How an investor can become a US citizen
To obtain a US passport, an investor goes through a naturalisation procedure. First, the applicant receives a US Green Card, and after five years, they apply for US citizenship. There is no option to get an American passport by investment.
A Green Card is an analogue of permanent residence. With it, you can freely live, work and fly to the country without visas. The green card gives the investor's family the same rights as American citizens, except for the right to vote and hold positions in the civil service.
A Green Card holder is required to comply with US laws, be a US tax resident and live in the country for most of the year.
The Green Card is valid for 10 years. After that, it can be renewed as many times as you like. Simultaneously, living in the United States for 183 days a year is important to maintain status.
There are two main programs under which an investor can obtain a US residence permit: an EB-5 immigrant visa and an E-2 nonimmigrant visa. Holders of immigrant visas receive a Green Card, and nonimmigrant ones only get the right to live in the United States temporarily and the ability to apply for a Green Card on the spot.
The investor’s whole family can get a green card and move to the United States, considering a marital partner and children under 21 years of age. The couple's parents, siblings and other relatives will be able to receive it only through the family reunification program.
There is also a way to get a Green Card as an employee: an EB1C visa is issued for multinational managers or executives that a US company employs.
EB-5 visa: requirements to investment immigration to the USA
The EB-5 immigration visa is quite expensive; however, it is a convenient and clear way to become a Green Card holder. The EB-5 Visa opens the prospect of getting American nationality. Even though it might seem like a US passport by investment, it is by naturalisation.
Usually, the annual quota for visas is about 10,000 visas, but in 2023 it is 13,987.
To apply for the EB-5 visa, an applicant must invest in a US company either independently or through regional centres, private or government organisations that promote the economic development of specific states. Their business projects are approved for foreign investment by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Most often, regional centres are aimed at cooperation with foreign investors and helping those to fulfil the conditions of the immigration program.
Investment requirements for an EB-5 visa:
- invest from $800,000 in a company in rural areas or in a region with an unemployment rate of 1.5 times higher than the national average or from $1,050,000 in other regions;
- the selected company must be created by the investor from scratch or opened no later than November 29th, 1990;
- the company cannot be a non-profit organisation — the purpose of the business should be to make a profit;
- the investment must lead to the creation of 10 jobs for qualified American employees for a period of two years;
- investments cannot be carried out in the form of a loan to American companies; the investor will not be guaranteed a return on investment;
- the investor will need to confirm the legality of the invested funds;
- the investor needs to participate in the management of the company in which one invested and confirm involvement in the day-to-day management of the business or participation in the formation of the company's strategy.
Requirements for investments through projects of regional centres are simpler. It is not necessary to create 10 jobs: it is enough if the regional centre has already created them. This investment option allows you not to take an active part in the company's management, receive passive income from 0.25 to 2% per annum, and return the money invested in five years or more.
Most often, regional centres work with companies in rural areas or places with high unemployment, so the threshold for investment in them is from $800,000. Due to these advantages, most foreign investors apply for an EB-5 visa through the regional centres. They mainly invest in commercial real estate: hotels, retail and office buildings.
Stages of obtaining citizenship
through the EB-5 visa
Obtaining US citizenship through the EB-5 visa happens in several stages and takes approximately 12—14 years.
1. Search for a suitable project. An investor can open a business or find an investment object: a suitable company or a regional centre project.
2. Investing. When the applicant has chosen a project, they invest in it. For example, transferring money to a company account.
3. Submitting a petition. The investor submits an I-526 petition to USCIS for an EB-5 visa. In it, they talk about themselves and their family and the business in which money is invested. Documentary evidence of investment, the legality of the investment, and a business plan are attached to the petition.
A petition to USCIS takes 3 to 4 years to process. If the application is accepted, the investor and their family are interviewed at the American embassy in their country and receive a conditional Green Card — a temporary residence permit for two years.
4. Conditional Green Card. The investor's Green Card has a conditional or temporary status for the first two years. During this period, the investor fulfils the program's requirements: creating and maintaining 10 jobs and staying in the country for more than six months a year. If the conditions are violated, the Green Card will be cancelled.
5. Permanent Green Card. After a year and nine months of living in the United States, you can file an I-829 petition with USCIS to change your status and receive a permanent green card. You will need to documentarily confirm that the business is working, meets all the requirements for it, jobs are created and saved.
You must confirm that the business works documentarily, meets all its requirements, and creates and saves jobs.
An I-829 petition takes approximately 5.5 years to review. If the investor has met all the requirements, then the investor and the family will be given permanent Green Cards for ten years.
6. Application for citizenship. You can apply for citizenship five years after receiving a permanent Green Card. There is no such thing as American citizenship by investment; even in the case of investment, applicants need to get it through naturalisation.
To obtain a US passport, the investor must confirm that they have the following:
- lived in the United States for more than 183 days a year;
- did not break the law;
- passed the test for basic English;
- passed a naturalization interview where a USCIS employee assessed his knowledge of US history and government.
