Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the U.S. version of what is commonly referred to as the “golden visa” program through residency by investment. In this guide, we will dive into the details of various investment-based visa options available in the United States that share characteristics of the golden visa as offered by other countries abroad. These visa options include EB-5, E-1/E-2, EB-2 NIW, and EB-1A/EB-1C. Our goal is to provide you with a thorough understanding of each program, including its eligibility criteria, application process, costs, and benefits.

What is a Golden Visa?

A golden visa is a type of visa program that allows individuals to obtain residency or citizenship by investment in a foreign country. This concept has gained popularity as it offers a pathway to residency and potentially citizenship for high-net-worth individuals by making substantial financial investments. Different countries have varying requirements and benefits for their golden visa programs.

Golden Visa Facts True vs False Infographic

To be clear, there is no official Golden Visa offered in the U.S. This article does not make any claim that the U.S. has any visa benefit that provides a quid pro quo of investment for immigration benefit. Rather, this article summarizes the various applications and benefits for status in the U.S. that is driven by qualified and lawful investment that aligns with U.S. immigration, complicance and policy.   

Although in the U.S., there are no official permanent residency by investment programs, there are several immigration pathways that require an investment in a business for the visa or green card application. Furthermore, there are no citizenship-by-investment programs in the U.S.; however, once you succeed through investment visas or green cards, you can apply for citizenship after fulfilling all the requirements. 

Types of Visa Investment Programs in the US

The U.S. offers several types of investment-based visas and residency programs, each with unique characteristics and investment requirements:

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program: This program provides a pathway to a green card for investors who make significant investments in U.S. commercial enterprises and create jobs for American workers.

E-1 and E-2 Visas: These non-immigrant visas are for citizens of countries with which the U.S. maintains treaties of commerce. The E-1 visa is for individuals engaged in substantial trade, while the E-2 visa is for those making a substantial investment in a U.S. business.

EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver): This program is for foreign nationals of exceptional ability in their field or those whose employment in the U.S. would greatly benefit the nation. It waives the requirement of a job offer and labor certification process. This program doesn’t require an investment; however, in most cases, to operate a business that would greatly benefit the U.S. economy, you will have to make a business investment.

EB-1A: Aimed at individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, this visa allows them to immigrate to the U.S. without a specific job offer. Although not a direct residency by investment program, through EB-1A, you can showcase your extraordinary ability in business and obtain permanent residency.

EB-1C: Designed for multinational managers or executives who have been employed by the overseas affiliate, parent, subsidiary, or branch of the U.S. company they intend to work for. Like the above program, you can showcase your international experience and obtain permanent residency.

Our Experience with Visas and Residency by Investment

We’ve helped numerous entrepreneurs succeed in residency by investment programs. Take a look at our success stories.

Embark on a seamless immigration journey with tailored solutions— from investing in the American dream through EB-5, navigating international trade or investment under E-1/E-2, showcasing exceptional abilities with EB-1A, proving managerial excellence via EB-1C, to advancing in academia or business through EB-2 NIW. Our expertise is your passport to a brighter future, ensuring each step is a stride toward success in the land of opportunities. Shilpa Malik, Managing Attorney

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Eligibility Requirements for a Visa in the US by Investment

Requirements for residency by investment in the U.S. depend on the type of immigration pathway that you choose. Below is a list of general requirements for you to obtain a visa by investment.

