How To Obtain US Citizenship by Investment

The Path to U.S. Citizenship

To become a citizen of the United States, a person must either be born to a U.S. citizen, born to foreign nationals present on American soil, or go through a process of naturalization after obtaining an EB 5 visa for long-term permanent residency.

Immigrant visas, otherwise called green cards, can be obtained through a variety of programs. These include marriage-based visas, the visa lottery, and investment.

Investment visas are a popular choice that require a substantial investment in a new, job-producing enterprise in the U.S without needing a sponsor or special skills. Upon completion of program terms, the foreign national will receive an immigrant visa and can apply for U.S. citizenship after a certain number of years.

Below, we’ll go over the different options for getting a U.S. by investment and how one can subsequently file to become a citizen.

Advantages of an Investment Visa

By securing lawful permanent resident (LPR) status through an investment visa, a foreign national will be able to:

  • Get a visa faster than most other programs.
  • Live, study, work and retire anywhere in the U.S.
  • Attend the U.S. educational system.
  • Access high-quality medical care.
  • Receive a return on a substantial investment.
  • Obtain visas for their spouse and children under 21.
  • Apply for naturalization after five years to gain citizen status.

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa

Every year, 20,000 visas are set aside for foreign nationals who meet the requirements of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, which was created to stimulate the U.S. economy by producing jobs.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program operates through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and is the fastest route to a visa among the investment categories.

Requirements for EB-5 Investment

These are the requirements for EB 5 visa application:

  • Clean criminal record.
  • Minimum investment of $800,000 within a targeted employment area or $1,050,000 outside of a targeted employment area.
  • Investment funds must be lawfully acquired and remain at risk with no guarantee of return.
  • The chosen business for investment must be a new commercial enterprise (NCE) or an existing company with a restructured business model.
  • The business must produce 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers for at least two years from the time of investment.

Types of EB-5 Investments

There are two kinds of possible investments through the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program: direct and regional center. They come with separate investor responsibilities and requirements.

Direct Investments

Direct investments take place without the intermediation of third parties.

  • The investor must participate in running the business in a managerial or hands-on capacity.
  • The requisite 10 full-time jobs must be produced directly by the business.
Regional Center Investments

Regional center investments take place through the facilitation of an EB-5 regional center (RC).

  • The investor enters a limited partnership with other foreign investors and contributes to the business operations by voting on policy matters.
  • Direct, indirect, and induced jobs (the last two are a product of the project’s economic impact) all count towards the 10-job requirement, but at least one of them must be directly produced.

A direct or a regional center new commercial enterprise can take place within a targeted employment area for the lower minimum investment, or outside a targeted employment area.

Stages of Getting an EB-5 Visa

There are three distinct stages that develop before an EB-5 application is fully approved. As this is a rather complex process, it is best to consult an experienced immigration attorney.

First Stage: Making the EB-5 Investment
New Commercial Enterprise Selection

Before making an investment, a foreign national must decide on a new commercial enterprise that best fits their circumstances. They must consider:

  • How much financial capital they have to work with.
  • Whether they want to open their own business.
  • Whether a regional center or a direct investment is more suitable.
  • The project’s dependence on EB-5 funding.

When a new commercial enterprise has been chosen, the investor must sign a partnership agreement with the business, typically transferring the required funds to an escrow account.

Filing Form I-526

In order to apply for permanent residency, a foreign national must submit Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Sufficient evidence must be shown that the investor is eligible to apply, investment funds are in escrow, and the project is expected to produce the required jobs.

Supporting documents for Form I-526 include:

  • Bank account statements and tax returns.
  • NCE subscription agreements.
  • Secured loan agreements.
  • Business plans and economic report.
  • Birth, marriage, and divorce certificates.
  • Biographical information.

When filing, there is a processing fee of $3,675. It can take anywhere from 31 to 52 months for I-526 approval, but this varies widely between investors.

Second Stage: Conditional Lawful Permanent Residents

After the I-526 form has been approved, an investor can apply for a conditional EB 5 visa, along with their spouse and children under 21.

If they are within the U.S. at the time of applying, they must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, with USCIS. The filing fee for Form I-485 is $1,170. (Note that filing fees are always subject to change.)

If the foreign national is outside of the U.S. when filing, they must first submit Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application, to the local U.S. consulate or embassy to obtain their immigrant visa. The processing fee for Form DS-260 is $325.

Third Stage: Removal of Conditions

Just before the end of the conditional waiting period, the foreign national must file Form I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status. It is important to do this within 90 days before the two-year period is up; otherwise an immigrant can risk revocation of their EB 5 visa and possible deportation.

Along with Form I-829, these are necessary:

  • Proof that the NCE did in fact produce and sustain 10 full-time jobs for two years, and the initial investment remained at risk the entire time.
  • Financial and personal information.
  • A copy of the conditional EB 5 visa.

The filing fee for Form I-829 is $3,750, along with a biometrics fee of $85.

