US Citizenship by Investment: How to Get an Immigrant Visa

A girl looking at the Brooklyn Bridge in New York wondering how to obtain US citizenship
 
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To obtain a US passport, you need to invest $ 900,000 in an American company, live in the country for five years and obtain citizenship by naturalization.

We will tell you how an investor can become an American citizen and in which countries it is easier and cheaper to obtain a second citizenship.

How an investor can become a US citizen

To obtain a US passport, an investor goes through a naturalization procedure. First, the applicant receives a US green card, and after five years he applies for US citizenship.

A green card is an analogue of a temporary residence permit. 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, it is important to live in the United States for 183 days a year in order to maintain status.

How does a US green card look like?
The green card looks like a plastic card and contains information about the owner: name, surname, date and place of birth, as well as expiration date and category

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 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 temporarily live in the United States and the ability to apply for a green card on the spot. We will discover these options in more detail.

EB‑5 visa: requirements to investment immigration to the USA

The EB‑5 immigration visa for foreign investors is the fastest, but also the most expensive way to become an investment green card holder.

Usually, the annual quota for visas is about 10,000 visas, but in 2021 it was doubled.

To apply for the EB‑5 visa, an applicant invests in a US company either independently or through regional centers which are private or government organizations that promote the economic development of specific states. They have their own business projects approved for foreign investment by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Most often, regional centers are aimed at cooperation with foreign investors and help those to fulfill the conditions of the immigration program.

$ 900,000

investment sum to obtain EB‑5 visa

Investment requirements for an EB‑5 visa:

  • invest from $ 900,000 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 $ 1,800,000 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 organization — 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 in 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 centers are simpler. It is not necessary to create 10 jobs: it is enough if they have already been created by the regional center. This investment option allows you not to take an active part in the management of the company, receive passive income from 0.25 to 2% per annum, as well as return the money invested in five years or more.

Most often, regional centers work with companies in rural areas or in places with a high level of unemployment, so the threshold for investment in them is from $ 900,000. Due to these advantages, most foreign investors apply for an EB‑5 visa through the regional centers. They mainly invest in commercial real estate: hotels, retail and office buildings.
A residential complex with a swimming pool with a view to the LA downtown
The Metropolis Los Angeles Residential Complex is an example of a project worth investing in California FDIUS Regional Center

Stages of obtaining citizenship
through the EB‑5 visa

Obtaining US citizenship through the EB‑5 visa happens in several stages and takes from five to seven years.

1

Project selection

2

Investment

3
Submitting an I‑ 526 petition
4

Temporary green card

5

Permanent green card

6

Citizenship

1

Project selection

2

Investment

3

Submitting an I‑526 petition

4

Temporary green card

5

Permanent green card

6

Citizenship

1. Search for a suitable project. An investor can open his own business or find an investment object: a suitable company or a regional center project.

2. Investing. When the applicant has chosen a project, he invests 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, he talks about himself and his family, as well as about the business in which money is invested. Documentary evidence of investment and the legality of the investment, as well as a business plan are attached to the petition.

A petition to USCIS takes 12 to 18 months to process. If the application is accepted, the investor and his family are interviewed at the American embassy in their country and receive a conditional green‑card — a temporary residence permit for two years.

4. Temporary green card. For the first two years, the investor’s green card has a conditional or temporary status. During this period, the investor fulfills the requirements of the program: 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 canceled.

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.

An I‑829 petition takes six to eight months 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. Usually, you can apply for citizenship five years after receiving a permanent green card. But investors with an EB‑5 visa can apply after three years. To obtain a US passport, the investor confirms that he or she has:
  • 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.

A front entrance of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office
USCIS Building, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Virginia

E‑2 visa: investment requirements

The E‑2 nonimmigrant visa for investors and entrepreneurs allows you to open a business in the United States and move there with the whole family. Its main advantage over EB‑5 is lower requirements for investments and the number of jobs.

$ 100,000+

investment sum to obtain E‑2 visa

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.

