USA Golden Visa or Residency Through Investment

The USA, through the Immigration Act of 1990, created an immigrant investor program dubbed EB-5 visa. This is the country’s equivalent of the golden visa already adopted by other countries like Portugal, Greece, and Spain.

Otherwise known as the Employment-Based Fifth preference category, the EB5 visa offers an opportunity to eligible immigrant investors to invest, live, work and retire in the USA.

Initially, the EB 5 immigrant investor visa was targeted at people who had invested or were willing to invest in a new commercial enterprise or a TEA (Targeted Employment Areas) with high unemployment rates.

However, this was later reviewed in 1992 to allow a USA investor to focus on both new and running commercial businesses. This included troubled enterprises or those affiliated with Regional Centers (created to promote or spur economic activity in a given area).

In addition, Greece offers the following metrics for Economic Freedom, Business Freedom, Property Rights and Prosperity.

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* data sourced from www.heritage.org and knoema.com

The USA sets aside 10,000 EB 5 visas for foreign investors annually. This is meant to help improve the U.S. economy and thus develop the TEA zones much more seamlessly.

The USA is a federal republic that comprises 50 states and is located in North America. Fondly referred to as the U.S, the country has its mainland (48 states) covering 7,663,941 square kilometers making it the third-largest population in the world.

The 50 states of mainland America are categorized into distinct regions:

  • New England: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhodes islands, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire
  • The South: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
  • Mid Atlantic: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Washington D.C, and Maryland
  • The Midwest: Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Ohio
  • Rocky Mountains: Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho
  • South West: Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico
  • Pacific Northwest: Washington and Oregon
  • California, Texas, and Florida: These are independent regions on their own

Climate

Owing to its large landmass, the USA’s climate is diverse. However, the country can generally be categorized as experiencing a continental climate. This is characterized by cold winters and hot summers. There is usually a different season duration based on distance from the sea and latitudes. However, some exceptions to this abound. For instance, on the west coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the climatic conditions tend to be cool and damp. The southern and northern parts experience mild winter and hot and muggy summers.

In regions like Florida, however, the climate is almost tropical. The areas around the mountains are cold in winter and cool in the summer. Considering that there are no obstacles to block air masses from Canada, the country almost always experiences cold waves, especially in winter. These waves, however, have different intensities and duration based on the area.

In the south, the cold spells may last a few days, and the temperatures can fall below freezing point in winter. The inland area experiences intense heat waves during the summers. Generally, the country's western half is arider compared to the eastern part except for the north-central coast of the Pacific that experiences frequent rains.

The Western part of the USA is a mix of mountains and plateaus coupled with vast arid and semi-arid areas. On the other hand, the central-eastern part features hills, low mountains, and flat areas. This makes its climate generally humid and rainy. However, given the vastness of this territory, its climatic conditions are remarkably different.

The Central Eastern part of the country experiences frequent slashes of air masses. This makes the climatic conditions of this region distinctively unstable. Some areas in this region experienced periodic violent conditions like hailstorms, tornados, and blizzards. While the air mass from Canada is usually cold and dry, that from the Gulf of Mexico is generally warm and moist. The Great plants experience a variety of higher temperatures, but it is usually less rainy and humid compared to the East Coast.

The USA has four main desert regions. These are:

  • Mojave
  • The Great Basin
  • Sonoran
  • Chihuahuan

Except for the Sonoran Desert, the rest of the deserts experience cold winters. With the freezing temperatures, plant life is limited. The Great Basin especially has distinctively cold winters since it is the most elevated and northernmost compared to the rest. The desert regions that support plant life would usually feature such plants as low shrubs, succulents, and cacti.

Generally, the weather changes in the country are mainly driven by the seasonal changes in its solar angle and position of the polar jet stream and the migration south/north of the subtropical highs.

Economy

As a highly developed country, the USA features a mixed economy. It boasts of being the world's largest economy based on net wealth and nominal GDP making it an ideal option for those seeking the US green card by investment. This also makes it the second-largest purchasing power parity. Its economy is also the most technologically powerful as most of its firms are at par with the most advanced in the world. This is especially so in areas like technological gadgets, medical, aerospace, and military equipment.