Once I-829 is approved, conditions are lifted on permanent residency, and the foreign investor receives a 10-year renewable EB 5 visa.

U.S. Citizenship After EB-5 Investment

After five years of holding LPR status with a permanent EB 5 visa, a foreign national can apply for naturalization as a U.S. citizen. EB-5 investors are eligible to apply after only three years, because their two years of CLPR status are included.

Along with submitting Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, to USCIS, lawful permanent residents must:

  • Not have been absent from the U.S. for more than half of the five year period, or longer than 180 days at one time.
  • Have maintained a clean criminal record.
  • Include a filing fee of $640.
  • Attend an interview with USCIS personnel.
  • Pass a U.S. Civics and English Language exam.
  • Recite the Oath of Allegiance.

Children under 18 receive citizenship automatically when their immigrant parents do. Children over 18 and spouses must each apply for naturalization and meet the requirements as individuals.

It takes about 4 to 6 months to process Form N-400, after which the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen and gains access to all the benefits that come with it, such as holding a U.S. passport, voting in elections, and protection from deportation.

E-2 Treaty Investor Visa

Another option for investors seeking to open their own business or live and work in the U.S. is through the nonimmigrant E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. The benefits of the E-2 visa extend also to the investor’s immediate family, as well as their employees and dependents. However, it is not a direct path to citizenship.

Because it is nonimmigrant, the E-2 visa is temporary, and the foreign national must expect to depart the U.S. upon its expiry. However, it can be renewed every two years indefinitely for as long as they uphold the conditions of residency.

Requirements for E-2 Investment

The E-2 visa is only available to citizens from countries who have special treaty pacts with the United States. These include China, India, Vietnam, Grenada, Montenegro, and Turkey.

If a foreign national is not from one of these countries, they must obtain citizenship in one before applying through the E-2 program. It takes time to obtain citizenship in an E-2 treaty country, but the process may be much shorter than that for EB-5 visas. The investment requirement is also notably lower, making E-2 visas a more accessible choice for many.

  • There is no minimum investment requirement for an E-2 new commercial enterprise, but to ensure approval of an E-2 petition and success of the business itself, it is best to invest at least $100,000.
  • To be considered eligible, an E-2 company must be a for-profit, non-marginal enterprise.
  • The capital investment must remain at risk.
  • At least five full-time U.S. jobs must be successfully produced as a result of the investment over two years.
  • The investor is required to directly participate in the management of the company.
  • At least 50% of the enterprise must be owned by a person of the investor’s country nationality.

E-2 Application Process

If an E-2 applicant is filing from outside of the U.S., they must submit Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, with their local U.S. embassy or consulate. The filing fee for Form DS-160 is $205.

If the applicant is filing from within the U.S., they must submit Form DS-156, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, to the U.S. Department of State.

Both applications require an additional biometrics fee of $85. Supporting documents should include:

  • Photograph(s).
    Passport and personal information.
  • Evidence of the enterprise’s eligibility, including business plans and economic report.
  • Source-of-funds.

Processing takes about one month, after which the foreign national must attend an interview at their local U.S. consulate or embassy.

Upon approval, the investor must then file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with USCIS. The processing fee for Form I-129 is $460. Approval takes up to about six months, after which the foreign national receives a temporary E-2 visa.

Becoming a U.S. Citizen After E-2 Investment

Only an immigrant EB 5 visa can lead to naturalization as a U.S. citizen, and an E-2 visa is classified as nonimmigrant. However, a foreign national holding a temporary E-2 visa can file a petition to have their E-2 case reassigned to an EB-5 case.

Changing an E-2 Visa to an EB 5 Visa

In having their project shifted to EB-5, the investor must then meet an expanded list of requirements. This includes the increased minimum-investment threshold of at least $800,000, as well as needing to produce 10 full-time jobs instead of 5.

EB 5 Visa and E-2 Visa Comparison

Here is a side-by-side look at the EB-5 immigrant investor EB 5 visa and E-2 treaty investor visa.

EB-5 Immigrant InvestorE-2 Treaty Investor
Minimum Investment$800,000 – $1,050,000~ $100,000
Filing Fees~ $9,320 – $11,085~ $545 – $2,190
Eligible Persons by RelationDependent FamilyDependent Family, Employees, and Their Dependent Family
Residency StatusPermanentTemporary
Can Lead to CitizenshipYesNo

U.S. Citizenship by Investment

For those who want US citizenship by investment, the EB 5 visa and E-2 programs can offer a wonderful opportunity.

Foreign nationals can obtain an EB 5 visa and citizenship by investing in an approved enterprise and satisfying immigrant investor program requirements. Legal counsel is the best aid in this journey to U.S. citizenship through the immigrant investor visa program.

EB5AN is a leading national expert in EB 5 visa immigration and can point the way to necessary resources for application success. Book a call with us today to find out more on how to get US citizenship by investment.