The married couple and their children over 18 submit separate applications and take all tests independently. Children under 18 years of age receive citizenship automatically with their parents; they do not need to take tests.
E-2 visa: investment requirements
On an E-2 visa, you cannot get a Green Card and apply for citizenship. Such a visa is valid for five years, but it can be renewed for two years an unlimited number of times. To obtain citizenship, the holder of an E-2 visa first submits an application for re-qualification of his visa to an immigration one and then receives a Green Card.
Investment requirements for an E-2 visa are lower than for an EB-5 visa:
- investing money in an American company: a specific minimum is not indicated, but in practice, we are talking about amounts starting from $100,000 to $200,000. In these cases, investors often buy a ready-made franchise business;
- create at least five jobs;
- the investor is not guaranteed a return on investment;
- it is necessary to document the legality of the sources of income;
- you will need to live in the United States and participate in the management of the company;
- the investor leaves the United States after the expiration of the visa if they do not renew it or receive a Green Card.
Not all foreigners can obtain an E-2 visa, only citizens of countries with a special agreement with the United States.
The easiest way to get an E-2 visa is by obtaining a second citizenship of Grenada or Turkey. Investors receive passports of these countries remotely. The process takes two to six months. It is not necessary to know the language or live in these countries. However, one must live in the country of second citizenship for at least three years before applying for the E-2 visa.
Let's compare the investment requirements of the two countries.
Comparison of requirements for citizenships by investment
|Country||Investment amount for one applicant||Term of receipt|
|Turkey||$400,000+ on the purchase of the real estate, can be sold in three years|
$500,000+ on deposit, purchase of securities or starting a business
|3 to 6 months|
|Grenada||$150,000 as a non-refundable contribution|
$220,000+ on purchase of government-approved real estate; you can sell an object or a share in it after five years
|4 to 6 months|
In all three cases, most of the funds can be returned after three or five years, and citizenship can be obtained within six months. But in the case of Turkey the visa will be given to the whole family of the investor and in Grenada — only to the main applicant.
Turkish citizens can go to 110 countries without a visa, including Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. Turkey also claims to join the European Union and provide visa-free travel to the Schengen Area for its citizens.
Buying Turkish real estate is the most popular option for obtaining investment citizenship in the country. Housing can be a good investment: the annual increase in prices is from 5 to 20% in lira, and rent brings another 5 to 8%. Moreover, Turkish real estate is one of the most inexpensive in the region.
Citizens of Grenada can enter 140+ countries without visas, including Schengen countries, the UK and China, live in the European Union for up to 90 days within six months and in the UK for 180 days a year. Investors do not pay taxes on foreign income, capital gains and inheritance.
American passport through EB1C visa
The EB-1 visa is an opportunity to immigrate to the US based on job skills. It concerns people with extraordinary abilities like awards in business or athletics, researchers, and managers. The latter category is referred to as the EB1C visa.
Requirements. Suppose you strive to obtain an EB1C visa. In that case, you should have worked as a manager or an executive outside of the USA for at least 1 year within 3 years prior to the application by a qualifying entity to an employer in the US.
A company you plan to work for should have a business in the country for at least 1 year and intend to employ you. The employer also should have a qualifying relationship with the entity that employed you abroad. If you already work in that company, you should be the most recent lawful nonimmigrant admission there.
Process. In the case of EB1C, the employer applies. The petitioner must fill in the form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker. The fee for the application is $700.
Moreover, the employer should confirm an ability to pay the offered wage via an annual report, federal income tax return, or audited financial statement. A labour certification is not required.
The company also needs to provide a statement that contains the following information:
- confirmation that the beneficiary has been employed according to the requirements;
- confirmation that the petitioner has been doing business in the USA for at least 1 year;
- the ability of the company to pay the salary to the employee;
- the description of duties the beneficiary is going to perform;
- confirmation that a qualifying entity abroad continues to work.
Family members. If your petition is approved and you are eligible to obtain an EB1C visa, a spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can also apply for immigrant status.
After five years of living in the country, an executive or a manager can apply for American citizenship by naturalisation.
Who can benefit from US citizenship?
Those who plan to move to the United States and are ready to live permanently in the country and pay taxes. For visa-free travel or tax savings, programs of the Caribbean countries and Vanuatu or the European Union are better suited.
Those who are ready to go through a long process of naturalization. Obtaining an EB-5 visa process can take two years: there is a chance of not meeting the annual quota.
Suppose an investor plans to move to the United States or open a business there. In that case, another option may be suitable for him — an E-2 visa through the citizenship of Turkey or Grenada.
There is no need to renounce the first citizenship. The US authorities have not entered into an agreement on dual citizenship with any country while allowing them to have a second citizenship. Investors can obtain US citizenship. However, it is better to use a US passport when travelling abroad to maintain status.