The U.S dollar is the official currency, which is also the most featured in international transactions. This makes the U.S dollar the most reserved currency in the world. While a number of other countries have adopted it as their official currency, many others use it as the de facto currency.

The country boasts of several reliable trading partners, but the largest include Canada, China, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, South Korea, India, France, and Taiwan. Considering its advanced systems in terms of trade, the U.S is the largest importer in the world and the second-largest exporter.

A well-developed infrastructure, an abundance of natural resources, and high productivity have helped fuel the U.S economy. By 2015, the nation's total estimated value of its natural resources stood at $45 trillion. Compared to other OECD member states, the U.S has the highest average employee and household income.

It also stands out as the largest producer of natural gas and petroleum in the world. The country also boasts of the highest number of billionaires whose total wealth is in the range of $4 trillion.

The U.S's Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange are the largest stock exchanges based on trade volume and market capitalization. The county is a magnet for foreign investment and a leader in investing overseas.
The U.S economy has seldom experienced a severe economic downturn safe for the 2007 Great Recession. However, it quickly picked up, and by 2011, its economy had already peaked back. It currently boasts of being the largest consumer market in the world.

Based on its promising economy, the USA has become a favorite sojourn for immigrants from all over the world, making its experience one of the highest net migration rates in the world.

Infrastructure

The USA generally has an advanced infrastructure. Most of its roadways and general infrastructure can comfortably support the needs of its economy. The interconnectedness between the 50 states is made possible through roadways, while about 90% of all major towns and cities benefit from expressway services.
Considering the country's sheer size, a vast highway network is necessary for easier and convenient transportation of goods across the country. This has been made possible through its 6,348,277 kilometers of roadways that includes 3,732,757 kilometers of paved roads.

The USA also boasts of a railway system that is privately owned. This is in addition to 240,000 kilometers of mainline rail. The railway industry alone has directly employed over 116,000 people in the country. Its national carrier, Amtrak, is currently government-owned, but some congress discussions are ongoing in a bid to privatize the system.

Apart from the Great Lakes, the USA has 41,009 kilometers of navigable waterways. A massive canal system was constructed in the 19th century, and most of it remains in use to date. One of the most notable waterways in the country is the Mississippi River that boasts of being the busiest in the world. The USA is home to a number of busy ports, including Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Charleston, Los Angeles, Hampton Roads, New York, New Orleans, Tampa, and Seattle.

The country's telecommunication system is also exemplary. For instance, telephone services are widespread across the country, thanks to its state-of-the-art fiber optic cable systems that offer convenience in relaying information. This is in addition to the extensive coaxial cable networks, swift information technology, and microwave radio relay stations. The government has also strived to improve international communication, as seen in its 24 ocean-cable systems that help facilitate transoceanic communications. This is made even better by the broad satellite networks for a faster relay of information.

The USA is home to over 14,000 airports. This is in addition to 118 heliports. All airlines in the country are privately owned. This includes giant companies like American Airlines, Continental, United, Delta, and Northwest.
The O'Hare International and Hartford International in Chicago and Atlanta, respectively are the two busiest airports in the country. Apart from air travel, the country also boasts of being home to the largest space program, with the National Aeronautics and Space Administrators (NASA) taking a huge junk of this budget. NASA is a government corporation with the private industry seeing that the company performs space launches for private companies.

The majority of road networks in the country are serviced and maintained by local and state governments. However, roads found in federal lands like national parks are maintained by the federal government. Freight and passenger rail systems, water ferries, bus systems, and dams may be under private or public operations and ownership. While there are some private airports, the rest are owned and operated by local government authorities. Since the 2001 terrorist attack, the country's airports have been under extra security from the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA).

Tax System

United State's Tax system is set up into two distinct levels; federal and state tax. The taxes are imposed on such sources as income, capital gains, sales, imports, dividends, property, estates, and gifts. The federal and state tax systems are independent of each other, each with its own authority. However, there may also be other jurisdictions that may apply in counties and towns within the state that charge taxes.

Income tax is one of the most common forms of taxation in the U.S. Every income earner is expected to pay income tax to both the federal and state authorities. Federal taxes include FICA and social security. Both federal and state taxes must be paid before 15th April of each year. Sales tax, on the other hand, is a tax charged on your purchases. This is a state tax and will vary based on the specific state and sometimes within the state. Each state has the right to decide which items to charge tax and which ones to exempt—for instance, New York Taxes gum but not milk.

