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Can I Buy My Way into Being a U.S. Citizen?

Citizenship by investment is a concept that dates back a few centuries, but its legal codification, oversight, and marketing aspects first became prevalent in the 20th century. In essence, a foreigner who makes an extraordinary or even significant economic contribution to another country may be able to seek citizenship by investment if the jurisdiction offers such a program. The premier San Diego immigration lawyers from KS Visa Law explain how investment can facilitate the citizenship process.

Quite a few countries offer immigration and “second passport” programs through investments. Some of the most commonly known programs of this type are offered by Caribbean nations, such as Antigua and Dominica. Since some of these countries are also known to be offshore tax havens, their citizenship by investment programs are sometimes seen as controversial because of the expedited process of plunking down a certain amount of cash up front in exchange for instant naturalization and a new passport.

In the United States, the EB-5 visa program is the closest there is to citizenship by investment. This program has been around since the mid-1990s, but it gained public attention in the wake of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession of 2008. The EB-5 visa offers a path to permanent residency for investors. However, this shouldn’t be seen as a way to “buy” American citizenship because applicants who receive green cards must still go through various processes to obtain the benefit of naturalization and be able to apply for U.S. passports.

Compared to other programs that provide a route to lawful immigration and residency, EB-5 visas present a number of challenges. The process is intricate and businesslike, thus requiring the involvement of immigration attorneys to work with the EB-5 regional center. While the law is firm regarding the EB-5 visa, San Diego immigrants should understand its requirements and procedures are quite fluid. In fact, the most recent modernization took place as recently as November 2019, and it requires advanced investment amounts of at least $900,000 in Targeted Employment Areas. The projects must be commercial enterprises.

It should be noted that generation of employment is crucial in terms of gaining EB-5 visa approval. The business project must be sound and accompanied by a credible plan. There’s a second option of investing at least one million dollars outside of Targeted Employment Areas, and this may include real estate investments, but creating at least 10 jobs is seen as a more attractive option in the eyes of immigration adjudicators.

Although hard capital is preferred within the requirements of this visa program, there are provisions for EB-5 loans, but the repayment schedule can be as short as 12 months. As with all other immigration programs, EB-5 visas are capped on an annual basis. An advantage of this program is that it has a good track record of issuing green cards to investors and their immediate family members when business projects succeed in creating new jobs. To this effect, turnkey businesses are allowed, but only if they include new payrolls as part of their business plans. 

Get in touch with KS Visa Law if you’d like more information on any issues dealing with immigration, including EB-5 visas. We specialize in every aspect of immigration law, from naturalization to family-based immigration. Call 858-874-0711 today to schedule an appointment with one of our immigration law experts.

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