Investing in the U.S. is one of the fastest ways to get a Green Card or Legal Permanent Status in the U.S. Undoubtedly, the U.S. is still the world’s top investment destination. For several years through 2014, the cumulative foreign direct investments in the U.S. neared 3 trillion dollars, eclipsing other economic giants such as China. The U.S. is the most favored investment destination by foreign investors because it has one of the most open markets and investment climates in the world. Other equally important reasons are the world-class education it offers to the investors’ children, stable political environment and functional governmental institutions.

These are the reasons why a lot of foreign investors in the U.S. comes from leading first world countries like the United Kingdom, Japan, Netherlands, Canada, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, and France – in that order. Among BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) nations, China is the biggest source.

About 12 percent or $18 billion of total foreign direct investments in the U.S. come from investors under the EB-5 investor visa program. The EB-5 investor visa was created by the U.S. Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and investment of capital by foreign individuals. Every year, the U.S. Congress allocates 10,000 visas to eligible foreign investors or entrepreneurs. The U.S. Citizenship Immigration Service (USCIS, formerly known as INS) administers this program.

To be eligible for an EB-5 investor visa, the investor must invest in a commercial enterprise in the U.S. with a minimum capital of $1 million or $500,000 if the investment is in a Targeted Employment Area, which is defined as a rural or high unemployment area. Also, the investment must create at least 10 full-time jobs in the U.S. Upon approval of the visa, the investor, his/her spouse, and children under 21 years of age will get a 2-year conditional resident status. The conditional status can be removed after two years upon proof of satisfaction with the requirements of the EB-5 program. The processing times from approval to issuance of the visa is generally one and a half to two years.

For investors who have no idea on what business to invest their money in or are mainly interested in getting a Green Card, the investment can be made through Regional Centers (RC). These RCs are business or government entities approved by the USCIS, which offer projects for regional economic development over a certain geographical area in the U.S. Foreign investors can invest their money on the various projects being developed by the RCs for the purpose of getting an EB-5 visa. Roughly 90 percent of EB-5 visas issued by the USCIS went through the RC process.

The EB-5 visa program under the RC process is set to expire on September 30, 2017. Although it is likely that Congress will extend it, there might be some changes that will be introduced, such as the minimum capital requirements. It will be wise to apply now to avoid the higher capitalization for investment.