With the new US President’s anti-globalisation and anti-immigrants stance, those wishing to toil their way in to a US citizenship might find it hard in the near future. But money might buy you a rightful place under the US sun. This can be achieved with the help of the EB-5 program, that can get you permanent residency and eventually citizenship, provided you have a deep pocket.
Many countries, including the UK, Australia and exotic locales such as Malta and Cyprus provide a channel to high networth individuals to obtain multiple citizenship if they invest specific sums or meet some criteria, laid down by each country.
There are many who decry this practice of offering citizenship for sale. But with legal migration becoming a part of the globalisation process, countries are making the most of the demand to improve employment and attract capital to their countries.
The EB-5 program has enabled citizens of various countries, including India and China, to get permanent residence within the US. These investments have helped the US garner $4378 million in 2016. The amount is up from $321 in 2008; almost doubling every year.
Contours of the program
The EB-5 program was created in 1990 to stimulate the US economy through job creation and by attracting fresh foreign capital. Entrepreneurs, their spouses and children under 21 can apply for the US green card or permanent residence if they invest in a commercial enterprise in the US and create 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified US workers.
The investment ought to be in a new enterprise, one that was created after 1990, when the program commenced. The enterprise should be a commercial one, engaged in a profit-making activity. The holding structure of the enterprise could be a partnership, joint-venture, corporation, Trust. It can be either publicly or privately owned.
The investment can be by means of cash, equipment, other tangible property or loan guarantee and shall be valued based on the fair market value in the US. However, if you have amassed assets through criminal activities, they cannot be used to buy US citizenship. The minimum capital required as investment under EB-5 program is $1 million. However, if the investment is made in specific areas with high unemployment or in rural areas, the investment can be $500,000 only.
The limits can however undergo a change soon as the ongoing EB-5 program expires on April 28, 2017. So if you are considering this route to secure US citizenship, you need to hurry. US authorities are considering an increase in the standard minimum investment from $1 million to $1.8 million and from $500,000 to $1.35 million for projects in targeted employment areas.
The EB-5 process
The process begins with filing the Form I-526. This form has to provide details about the investments to be made in the US. Once this is approved, Form I-485 has to be filed, which is a registration for permanent residence. Once the Form I-485 is approved or once you have been granted entry in to the US with an EB-5 immigrant visa, the EB-5 investor and family members will be granted conditional permanent residence for a two-year period.
Towards the end of the two-year period, Form I-829, that seeks permission for removing the conditions on Permanent Resident Status, has to be applied. On approval, permanent resident status will be granted to the EB-5 investor and his dependants.
There are many consultants based in the US who can advise you on how to go about your investments. For instance, LCR Capital Partners, founded by Suresh Rajan, helps Indian HNIs and their families obtain US residency and green cards by deploying capital to fund projects in the US. The firm pools investors’ capital into a standardised, transparent, mutual fund-like investment vehicle, which, in turn, provides partial financing for the development of specific projects chosen on a five-year senior-secured basis.
Pros and cons
The growing uncertainty over immigration norms in the US makes obtaining US residency through the EB-5 route quite useful. If you have made up your mind that you do not want to put up with the chaotic functioning of developing countries, you can get a permanent residence in the US through this route. This will ensure that you settle down in the US, if you want to. After living in the US for five years, you can opt for US citizenship, if you like. Since the US permits dual citizenship, you might not have to denounce your other citizenships.
This program is useful for Indian students in the US. Having a permanent residency removes the uncertainty around their future plans. Gaining internships, seeking a job after a small break and so on, then, become a lot easier.
However, you need to be careful about the investment you choose. There is a possibility of loss, if the company you invest in fails. If you are the globe-trotting kind who wants to easy entry in to multiple countries, you could consider investing in countries such as Dominica. The residency, through investment program in this country, will get you visa-free entry into 95 other countries, including the UK and the EU Schengen zone.
- New York
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