Corporates operate as separate entities as far as taxation is concerned. As such, it is subjected to corporate tax. Corporate earnings are subjected to double taxation, unlike personal tax.

The taxation of non-residents in the USA is unique and can only be compared to that of Eritrea. These are the only two countries in the world that equally tax both non-resident citizens and residents on worldwide income. This makes it a favorite for those seeking investment options in the USA.

Political System

The USA is a federal democracy. It has the president as the head of both state and government. The president, judiciary, and congress share powers vested in the national government.
The country is divided into two basic administrative systems' federal and state government.

However, the federal entity is a dominant feature between the two.

Residents are, however, subject to state governments and their laws. Other lower units of government within that state-level include counties, towns, municipalities, and special districts.

The president is the head of the executive and is independent of the legislature. Legislative power lies in the two congress chambers; the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Being a Multiparty system, the U.S's political landscape is home to multiple political parties, but its politics are majorly shaped by two main political parties; Republicans and the Democrats. The country's politics are mainly influenced by lobbyists, interest groups, and the media information. Being a diverse society, its citizens display an interesting form of competition in politics. Their voting patterns are mostly influenced by family backgrounds, race, type of jobs, and age.

Lifestyle

Historically, the USA is known to benefit from multiple waves of immigration, thus drawing diverse people from all over the world. This makes America one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. As a result, it makes it almost impossible to describe the lifestyle of a typical American.

However, the American culture has always been shaped by the famous American Dream.' This is a belief in the idea that through information, hard work, and talent, one can achieve whatever dreams one can fathom. It partly explains why investment immigration in the USA is highly sought after. Here, success is celEBrated rather than envied, and this makes major impressions for first-timers in the country.

Americans are direct talking and outgoing. They are generally patriotic and pledge total allegiance to their country and national anthem.

Although the country has no official language, about 90 percent of its residents communicate in English. However, about 20 percent of the population can speak and relay information in another language apart from English. Common alternative languages include French, Spanish, Chinese, and German.

Americans are generally known to be religious people. Almost every known religion is practiced in the USA, and only 23% of the population do not subscribe to any particular religion. The Pew Research Centre estimates that about 71 percent of the population subscribe to Christianity. This comes amid a growing population of other notable religions like Islam and Buddhism.

Sport is an intricate part of American society. Some of the most popular sports in the country include baseball, American football, basketball, and ice hockey.

A pathway to citizenship

Since it is not limited to citizens from specific treaty nations, the EB5 investor visa USA gives the immigrants an equal opportunity to seek permanent residency.

Upon approval of your EB 5 visa application from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an investor is granted a conditional permanent residence. As long as the EB 5 immigrant investor commits to the program's 5-year requirements for EB 5 visas, the conditional residence is scrapped and replaced with permanent residence. The waiver of residence conditions is also extended to the applicant’s dependents. This can then be followed by the application for citizenship after five years.

Freedom to work

Upon approval of the EB5 investor visa USA, the investor and eligible family members can live and work across all states of the USA. This includes states like Texas and Florida with no state income tax.

Also, the EB 5 visa investor will not need the H-1B work visa to be employed in any of the states in the U.S. The EB5 visa investor can work in any field they deem fit, and the job does not necessarily have to be in the same state as their green card investment.

No hassle management

Unlike other investment visa programs where you have to be available full time for the day-to-day management of the investment, the EB5 visa program gives you the freedom to pursue other business endeavors. This is especially so if you obtain the investment visa through the Regional Center Program.

Save on Education

The USA is world-renowned for its prestigious schools and quality education system. As an EB5 visa investor, your children below the age of 21 get a chance to study full time and affordably in the USA; this is all thanks to the country's unique college education system where you can qualify for in-state college tuition, saving you thousands of dollars.

Can be extended indefinitely

The EB5 visa investor does not necessarily have to apply for citizenship after five years. EB 5 immigrant investor visa holders who wish to maintain the permanent residency status can replace their green card every 10 years. During the EB 5 visa replacement, you will not be required to go through additional review processes.