  • Investment Requirement: A substantial financial investment is a core requirement for some immigration programs. This investment must be in a U.S. business or enterprise. The exact amount varies between $150,000 to $1+ million but aims to ensure a meaningful contribution to the U.S. economy.
  • Source of Investment Funds: Applicants must demonstrate that their investment funds are obtained through lawful means and sources. Some investment must be directly out of pocket and vested with the applicant. Loans and gifts may not be qualified. This involves extensive documentation to trace the source of funds, ensuring they are not from illegal activities nor disqualified sources.
  • Job Creation: Some visa categories, particularly the EB-5, require that the investment creates a certain number of jobs for U.S. workers. This is a critical aspect of the program, aimed at benefiting the U.S. labor market.
  • Business Engagement: Applicants must be engaged in the business in which they are investing. This could mean starting a new business, purchasing an existing business, or investing in a U.S.-based enterprise. The level of involvement required can vary.
  • Intent to Reside: Applicants should typically have the intent to reside in the United States. This is especially pertinent for residency-focused visas like the EB-5.
  • Nationality Considerations (for E-1/E-2 Visas): For treaty trader and investor visas, the applicant’s nationality plays a big role, as these visas are only available to citizens of countries with relevant treaties with the U.S.
  • Professional and Personal Qualifications: Depending on the visa type, certain professional qualifications, business experience, or demonstrated abilities in a specific field may be required.
  • Application and Documentation: A thorough application process, accompanied by extensive documentation, is a standard requirement. This includes financial records, business plans, legal documents, and other relevant paperwork.
  • Financial Solvency: Applicants must often demonstrate financial solvency beyond the investment amount, ensuring they can support themselves and any dependents without relying on public funds.

Who is Residency by Investment For?

Residency-by-investment programs are designed for individuals who have the financial means and entrepreneurial spirit to invest in a foreign country.

These individuals typically include:

  • High Net-Worth Individuals: These are people with significant personal wealth who are looking for opportunities to diversify their assets, gain access to global markets, and secure a stable and prosperous future for themselves and their families. Residency by investment can provide them with increased mobility, security, and access to education and healthcare systems in developed countries.
  • Investors: Investors seeking global investment opportunities and expanded business networks are well-suited for these programs. They can leverage residency by investment to access new markets, enjoy tax advantages in some jurisdictions, and broaden their investment portfolios across international borders.
  • Entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurs, especially those operating in global markets or looking to expand internationally, can benefit significantly. These programs can offer them a strategic base for their international operations, ease of travel, and the opportunity to explore new business environments and cultures.
  • Startup Founders: For startup founders, obtaining residency in a country with a vibrant startup ecosystem, access to venture capital, and a supportive environment for innovation can be a game-changer. It can provide the necessary infrastructure, talent pool, and market access to scale their business globally.
  • Business Owners: Established business owners looking to expand their operations or enter new markets may find residency by investment programs appealing. It allows them to establish a presence in strategic locations, which can be beneficial for international trade and business expansions.

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Processing Time for Visa and Residency Through Investment

The processing time for U.S. golden visas is anywhere between 2 weeks to over 2 years. The exact processing time depends on the type of residency by investment program you are pursuing.

EB-5 Processing Time – Approximately 18 to 24 months, but can be longer due to high demand and changes in program regulations. This includes time for petition approval and subsequent steps leading to conditional permanent residency.

EB-1A Processing Time – Typically ranges from 8 to 14 months. The EB-1A category has an option for premium processing, which can reduce the petition adjudication time to 15 calendar days.

EB-1C Processing Time – Just like the above, it can take 8 to 14 months to process this type of visa.

EB-2 NIW Processing Time – It can take about 6 to 9 months for the petition to be processed, with the possibility of expedited processing through premium processing. Additional time for consular processing or adjustment of status should also be considered.

E-1/E-2 Processing Time – Processing times generally range from 2 weeks to 8 months. The speed depends on the specific U.S. consulate or embassy handling the application.

How to Get a Visa or Residency: Step-by-Step Process

The process of getting residency by investment consists of the below 6 steps. Of course, the exact application process will vary depending on which immigration program you apply for.

Step 1: Determine Eligibility and Select the Appropriate Program

  • Research: Begin by researching the different types of golden visa programs available in the U.S. (such as EB-5, E-1/E-2, EB-2 NIW, EB-1A, and EB-1C) to understand their specific requirements and benefits.
  • Assessment: Assess your own circumstances, including your nationality, available investment capital, business acumen, and your long-term goals in the U.S.
  • Consultation: It is highly advisable to consult with immigration lawyers or consultants who specialize in golden visas to help determine the most suitable program for your situation.

