U.S. citizenship by investment

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Alexey Nosovsky

A representative of the Legal Department at iWorld. Author of articles on Migration Law.

Update: 1 February 2024 12 minutes read
American flag and banknote symbolize US citizenship by investment

The EB-5 immigration program has been in effect since 1990 and was created to develop the economy through foreign investment in the United States. Participation in the program allows migrants to obtain a residence permit (green card), live and work legally in any of the American states, and after 5 years of permanent residence in the country to obtain US citizenship for investment.

The basis for obtaining the US resident status is an amount investment, established by the legislation of the country. After investing in a U.S. company and approval of the migration petition, the foreigner is interviewed at the United States Consulate and receives a temporary green card, valid for 2 years. After the expiration of the U.S. residence permit by investment, it is possible to obtain a green card, and after 5 years of residency in the country – U.S. citizenship.

This article describes in detail the process of immigration to the United States by investments under the state EB-5 program, as well as the peculiarities of obtaining citizenship by investment in 2023.

The benefits of obtaining a residence permit in the U.S.

A list of the main advantages of obtaining a residence permit in the United States by investment:

  • There are no requirements for investors regarding the level of English proficiency, work experience, and education.
  • Five years after receiving a residence permit, a foreigner may qualify for the status of a full-right U.S. citizen.
  • The migration program allows you to move to the United States with your family (spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old).
  • The investment in U.S. Regional Centers can be repaid in full in 5-7 years.
  • Green Card holders can visit Canada and Mexico without having to obtain visas.
  • The U.S. government gives priority to CIS residents in approving migration petitions due to the influx of applications from China, India, and Vietnam.
  • S. residents have the right to use public education and healthcare systems.

Benefits of obtaining the U.S. citizenship by investment:

  • A U.S. passport allows its holder visa-free entry to 170+ countries.
  • Citizenship status is inherited by children born outside the United States.
  • Ability to live in any country in the world and retain U.S. citizenship status.
  • Americans can qualify for government scholarships and grants, as well as receive reduced tuition.
  • United States citizens can participate in the political life of the country as voters and statesmen.

Terms of participation in the investment program

Citizens of any country in the world can participate in the U.S. migration program EB-5. The main condition is to invest a large sum of money in a U.S. business project, earned only in a legal way.

Requirements for the investor

Under the terms of the EB-5 program, in addition to capital investment, the foreign investor is required to:

  1. Confirm the legitimacy of earning investment funds.
  2. Employ at least 10 qualified full-time U.S. residents.
  3. Reside in the United States for at least 180 days per year during the two-year residency period.
  4. Be over 18 years of old and have no criminal record.
  5. Be actively involved in the viability of the business project in which they are investing.

More precise requirements for the migrant may vary, depending on the chosen investment option in the United States.

Documents

The complete list of documents required to participate in the EB-5 program depends on the investment method chosen, but the basic list includes:

  • an international passport valid for six months starting from the date of entry into the United States;
  • proof of legality of investment funds;
  • DS-260 immigrant visa application;
  • two 2 x 2 cm color photographs against white background;
  • valid passport;
  • proof of medical examination and vaccination;
  • visa fee payment receipt;
  • proof of financial security.

Investment options for obtaining citizenship

The U.S. government offers potential immigrants several possible investment options, which differ in terms of processing, eligibility requirements, and the amount of required investment. Wealthy aliens may invest in U.S. businesses, while investments in U.S. stocks are not eligible for immigration. Also, investing in U.S. real estate is not a basis for participation in the EB-5 migration program.

Investment program Min. investment amount thousand/$ Investment type
Regional Center in the target region (EB-5) 500 Refundable
Regional center in a developed region (EB-5) 1000 Refundable
Individual new or existing business (EB-5) 1000 Non-refundable
Investments under the E-2 program 100 Non-refundable

Investment in the U.S. Regional Centers (EB-5)

United States Regional Centers are government-accredited organizations through which foreign investors can passively sponsor U.S. businesses for participation in the EB-5 program. Regional Centers provide a simple and secure investment process, manage projects, and ensure compliance with legal requirements.

On June 21, 2021, the California District Court significantly lowered the minimum investment amount for EB-5 Regional Center projects from $900,000 to $500,000. If investing in one of the Regional Centers’ commercial projects, located in the target area, the contribution amount is $500,000 USD. For investment projects in more developed regions of the state with low unemployment, the amount is set at 1,000,000 USD.

The applicant must open an account in a U.S. bank and transfer the full amount of the investment to the escrow account of the selected Regional Center business project. An important requirement for the investment is to make the deposit under the terms of entrepreneurial risk. Thus, the U.S. government does not guarantee the return of the investment, but does not oblige the investor to make an excessively risky contribution.

In addition to the main deposit amount, the investor would have to pay an administrative fee of 50,000-650,000 USD, a fee for the USCIS review of the petition (approximately 7,000 USD), and pay for the services of an immigration attorney. The process of obtaining a green card by direct investment in the U.S. takes approximately 24-36 months.

Investment in an individual business project (EB-5 program)

Under the terms of the migration program EB-5, it is also possible to invest in a new individual business or an existing U.S. enterprise (from 500,000 USD to 1,000,000 USD, depending on the selected region of the country).

Please note that the EB-5 visa may be obtained after one year, when the investor will be eligible for a Green Card. To transfer funds, the foreigner will need to open an account in an American bank. Additional expenses for registration of the document include payment of state fees and payment for the services of a migration attorney.

