Investment Pathways to Citizenship

In the US, approximately 140,000 visas are issued each year to workers who wish to immigrate and establish permanent residency, along with their spouses and children, based on their job skills.

These visas fall into five distinct EB categories. The highest preference goes to EB-1 visas, which are reserved for persons of extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, research, and multinational executives and managers.

Within the same category, EB-5 visas are granted to business investors who contribute to US job creation. To obtain an EB-5 visa, applicants must invest $1.8 million in a new commercial enterprise that employs at least 10 full-time US workers. The threshold is reduced to $900,000 if the investment is made in a targeted employment area.

Historically, the EB-5 program has been a valuable tool for driving economic growth, with no cost to US tax-payers. EB-5 visas account for less than one percent of all visas issued by the US but have significantly impacted job creation and community revitalization. For example, in a recent two-year period, EB-5 projects supported over 355,000 US jobs via $11 billion in capital investments.1

Recent Changes to the EB-5 Program

Unfortunately, every visa program has experienced instances of fraud and abuse. For the EB-5 program, abuses have included various schemes carried out by some of the Regional Centers that were authorized by the USCIS to sponsor capital investment projects and solicit EB-5 investors for participation.

In September 2019, Senators Grassley and Leahy introduced the bi-partisan EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act. If signed into law, the bill would:2

Graphic: Number of Approved EB-5 Regional Centers as of September 2020: 685

  • Extend the EB-5 program through September 2024.
  • Provide increased DHS authority to deny or terminate applications where there is fraud, criminal misuse, or a threat to public safety or national security.
  • Establish an "EB-5 Integrity Fund."
  • Require background checks of Regional Centers and project principals.
  • Require more disclosures to investors.
  • Require more oversight of projects and closer monitoring for securities compliance.
  • Improve how jobs are calculated to ensure projects meet the required 10 jobs per investor.
  • Improve accountability and transparency.
  • Decrease petition processing times.

Latest Developments

NAR supports the bill, which has not passed, as of this writing. The current EB-5 program was set to expire in September but was extended through December 11, 2020, as part of the Continuing Resolutions to fund the government.

More than 10,000 EB-5 investor visas are available annually to qualified applicants, although actual applications have dropped dramatically this year. The decline follows a 2019 surge, primarily due to strong interest in taking advantage of the old investment requirements, which were nearly half the current thresholds.

The White House executive order that suspended many visas in June 2020 did not apply to the EB-5 program.

Bar chart: Estimated EB-5 Investment in Non-Construction Sections, in Millions

Countries Offering Citizenship by Investment

Many countries offer "golden visas" and similar programs aimed at high net-worth individuals. Requirements and benefits vary widely. Depending on your objectives (tax advantages, residency, flexible travel, etc.) options include:

Europe

  • Bulgaria
  • Cyprus
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Latvia
  • Malta
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom

Caribbean

  • Antigua
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Saint Kitts and
  • Nevis
  • Saint Lucia

Americas

  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • United States

Asia-Pacific

  • Cambodia
  • New Zealand
  • Samoa
  • Singapore
  • Vanuatu

Africa and Middle East

  • Egypt
  • Jordan
  • Turkey

1 Assessment of the Economic Value and Job Creation Impacts of Project Capital Investment Activity Under the EB-5 Program, February 2019

2 A full summary of the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2019 is available at: www.leahy.senate.gov/download/20190925-eb-5-reform-and-integrity-act-summary

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