Citizenship by investment is one of the fastest and most reliable ways a foreign national can become a U.S. citizen. Like most methods, it requires becoming an EB-5 green card holder. Since the commencement of this green card program in 1990, people from many different countries have been taking advantage of this highly beneficial visa classification. Through the program, you can achieve both permanent residence and citizenship with all the attached rights and privileges.
To become a United States citizen through investment, a foreign national will first need to apply for the investor program visa. Previously, the EB-5 immigrant visa was granted to foreign investors who are ready and able to invest $500,000 or $1 million in the U.S. economy. However, thanks to the new 2019 EB-5 Rule, prospective EB-5 applicants must invest at least $900,000 or $1.8 million beginning on November 21, 2019.
Each year, a total of 10,000 EB-5 visas are issued to applicants from different parts of the world. Apart from the investment capital amount, as part of the congressional intent for the program, an EB-5 project must create or preserve at least 10 U.S. jobs for the purpose of economic growth. If you are about to take this path to the U.S. citizenship, this article gives you a complete guide on each step along the process.
Citizenship by Investment Processing
The first step in your journey to citizenship by investment is to apply for an EB-5 visa. The investor visa process involves several stages of documentation and interviews. The guidelines are as follows:
Locate an EB-5 Project:
There are several business opportunities under the EB-5 program which you can venture into. An EB-5 investment can either be a regional center project or a direct project.
Regional centers are business organizations approved by the United States government. They provide services and platforms to help foreign EB-5 investors manage their investments. These regional centers operate in different sectors, such as the real estate or hospitality industries.
A direct project, on the other hand, is a separate business set up by an EB-5 investor. Depending on your choice, you can invest in an existing regional center that deals in a sector most suitable to you or go for a direct investment.
Once you have found a project to invest in, you will then need to put your capital of $1.8 million or $900,000 at risk by investing it or being actively in the process of investing it.
The difference between the $900,000 and $1.8 million investment capital minimums is the location you are investing in. Investors whose EB-5 businesses are located in Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) must invest a minimum of $900,000. TEAs are designated by the USCIS based on criteria such as low employment rate and population. For investments in non-TEA locations, the required capital amount is $1.8 million.
File the I-526 Petition
Having chosen a project and put your capital at risk, you will need to file an I-526 to officially petition the USCIS for the EB-5 visa. This is a very crucial step in the citizenship by investment process. The form must be filed appropriately or you risk major delays or even the rejection of your visa.
The petition has several sections which contain your biographic information as well as information about your dependent family, about the business you have invested in. You must also include attorney-prepared evidence of your investment funds being placed at risk, your business plan, and proof showing that your investment capital was obtained from a legitimate source.
On average, the USCIS takes around 12 to 18 months to process I-526 petitions. Once the application has been processed and approved, you will receive a notice from the USCIS.
Get Conditional Residence
An approved I-526 will pave the way for you to either apply for an immigrant visa or file for adjustment of status. If you reside outside the U.S., you will need to file a DS-260 online immigrant visa application at the United States embassy or consulate in your home country.
If you are already in the United States, you will need to file an I-485 to adjust your status from your current nonimmigrant status to an immigrant investor status. Once this petition is approved, or upon arriving in the United States from your home country, you and your family members will be issued conditional permanent residence for two years.
During those two years, you must abide by both immigration laws as well as local and state laws. You should also avoid violating your conditional status in any way, including making sure you adhere to the physical presence requirement. Within this period, you must not stay outside of the U.S. for more than a year without getting a re-entry permit. The status is considered conditional because it is a period that could best be described as a probation period.
Your compliance with the investment program and to U.S. laws will be assessed to determine if you have met the required eligibility requirements for the removal of conditions when the status expires.
Remove Conditions and Become a Lawful Permanent Resident
Before the expiration of your conditional resident status, you will need to file a petition to remove the conditions on your green card. The petition must be filed within the 90-day period immediately before your conditional green card expires.
The official document for this petition is the I-829, and it is one of the most scrutinized stages of U.S. citizenship by investment process. Your petition must include the following evidence to show you have met the eligibility requirements:
You must submit evidence that you have invested or are actively in the process of investing the required capital amount and that the project in which you invested is an approved EB-5 business. If your investment is a new commercial enterprise, you must submit proof that you have complied with the EB-5 requirements throughout your two-year conditional permanent residence.
