September 14, 2021
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Why Is It Increasingly Difficult To Get An EB‑5 Visa In The USA And What Are The Alternatives For Investors

The EB‑5 visa is issued to investors who want to run a business and move to live in the USA. To obtain the visa, the investor participates in the government’s Immigrant Investor Program: starts a new business or invests in the expansion of an existing American company.

Until July 2021 an alternative option was available — investment in an approved business project through a regional center. But the acceptance of applications through the centers has so far been closed. We tell you about the situation with EB‑5 visas and whether Russians have a way to get another business visa to the USA.

Albert Ioffe
Albert Ioffe

Legal and Compliance Officer

EB-5 visa to the USA: how many investors received a visa between 2016 and 2021

Why Is It Increasingly Difficult To Get An EB-5 Visa In The USA And What Are The Alternatives For Investors

The EB‑5 business visa is available to all foreign investors in the USA. It allows investors to move to the states with their spouses and children up to the age of 21. They are entitled to live, conduct business, and study in the country. EB‑5 visa holders first receive a green card for 10 years. If they have lived in the USA for five years, they can apply for citizenship.

How many investors have received an EB‑5 visa in the last six years

The EB‑5 visa is granted on a quota basis. The US government allocates 10,000 places per year to investors and their families. Not everyone is able to meet the quota: investors can wait several years for their turn for a place on the quota.

The USA approved 41,135 EB‑5 visa applications between 2016 and 2021. About 95% of investors applied through US regional centers.

From 1 July 2021, investors can only invest in their own business projects that employ 10 or more people. The minimum investment is $500,000.

Dynamics of applications for the EB‑5 business visa

EB-5 visa in the USA: how many investors have applied over six years

Blue in the chart indicates the number of investors who have applied for an EB‑5 visa in the US, gray indicates the number of approved applications. Columns for 2021 show data for applications from the first to the third quarter

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, is running out of time to process applications: some 13,000 investors are pending. The reasons for the delay are temporary suspensions due to the coronavirus pandemic and the closure of the regional centres program.

The USCIS is not yet processing applications that investors have submitted through regional centers. But the speed of processing standalone applications has not increased either. Why is unknown. US Citizenship and Immigration officials have not commented on the situation.

Why stopped issuing EB‑5 visas through regional centers

The US government must review the amount of investment under the program every five years. In 2019, the US Department of Homeland Security made changes to the EB‑5 business visa program.

The new conditions came into force on 21 November 2019. The main change is an increase in the minimum investment amount by $400,000. The US Department of Homeland Security raised the cost of participation to keep the amount in line with the inflation rate from 1990 to 2015.

In December 2020, the Bering Regional Center sued the US Department of Homeland Security. According to representatives of the regional center, the ministry did not have the authority to change the terms of the program.

The US District Court for the Northern District of California supported the regional center’s position and overturned the ministry’s order.

The minimum investment amount for an EB‑5 visa is back to the original figure of $500,000. But investors have not had time to take advantage of the reduced price: the regional centers program ended on 30 June 2020. The renewal of the centers will be decided in autumn 2021.

Features of obtaining an EB‑5 visa for Russians

Russians are allowed to participate in the US investment program. However, under the terms of the program, investors can only apply for a 10-year green card after 2 years of application.

Before that, the investor receives conditional status and a temporary green card. After 2 years, the Russian confirms that his business continues to generate income and 10 jobs are saved.

The process of obtaining an EB‑5 visa can eventually take 2 to 4 years, especially if there is a queue of investor applications at the US immigration office.

Wealthy Russians choose an easier and less expensive way to get a business visa to the US — through Grenada citizenship.

Alternative to the EB‑5 visa for Russians — E‑2 visa through Grenada citizenship

The US issues several types of business visas for investors. One of the most popular options is the E‑2 visa. The advantage of this visa is that the US government does not set quotas for its issuance. For example, in 2019, 43,000 investors received an E‑2 visa, while only 9,500 people received an EB‑5 visa under quotas.

The E‑2 visa is issued by investment in a business; there is no minimum investment threshold. To get a visa, one has to invest a significant amount in a business in the USA — usually from $200,000 — and take over the management of the company. Also, five new jobs need to be created in the country for qualified people.

Together with the investor, the E‑2 visa is granted to the investor’s family. The visa allows you to live, do business, work, and study in the States. The E‑2 visa is not an immigration visa, which means that you cannot apply for citizenship. However, you can renew this visa an unlimited number of times.

There is a restriction: citizens of countries that have signed a trade agreement with the USA can obtain an E‑2 visa. For example, Grenada, Montenegro, Moldova, or Turkey. Russians cannot get an E‑2 visa. But they can become citizens of one of the countries for which the visa is available.

Investors are more likely to choose Grenadian citizenship, as Grenadians receive an E‑2 visa valid for 5 years. In comparison, citizens of Moldova are granted it for only 3 months.

To obtain Grenada citizenship, investors make a contribution to a government fund of $150,000 or more or buy a property in the country of $220,000 or more. They then apply for an E‑2 visa. As a result, the cost of E‑2 visa through Grenada citizenship will cost an investor less than participating in the EB‑5 visa program.

What other opportunities an investor with a Grenada passport has

Investors with a Grenada passport travel visa-free to 144 countries, including the Schengen states, the UK, and China. Grenada is the only Caribbean country whose citizens are free to visit China for up to 30 days.

Investors have the right to obtain a tourist visa to the USA for 10 years under a simplified procedure. In comparison, Russians are granted a tourist visa to the USA for 3 years maximum.

Grenada is a member of the British Commonwealth, therefore citizens have benefits for studying in British universities. Investors with a Grenada passport can stay in the UK for up to 180 days a year.

Investors will also be able to travel to Grenada for holidays at any time, even during emergencies.

Grenada citizenship by investment: holidaying in the country on local beaches

The most popular beach in Grenada is Grand Anse. Those who wish can rent a boat for a boat trip, rent diving equipment or simply sit at the bar and have a mug of local beer

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent of the Grenada citizenship program. If you want to get a second passport to move to the USA, seek advice from investment program experts.