Safe haven

Upon approval of your EB5 immigrant visa, you may still go back to your home country as long as you apply for a re-entry permit before leaving. However, in case of any economic or political instability in your home country, you, your spouse, and children below 21 years can immediately gain access to the USA.

The basic visa application requirements for USA Golden Visa eligibility are:

  • EB 5 minimum investment assumes $900,000 in Targeted Employment Areas (TEA) with high unemployment or direct investment of at least $1.8 million anywhere else.
  • The EB 5 investor must invest in a 'for profit' enterprise. Documentary evidence that you have made an investment or in the process of doing so in a 'for-profit' commercial enterprise created after 1990 or bought off a for-profit commercial company started before 1990 will suffice.
  • Where applicable, proof of any pending criminal or civil case against the EB 5 investor from a legal entity within or outside the U.S for the last fifteen years.
  • Civil documents like marriage and birth certificates.
  • Completed forms on medical examination.
  • Other relevant documents like business registration records, personal, partnership, or corporate tax return records. These are used to prove that funds are legally obtained.
  • The investment must get approval from the USCIS.
  • The investment must be deemed 'at risk' since there is no guarantee of ROI or capital return.
  • If applying with the spouse, you must be married by the time you get the residence approval. While same-sex spouses are also eligible, a common-law spouse is not.
  • If applying with children, they have to be not married and 21 years or younger to be eligible for both conditional and unconditional residence. However, the relationship (biological parent or legally responsible) proof is required.

Considering the amount of time and funds involved in the immigrant investor visa application process for EB5 green card, it is advisable that you seek the services of a legal representative to help you through information and the process.

Unlike the golden visa programs noted in countries like Portugal and Greece, EB 5 visa’s investment options do not automatically fall under the real estate or property. There are two business-related investment options the EB5 investor visa has to offer:

Minimum Investment of $900,000 in TEA

The investor may choose to focus on a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) when setting up the enterprise. Those are government-approved areas with high unemployment rates, or simply a rural area that needs to be developed to catch up with the rest of the economy

In general, the investor is conditionally free to engage in any legal economic activity that can help boost the economic standing of the area and its people.

The investment must create and maintain at least ten full-time jobs for two years in an area with high unemployment. However, if you cannot immediately prove that full-time jobs can be created through the investment visa, there should then be proof that the need for the 10 positions will arise as the business picks up.

Most investments for EB 5 immigrants are facilitated through Regional Centers. These are centers across the country that help promote or spur economic activity in a given area.

Across all states, there are multiple Regional Centers that can help investors fulfill their mandate before, during, and after the application process.

Regional Centers take advantage of the indirect job creation that results from the EB 5 investor's efforts. It helps both the USA investor and project managers from regional centers ease the hassle that goes into meeting the qualifications set for job creation.

Minimum Investment of $1.8 million anywhere

Investors have the option to choose a suitable USA investment outside the conventional Targeted Employment Area.

This could come in the form of an investment in a commercial enterprise, company, or business of your choice anywhere in the USA. Alternatively, you may choose to start up your own company.

The Green Card Lottery

The Green Card Lottery, officially known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, is a unique type of lottery and one of its kind in the world. This lottery program gives an opportunity to 55,000 immigrants to get green cards to the USA every year. This is especially meant to cater to those who cannot meet the requirements for investment immigration in the USA. Through this green card lottery, the USA hopes to make the country as diverse as possible.

Officially started in 1994, through the Immigration Act of 1990, the Green Card Lottery has since grown to become one of the most popular ways for immigrants to become permanent residents in the USA. Being a lottery, the winners of the program are selected randomly from qualified investors. It gives a chance to people from countries with low immigration rates to live and work in the USA.

The application period for the diversity visa program is usually between October and November. Since 2003, application for the program has been exclusively online, and any investor from the list of qualified nations can apply. However, it is important to note that some countries are exempt from participating in the diversity lottery program. Some of these countries include Bangladesh, Canada, Brazil, China, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Honduras, Mexico, Jamaica, Pakistan, Nigeria, South Korea, Philippines, and the United Kingdom.

