In 1990, Congress created the USCIS Immigrant Investor Visa Program (the EB-5 program), also known as the Employment-Based Fifth Preference Program. The EB-5 program was created under 203(b)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in 1990, Public Law 101-649, Section 121(a), to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.

Through the EB-5 program, foreign investors have the opportunity to obtain lawful, permanent residency in the U.S. for themselves, their spouses, and their minor unmarried children by making a certain level of capital investment and associated job creation or preservation. Three years later, the Departments of Commerce, Justice and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1993 (The Appropriations Act) created the concept of the regional center pilot program for pooling investor money in a defined industry and geographic area to promote economic growth.U.S. citizens or foreign nationals can operate regional centers, which can be any economic unit, public or private, engaged in the promotion of economic growth, improved regional productivity, job creation, or increased domestic capital investment.

The EB-5 program requires that the foreign investor make a capital investment of either $500,000 or $1 million, depending on whether or not the investment is in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA). The foreign investors must invest the proper amount of capital in a business, called a new commercial enterprise, which will create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs, for qualifying U.S. workers, within two (2) years of receiving conditional permanent residency.

Two distinct EB-5 pathways exist for a foreign investor to gain lawful permanent residency; each pathway differs in job creation requirements:

The basic Immigrant Investor Program requires the new commercial enterprise to create or preserve ONLY direct jobs that provide employment opportunities for qualifying U.S. workers by the commercial enterprise in which capital has been directly invested.
The Regional Center Program, formerly known as the Regional Center Pilot Program, allows the foreign investor to fulfill the job creation requirement through direct jobs OR projections of jobs created indirectly. Jobs created indirectly are the job opportunities that are predicted to occur because of investments associated with the regional center.