Some of the documents required to prove this include, but are not limited to, bank statements, invoices and receipts, business licenses, federal or state income quarterly tax statements, federal, and state income tax returns.
You must submit evidence that your investment has created or will create 10 full-time jobs for qualifying employees. Some required documents for this are payroll records, I-9 forms for employees, and relevant tax documents.
For an already existing business, you will need to present the same documentation for employees to show that you have maintained the number of existing employees in the enterprise.
Within six to eight months after submitting your I-829 petition, you should receive a notice from the USCIS. If your petition was filed correctly and the immigration officers are convinced that you meet all the requirements, the conditions on your residence will be removed and you will be granted unconditional lawful permanent residence. This is the penultimate step to achieving U.S. citizenship by investment.
Apply for United States Citizenship
After five years of lawful permanent residence, you can now apply to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization. The general eligibility requirements for U.S. citizenship by investment are as follows:
- You are 18 years or older
- You have demonstrated continuous residence and physical presence in the U.S. over the last five years of your permanent residence
- You have demonstrated good moral character and loyalty to the principles of the U.S. constitution
- You can speak basic English
- You can demonstrate a good knowledge and understanding of the U.S. history and government
- You are willing to take the Oath of Allegiance
How to Apply for U.S. Citizenship
To become a U.S. citizen by investment, you may apply online or use the paper application. The steps are as follows:
File the N-400, Application for Naturalization:
Once you are certain that you have met the above eligibility criteria, the next thing is to file an N-400 with the USCIS. Make sure that you fill it out appropriately and make a copy of the filled form before submitting. Other documents to submit with your N-400 application include:
- A copy of both sides of your green card (I-551)
- Application fee payment confirmation
What Happens After Applying for Citizenship?
The USCIS will send you a notice confirming the receipt of your application. This will be followed by a schedule for your biometric appointment. After that, you will need to attend an interview to complete your citizenship application process before waiting for the USCIS to make a decision on your naturalization.
If your N-400 application is completed correctly with all the required documents submitted, you may receive approval on the interview date and participate in the naturalization ceremony. However, you are not yet a citizen until you have taken the Oath of Allegiance.
You will complete the processing by turning in your green card, taking the Oath of Allegiance, and then receive your Certificate of Naturalization. Keep in mind, however, that you and your spouse will need to file separate naturalization applications. As for your unmarried children under 18 years of age with you in the U.S., they will automatically obtain citizenship the moment you become a citizen.
Cost of Citizenship by Investment
Each stage of your citizenship by investment process has some fees attached to it. The EB-5 processing fees are:
- Investment capital: $1.8 million or $900,000, depending on the investment type
- I-526 petition fee: $3,675
- I-485 status adjustment petition fee: $1,140
- I-829 petition to remove conditions: $3,750
- Biometric fee: $85
- Immigration attorney fee: Varies
- An administrative fee (for regional center investment): The fee varies among different centers.
Also, during your citizenship application five years after you receive your EB-5, you will need to pay the $640 N-400 filing fees plus $85 for a biometric fee for naturalization.
What Are The Benefits of Citizenship By Investment?
Citizenship comes with several rights and privileges which cannot be enjoyed by permanent residents and temporary visa holders. Additionally, as an EB-5 investor, citizenship will have even more benefits. Apart from the ROI from your business, some of the other numerous advantages are:
- Affordable and quality education for your children
- Being able to vote in general elections
- Being able to run for public office
- Immunity from deportationYou can travel and stay abroad for as long as you want without any restrictions
- Being able to sponsor a green card without priority date requirements for the beneficiary
- Right to become a U.S. passport holder
How VisaNation Law Group Immigration Attorneys Can Help
VisaNation Law Group EB-5 visa lawyers have helped many clients process their visas, acquire green cards, and become U.S. citizens. They will help you throughout the entire process as you navigate from being a foreign national to become a citizen through investment. You can schedule a consultation with one of them today by filling out this contact form.