Investment business visa (E-2 program)

Citizens of states that have signed a trade agreement with the United States may immigrate to the country under the E-2 visa program. This list includes Latvia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Poland, Romania, and other countries. The main condition is to invest the amount over 100,000 USD into the existing American commercial enterprise or to establish a new business.

The main advantage of the E-2 program is that it may take only a few weeks to obtain a U.S. residence permit. This type of investment visa is not an immigrant visa, but its holders, who have been successful in business, may later upgrade to an EB-5 immigrant visa and obtain a green card if they wish. The business must create new jobs, be active and profitable. The investor must open an account with a U.S. bank, transfer the full amount of the investment to an escrow account, and own more than 50% of the company.

Flags on the building that regulates investment in US regional centers

Steps for obtaining US residence by investment

  1. Choosing a project for investment. At the first stage of obtaining a U.S. residence permit, a foreigner is exploring possible options for participating in the investment program. A good solution is to contact a migration company, whose lawyers are versed in the intricacies of U.S. law. Specialists will help the applicant choose a commercial enterprise, suitable for participation in the EB-5 program (Regional Center or personal business project), as well as confirm the legal origin of the investment funds.
  2. Making an investment. The applicant invests funds in a U.S. Regional Center business project or an individual business venture. The alien opens an account in a U.S. bank and transfers the funds into an escrow account for the selected business project. If the EB-5 visa is denied, the full amount of the investment is returned to the investor.
  3. Submitting an I-526 Petition and Obtaining a Visa. An immigration attorney assists the client in preparing and filing the I-526 petition with the USCIS along with a package of required documents. It takes 10 to 24 months for the I-526 petition to be approved. Once the petition is approved, the alien must undergo a medical examination and an interview at a U.S. consulate. After that, the applicant receives the immigrant visa, which is necessary to enter the United States.
  4. Obtaining a temporary residence permit. A foreign investor arrives in the United States within 6 months if they have been outside the country before. The date the alien enters the state is the start date of the two-year temporary green card. The document will be delivered to the holder by mail within a few weeks of entry into the United States.

U.S. citizenship by investment

  1. Submitting an I-829 petition and obtaining a permanent residence. To apply for a green card, the foreign investor must submit a Form I-829 petition before the expiration of their temporary residence permit. The applicant must provide proof of the success of the sponsored business project and the creation of the required number of jobs to the USCIS. Once the petition is approved and the applicant receives a permanent green card.
  2. Obtaining U.S. citizenship. Ninety days before the expiration of the five-year period from the date of entry into the United States on the EB-5 immigrant visa, a U.S. citizen petition may be submitted.

Other options for legal stay in the U.S.

  • Green Card Lottery. The U.S. government conducts an annual green card lottery for those who wish to immigrate to the United States. To enter the lottery, applicants must fill out an application online at dvprogram.state.gov and wait for the results. One person can apply multiple times each year and increase their chances by enrolling family members in the program.
  • Family Reunification. Aliens who are closely related to U.S. citizens may be able to obtain a green card on this basis. A U.S. sponsor can be the mother, father, child, spouse, sibling, or brother of the applicant. The time frame depends on the relationship and may vary from 6 months to 25 years.
  • Employment-based Immigration. Employment-based Immigration to the United States is suitable for foreign skilled workers. You can move to the USA if you have a job offer in a U.S. company and have obtained an H-1B or L-1 visa, or if you have received a green card from your employer.
  • Student Visa. Immigrating to the United States on an F or M visa is available to foreign nationals who want to study in U.S. educational institutions. After graduation, the professional can find a job in the United States and stay in the country. During their studies, students are eligible to work up to 20 part-time hours per week or complete paid internships.
  • Immigration by marriage. One of the easiest and most popular ways to stay legally in the United States is by getting married to a U.S. citizen. To move on a fiancée/marriage visa, the migrant must submit a package of documents to USCIS immediately after marriage and be interviewed to confirm that the marriage is not fictitious.
  • Political asylum. Refugee status in the United States may be granted to aliens who provide evidence of persecution on political, religious, social, or other grounds in the country of citizenship. Asylum applicants need to come to the United States, petition the USCIS, and prove persecution in their home country.

Compared to the above-mentioned options, immigration by investing in businesses in the United States has the following advantages:

  • the opportunity to return the full amount of the investment at the end of the term of the residence permit;
  • no requirements for English language skills, work experience or education;
  • high probability of petition approval for citizens of CIS countries;
  • opportunity to move to the U.S. together with the family.

Investor's family after immigration to the USA by investment

Immigration to the U.S. with a family

Overseas investors, who are participating in the EB-5 immigration program, may add a spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old to the application. Children, adopted at least two years ago, and fiancé(e)s, who are scheduled to be married while their petition is pending, may also be eligible to apply for a green card along with the principal applicant. All family members of an immigrant applying for a green card should fill out the necessary forms, prepare a set of documents, pay the required fees, and undergo a medical examination.

The American EB-5 investment program is a cost-effective and convenient option for immigrating to the United States. The government of the state, when considering migration petitions, gives preference to applicants from the CIS countries and does not require foreign investors to have a high level of knowledge of the English language or the specialized education. After living in the United States for 5 years on a green card, a foreign investor can apply for U.S. citizenship.

The processing of documents under the EB-5 program consists of several steps and requires some knowledge in the sphere of American migration law. Professional lawyers take care of filing various petitions and applications, preparing necessary documents, and monitoring compliance with the terms of the program, which greatly increases the chances of applicants for a green card and United States citizenship.

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