Not all foreigners can obtain an E‑2 visa. It can only be obtained by citizens of six countries that have a special agreement with the United States: Turkey, Montenegro, Moldova, Bulgaria, Egypt and Grenada.

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 he does not renew it or receive a green card.

The easiest way to get an E‑2 visa is by obtaining a second citizenship of Grenada, Turkey or Montenegro. 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.

Let’s compare the investment requirements of the three countries.

Country Investment amount for one applicant Term of receipt
Montenegro € 100,000+ as a non‑refundable contribution

€ 250,000+ on purchase of a share in government‑approved projects, you can sell the object or share after five years
4 to 6 months
Turkey $ 250,000+ on purchase of 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 and Montenegro, the visa will be given to the whole family of the investor, and in Grenada — only to the main applicant.

Each option has its own advantages. A Montenegrin passport allows you to enter Schengen countries without visas and live there for up to 90 days. The country is a candidate for accession to the European Union, and preferential taxation is provided for investors.

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 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, 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.

Нью-Йорк: иммиграционная виза в США
New York got second place in the ranking of the best cities in the world in 2021 by Resonance Consultancy. Experts gave the city such a high rating in six categories: location, infrastructure, people, wealth, cultural life and popularity among tourists. Los Angeles ranked ninth

Who can benefit from US citizenship?

Those who plan to move to the United States and are ready to permanently live 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.

If an investor plans to move to the United States or open a business there, another option may be suitable for him — an E‑2 visa through citizenship of Montenegro, 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 to have a second citizenship. Investors can obtain US citizenship, however, it is better to use a US passport when traveling abroad to maintain status.

If a person wants to get another citizenship after the American one, he will lose his US passport. Details about the difference between second and dual citizenship.
Interesting facts about the country
🏖 Several cities in California alone are in the 50 best cities in the world, e.g. San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Burlingame, Manhattan Beach.

🏭 Although the United States is home to less than 5% of the world’s population, it accounts for approximately 25% of global economic production.

📷 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 specie of mammals, reptiles, fish and plants.

💰 More billionaires live in the United States than in any other country, according to a CNBC report. There are 705 billionaires in the USA, which is more than the next four countries in the ranking combined. Seven of the ten richest people in the world are Americans.
If the investor does not plan to live in the United States, other investment citizenship programs may be suitable for him. 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, 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, Maltese citizenship for exceptional services by direct investment will require a non‑refundable contribution of € 610,000 and home purchases from € 700,000 or a multi‑year lease. Such investments pay off: price increases and rentals bring on average 5 to 15% per year. Obtaining a country’s passport takes 12 to 14 months. Visa‑free travel to 180 countries of the world, including the United States, is available to its owner.
Hawaiian mountains on the ocean's beach at sunset

Hawaii is an incredibly beautiful volcanic archipelago. It is the only state in the US that consists entirely of islands

Rocky forested islands in the fog somewhere in Alaska

Almost the third of the territory of Alaska is beyond the Arctic Circle

A fox sits in the grass. It has grey fur on the head and back and white fur going down the neck and belly

The island gray fox is an endemic species of the Channel Islands near the shores of California

A river bend round a rocky islands like a horse shoe at the bottom of a canyon

Horseshoe Bend is where the Colorado river curves within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Hawaiian mountains on the ocean's beach at sunset
Rocky forested islands in the fog somewhere in Alaska
A fox sits in the grass. It has grey fur on the head and back and white fur going down the neck and belly
A river bend round a rocky islands like a horse shoe at the bottom of a canyon

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;
  • 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 $ 900,000;
  • winning a special lottery.

How to get US citizenship by investment

To obtain an EB‑5 visa, you will need to invest from $ 900,000 in a company in a rural area or in a region with a high unemployment rate, from $ 1,800,000 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.

Investment requirements for EB‑5 Visa

It is possible to obtain a US passport for investment only through the naturalization procedure. Investments do not cancel this scheme, but only shorten the period of registration of the status. 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.

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