Inter-corporate transferee

In case of a transfer from a company overseas to its affiliate in the USA to work in a specialized field, you may qualify for a green card. To qualify, you must meet these requirements:

  • You must have been an employee of the said company for at least one year.
  • Your assigned job in the USA must be similar to your usual role at the company abroad.

Inter-corporate green card processing takes about 18 months to complete.

E-2 Work Visa

The E-2 work visa is applicable for citizens whose country has an investment treaty with the USA. You can use this route to get a visa to work for your new company in the U.S. In this case, you are both the sponsor and the immigrant employee.

E-2 visas have a validity period of five years. This visa can be renewed indefinitely. With an E-2 visa, your spouse is eligible to work in any enterprise anywhere in the U.S. In most cases, investors would use E-2 visas as a stepping stone to getting an e b 5 visa for permanent residents.

EB-1 Extraordinary immigrants

This immigrant program meant to suit those with extraordinary ability in a particular field. This could be in education, arts, science, athletics, or business. The U.S government has its criteria for determining your exceptional ability. Some factors of considerations may include honors or awards received, some glowing tributes, or publications about the candidate.

Application Process

There are 4 basic steps an EB 5 immigrant investor has to follow to get a US investor visa green card through investment and become a permanent resident.

Choose your preferred investment route

The EB 5 investor chooses and settles for a project that they believe will meet the requirements and warrant the approval of the USCIS as per the options expounded in the investment options section above. This could be in the form of direct investment or through the Regional Center Program in the case of TEA-based projects.

The search and location of an ideal project are assisted by overseas migration agents. When searching for projects, keep in mind two critical aspects; Green Card and return of capital. While the former related to the likelihood of getting immigration benefits, the latter relates to the possibility of getting your capital returns promptly.

First month

Capital Investment and Filling an I-526 Petition

After settling on a specific project, the immigrant investor then makes the capital investment. The funds for this investment are usually deposited in an escrow account.

An immigration attorney can then present information on proof of the said investment by filing the I-526 petition. This is done through the USCIS.

The USCIS will provide information to the EB5 investor on the status of their I-526 petition within 31 to 52 months.
In cases where your I-526 is rejected, most regional centers, through the New Commercial Enterprise (NCE), will issue a refund of your capital.

However, the refund terms would usually be included in the offering documents. It should be noted that not all 'guarantees' are created equal. Ensure that you identify the party offering the guarantee and whether they have straightforward models of delivering on refunds.

2 to 4 years

2-Year Conditional Permanent Residency

Upon approval of the I-526 petition, the EB 5 investor can attain a permanent residency visa in two basic ways:

  • Investors already living in the U.S should file forms I-485 to adjust their status.
  • Investors outside the USA should file form DS-260 with a U.S. Embassy or U.S consulate in their respective countries.

Each of these two options leads to an EB5 visa investor getting two years of conditional residence in the USA and calls for the services of an immigration attorney. The attorney will guide you through the visa process if you have queries regarding your USA investment.

An immigrant visa is then issued anywhere between 6 and 12 months. During the two years of the conditional residency period, the immigrant investor is expected to keep the investment intact, physically reside in the USA, and not leave the country for more than 12 months without getting a re-entry permit.

up to 1 year

Unconditional Permanent Residency

Obtaining unconditional permanent residency is the final step in the EB5 visa process. Applicants submit a I-829 petition to the USCIS 90 days before the two-year conditional residence lapses.

The application indicates that the immigrant investor has abided by all the set conditions of the EB5 immigrant visa and is due to be granted an unconditional permanent residence. After submission of the I-829, the USCIS will then process the application.

Usually, the process takes from 22 to 45 months from the date of the I-829 submission for the immigrant investor to get a permanent resident Green Card. During this period, you can reside in the US awaiting the outcome. After the approval, the EB5 investor, spouse, and children under 21 years can live and work in the USA. After five years of permanent residence, the investor can apply for U.S citizenship.

2 to 4 years

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FAQ

An immigrant visa is issued anywhere between 6 and 12 months from the application date.

Yes, EB-5 investors together with their spouses and children below 21 years can live, school, and work in the United States.

No, undocumented immigrants are not eligible because they do not have the legal status to live in the USA.

Investors may get a full refund or half of their investment depending on the exit procedures laid out in the agreement documents.