Integrity Legal

9th November 2010

Since the topic of American Investment visas was first broached on this blog, this author has received some questions regarding the way in which United States Investment Visas actually operate in the real world. One of the most frequently asked questions pertaining to EB-5 visas is: “Can I get US Citizenship by investing in the United States?” The answer to that question is somewhat nuanced and it requires one to have a rather in-depth understanding of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor visa and the process for obtaining this type of travel document.

There are some countries around the world which have programs whereby investors can obtain virtually instantaneous citizenship simply by investing capital into the economy of the country issuing the nationality documents. In the United States, there is no program that operates this way. However, the EB-5 visa does grant the visa holder lawful permanent residence in the USA. This is a substantial benefit and should not be taken for granted as Lawful Permanent Residence is a highly sought after status that allows the Permanent Resident to permanently reside and work in the United States. Many often refer to Lawful Permanent Residence as “Green Card” status. That said, Lawful Permanent Residence is not American Citizenship. Those in the USA in Green Card status are not permitted to vote in elections, run for political office, and such individuals also cannot obtain a US passport. Although, those in Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status may be eligible to obtain a US reentry permit which allows the bearer to leave the United States for as long as two years without raising the presumption of residential abandonment.

Although there is no “citizenship by investment” program in the USA, the EB-5 visa could be the first step in the United States Naturalization process. For example, if an immigrant investor is granted an EB-5 visa and enters the United States, then that individual would be granted permanent residence upon lawful admission. After residing in the United States for a statutorily prescribed period of time, and assuming all other criteria are met, it may be possible for an EB-5 visa holder to apply for naturalization. Naturalization is the process whereby a foreign national becomes a United States Citizen. The process can be somewhat cumbersome and for those unaccustomed to dealing with immigration matters it may seem complex and frustrating at times, but upon approval of a petition for naturalization an EB-5 Immigrant Investor could theoretically obtain United States Citizenship.

Even though the United States does not offer a direct “Citizenship by Investment” program, one could argue that the US offers a “Path to Citizenship” by Investment program in the form of the EB-5 visa which places holders of said visa on track to possible American Citizenship should all other criteria be adhered to and the physical presence requirement be met.

For related information please see: EB-5 Visa Thailand, EB-5 Visa China, or EB-5 Visa Taiwan.


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