 1990s of the EB-5 visa, the EB-5 program underwent substantial reforms due to concerns about insufficient regulatory oversight and instances of fraud in EB-5 investments—the case of U.S. v. O’Connor in the U.S. The District Court revealed various fraudulent practices within the EB-5 investment framework. 

As a response, the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) of USCIS, which handles appeals, implemented new regulations in 1998 to tighten the program's requirements. These revisions mandated investors to demonstrate that their EB-5 investments were derived from legal sources, ensured their active engagement in the EB-5 projects, and outlawed guarantees of investment returns.

USCIS initially tried to apply these updated rules to existing EB-5 cases, but this retroactive application was deemed illegal following the Chang v. U.S. court decision. Subsequently, there was a notable decline in the number of EB-5 applications following these stricter regulations.

To guarantee the consistent application of EB-5 regulations across all new submissions, the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) established four critical precedent decisions in the 1990s: Matter of Ho, Matter of Hsiung, Matter of Izummi, and Matter of Soffici. These rulings continue to be authoritative for current EB-5 applications. 

Through these decisions, the AAO set critical criteria for the program, focusing on aspects such as the eligible commercial entities for EB-5 investments, criteria for determining the legality of funding sources, and guidelines for the administration of the investment.

EB-5 Visa Reforms of the 2000s

According to the EB5 reauthorization update, the Basic Pilot Program Extension and Expansion Act of 2003 was enacted by Congress as a measure to rejuvenate the EB-5 program. Under this act, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) was tasked with conducting an in-depth review of the EB-5 visa program. 

The investigation brought to light the underutilization of the program, revealing that the actual number of visas granted annually was considerably lower than the available quota of 10,000. This led to further reforms in the program. 
A significant outcome of these reforms was the establishment of the Investor and Regional Center Unit (IRCU) by USCIS in 2005. 

The IRCU is a specialized body responsible for various aspects of the EB-5 program, including auditing cases, designing forms, developing regulations, and formulating policies. 
The creation of the IRCU has enhanced coordination and improved the reliability of the EB-5 program.

Changes in EB5 Policy in the History of the EB-5 Program

In 2009, USCIS updated its policy guidelines for the EB-5 program, leading to the centralization of processing operations at the California Service Center (CSC). Before this, EB-5 processing was divided between two locations, in California and Texas. 

While the direct investment aspect of the EB5 program is a permanent element of U.S. immigration legislation according to the History of EB-5 Program, the broader EB-5 program, despite not having permanent status, has been regularly reauthorized over time.

Modernization changes in 2019

In July 2019, USCIS announced a series of updates to the EB-5 program, which became effective on November 21, 2019. These updates involved significant changes, such as raising the minimum investment threshold from $500,000 to $900,000 in Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) and from $1 million to $1.8 million in other regions. 

Additionally, the responsibility for designating TEAs shifted from individual states to USCIS. The changes also introduced a provision allowing certain investors to retain their priority dates.

EB-5 reform and integrity act of 2022

The History of the Eb-5 Program is very complex. In March 2022, following a nearly nine-month hiatus, Congress reinstated the EB-5 Regional Center program through the EB 5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022. This legislation extends the program's validity until September 30, 2027.

According to the bill's new provisions, investors must commit a minimum of $1,050,000 or a reduced amount of $800,000 if the investment is made in areas with high unemployment rates.

Impact of the EB-5 Green Card Program on the US Economy

Numerous immigrant investors have recognized the EB-5 investor visa program as an effective and practical way for those with sufficient investment capital to gain permanent residency in the U.S. History of the EB-5 Program. 
This program not only grants investors permanent residency but also contributes to the growth of the U.S. economy. 

A 2003 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlighted that EB-5 participants had invested one billion dollars across 17 states, with a preference for California. These investments spanned various sectors, including real estate, import-export businesses, technology development, agriculture, hospitality, and manufacturing. 

Since forming the Investor and Regional Center Unit (IRCU) in 2005, USCIS has been committed to enhancing the EB-5 program, making it a more equitable and viable pathway to obtaining a green card.

Future of Eb-5 Visa

Increased Regulation and Oversight: Recent reforms, primarily through the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022, indicate tighter regulation trends in EB 5 program history. This aims to reduce fraud and ensure that the program effectively stimulates the U.S. economy through foreign investment as per the history of EB-5 Visa.

  • Adjustment in Investment Amounts
    The trend of increasing the minimum investment amounts may continue, especially if there is a desire to keep pace with inflation and to reflect the actual economic impact required from each investment.
  • Focus on Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs)
    The program may see a continued emphasis on directing investments into TEAs, which include rural areas and regions with high unemployment. This ensures that the program benefits areas that need economic stimulation the most.
  • Technological Enhancements
    As with many areas of immigration, there could be a push towards using more advanced technology to streamline application processing, enhance transparency, and improve communication with applicants.
  • Periodic Reauthorization and Policy Changes
    Given its nature as a program that requires regular reauthorization by Congress, the EB-5 visa may undergo periodic policy changes and adjustments, reflecting the political and economic priorities of the time.
  • Global Economic Impact
    Global economic trends and U.S. relations with key countries that are sources of EB-5 investors (like China and India) will likely influence the program's dynamics.
  • Demand Among Investors
    The program's future will depend on its continued popularity among foreign investors. Factors influencing this include the overall U.S. economic health, the success rates of EB-5 projects, and the comparative attractiveness of other countries' investor visa programs.
  • Possible Permanency or Structural Changes
    Congress could make the program permanent or introduce significant structural changes to its framework, depending on how effectively it meets its goals.

Why emerges as an ideal solution for individuals navigating the complex documentation demands of the EB-5 visa program. This platform is adept at streamlining the process of collecting and organizing the essential financial documents required for EB-5 applications. 

By leveraging the capabilities of, applicants can more easily and confidently handle the intricacies of the EB-5 process. This simplifies their path towards U.S. residency and makes the journey more orderly and less daunting.

For more detailed information and guidance on each of these steps, resources and assistance are available at

With, the goal of obtaining U.S. residency through the EB-5 visa program becomes a more structured and achievable endeavor.


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