If a person wants to get another citizenship after the American one, they will not lose their US passport. Details about the difference between second and dual citizenship.
If the investor does not plan to live in the United States, other investment citizenship programs may be suitable for them. For example, citizenship of a Caribbean country: Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Dominica, Saint Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis. Another option is Vanuatu citizenship. They are all much easier to obtain:
- the investment amount starts from $100,000, and part of the investment can be returned;
- no need to know the local language;
- no need to live in the country, and in some cases, even go to it;
- citizenship can be obtained within six months;
- no taxes on foreign income and inheritance.
Citizens of the Caribbean are free to travel to and stay in Schengen countries for up to 90 days within six months, and in the UK, for up to 180 days.
For permanent life in the EU, an investor would be better served by a passport from one of the European countries. For example, Malta citizenship for exceptional services by direct investment will require a non-refundable contribution of €600,000+ and home purchases from €700,000 or a multi-year lease.
Such investments pay off: property price increases and rentals bring on an average of 5 to 15% per year. Obtaining Malta’s passport takes at least 12 months. Visa-free travel to 180+ countries of the world, including the United States, is available to its owner.
Interesting facts about the country
- More than a quarter of the world's 100 best cities are in the United States, including Californian Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego.
- Although the United States is home to less than 5% of the world's population, it accounts for approximately 25% of global economic production.
- The USA is the third most visited country in the world after Spain and France.
- The United States is among the top ten countries for varying species of mammals, reptiles, fish and plants.
- According to a Billionaire Census report, more billionaires live in the United States than in any other country. There are 955 billionaires in the USA, more than the next four countries in the combined ranking. Eight of the ten richest people in the world are Americans.
- About 45 million immigrants live in the USA, including the ones who obtained EB-5 Investor Visas.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can obtain US citizenship by birth or naturalization. For naturalization, you will need to live in the country for five years with a green card. The main ways to get a green card:
- marriage to an American citizen; in this case, you only need to live in the country for three years;
- reunification with close relatives: spouses, parents or children;
- a work visa for highly qualified specialists: if you come to the country with it, you can apply for a green card;
- extraordinary abilities — a visa for people who have achieved outstanding success in their field of activity;
- political asylum or as a refugee;
- investments in the American economy from $800,000;
- winning a special lottery.
To obtain an EB-5 visa, you will need to invest from $800,000 in a company in a rural arearnor in a region with a high unemployment rate, from $1,050,000 in other regions. It is also necessary to create 10 permanent jobs.
Citizens of Turkey, Montenegro, Moldova, Bulgaria, Egypt and Grenada can apply for an E-2 nonimmigrant visa, move to the country and apply for a green card on the spot. Investment requirements for obtaining an E-2 visa: invest from $100,000 to $200,000 and create five jobs.
Obtaining a US passport by investment only through the naturalisation procedure is possible. Investments do not cancel this scheme but only shorten the status registration period. First, the investor receives an EB-5 immigration visa, then a temporary green card. You can apply for citizenship only after five years.
Yes, if a child was born in the United States, he will receive US citizenship by birth, even if his parents have passports of other countries. Such citizenship is inherited: the children of this child will also be Americans.
No, it is impossible to get American citizenship by investment. However, getting a residence permit by investment is possible, and then applying for a passport.
You need to invest in a local enterprise of various types, including commercial real estate. The necessary investment in a high-unemployment area is $800,000; the standard minimum investment is $1,050,000. Then you can apply for an EB-5 visa and get a temporary permit.
After 21 months of holding a temporary Green Card, you can get a permanent one. Once you obtain it, you have to live in the country for five years, and then you get the right to apply for American citizenship by naturalisation.
Yes, foreigners can get citizenship in the USA. First, they need to get a Green Card, which is a temporary residence permit, in the country. They may do so by investment or via employment. After five years of living in the country as a permanent resident, they can apply for citizenship.
Marriage to an American citizen is the fastest way to get a US passport, as you only need to live for three years with a Green Card prior to applying for citizenship.
Yet, there is an option to get a so-called American passport by investment, which is actually a way by naturalisation. For that, you have to get an EB-5 immigration visa. First, you need to invest at least $800,000 in an American company and apply for a temporary Green Card. A petition takes 3—4 years to process.
After 21 months of having a temporary residence permit, you can apply for a permanent one. The processing normally takes 5.5 years.
Then, once you obtain a permanent Green Card, you must live in the US for five years. After that, you can apply for citizenship by naturalisation, as there is no such program as an American passport by investment.
To become a US citizen, you must live around 15 years in the country. During this time, you cannot leave the country for more than 6 months a year.
First, you need to get a Green Card, which is a residence permit. You can obtain it by investment or via employment. The initial Green Card is conditional, which means temporary for two years.
You should apply for a permanent Green Card three months before the expiration. Once you have it, you must live in the country for five years before applying for an American passport.