The USA immigration history is very long and complex. Though people had been immigrating to the country since before its founding, it was not until 1891 that the Immigration & Naturalization Service was established and that agency was part of the Department of Labor until 1940, at which time it became part of the Justice Department. Six years later, the present “green card” law was introduced to further regulate American immigration.
In order to apply for green card status, one must have been residing in the country for at least five years (or three if one is married to an American citizen, or four if the applicant was a recipient of political asylum). If a visa is available (only a certain number of them may be granted per year), the applicant goes through either an Adjustment of Status process; if that is approved, then he receives his green card and becomes a full citizen. An alternative Consular Processing system is provided for those who are outside the country at the time.
An application for green card can be of several types - there are those for families of cardholders, and for those applying for an employment-based visa.
More recently, in 1990, Congress created an additional visa category the EB-5 visa. This is essentially an investment program meant to generate a new flow of foreign capital into the country’s economy. The applicant must purchase a residence in the United States, obtain a driver’s license there, set up an account at a local bank, or otherwise do something that indicates a clear intent to establish permanent residence. Meanwhile, he is given a “conditional” green card, for which he can apply to have the conditionality removed after a period of 21 months. He must invest at least $1 million, which must be proven to have been “lawfully gained,” in a new or existing business that was created after November 3, 1990, that creates jobs for at least ten people. Under the program, Regional Centers have also been set up to pool capital from foreign investors. The applicant can choose to invest $500,000 in one of these centers as an alternative to investing $1 million as described above.