Step 2: Make the Required Investment

  • Financial Planning: Secure the necessary funds for investment, ensuring they are obtained through lawful means and can be adequately documented.
  • Investment Execution: Depending on the chosen program, this step might involve investing in a U.S. commercial enterprise, establishing a trade or business in the U.S., or investing in a project that will create U.S. jobs.
  • Documentation: Collect and prepare documents that prove the investment has been made according to the program requirements.

Step 3: Submit the Visa Application Along with Necessary Documentation

  • Application Form: Complete the relevant visa application forms, which vary depending on the chosen program.
  • Supporting Documents: Gather and submit all required supporting documents. This typically includes proof of investment, evidence of the source of funds, business plans (if applicable), and personal identification documents.
  • Application Fee: Pay the necessary application fees associated with the visa process.

Step 4: Undergo a Thorough Review Process, Including Background Checks

  • Background Checks: Expect to undergo extensive background checks, including criminal history and security screenings.
  • Compliance Verification: U.S. immigration authorities will verify the legality of the investment and ensure compliance with all program requirements.
  • Patience: This stage can be time-consuming, as it involves meticulous scrutiny by immigration officials.

Step 5: Attend an Interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate (if Applicable)

  • Scheduling: Once your application is preliminarily approved, you may be required to attend a personal interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • Preparation: Prepare for the interview by reviewing your application and being ready to answer questions about your investment, your intentions in the U.S., and your background.
  • Documentation: Bring all necessary documents to the interview, including copies of your application and any other requested materials.

Step 6: Await Approval and Issuance of the Visa or Residency Status

  • Processing Time: After the interview, there will be a waiting period as the application undergoes final processing. The duration of this period can vary greatly depending on the visa type and individual circumstances.
  • Notification of Decision: You will receive notification of the decision. If approved, you will be issued a visa or residency status.
  • Entry into the U.S.: Once the visa is issued, you can make arrangements to enter the U.S. and take the next steps in your immigration journey, such as applying for a Green Card, if applicable.

Cost of US Residency by Investment

The investment amount ranges between $150,000 to $1+ million and differs for each visa type. However, not all programs require an investment. Additionally, application fees can vary widely depending on the complexity of the case and the attorney’s rates.

Golden Visa Investment Requirement Infographic

The EB-5 investment requirement is either $900,000 in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) or $1.05 million outside TEAs, as of the last update in April 2023. This amount is subject to change. The government fees include the I-526 petition fee, visa application fee, and potentially the I-829 petition fee to remove conditions on permanent residency, which add up to $6,000.

The E-1 and E-2 visa investment amount is not fixed but is generally over $150,000. The government fees for these visas include application fees, visa issuance fees based on reciprocity, and potential renewal fees, which add up to under $1,000.

The EB-2 NIW has no specific investment requirement, but the applicant’s work must have substantial merit in their field. The government fees include filing fees for the I-140 petition and either adjustment of status or consular processing fees, which can add up to $4,750.

For the EB-1A and EB-1C visas, there is no direct investment requirement. The focus is on the applicant’s abilities or managerial role. The government fees involve filing fees for the I-140, I-485 (adjustment of status), or DS-260 (consular processing), which can add up to $2,000

Frequently Asked Questions

Below, you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions about residency by investment in the U.S.

What are Golden Visa Countries?

Countries offering golden visas or citizenship-by-investment programs include:

  • Portugal, Spain, Greece, Malta: Offer residency in exchange for real estate investment or other forms of investment.
  • Cyprus: Provides options for citizenship through substantial investment.
  • Caribbean Nations (e.g., St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada): Known for their citizenship-by-investment programs.
  • Canada: Certain provinces offer investment-based residency programs.

Disadvantages of a Golden Visa

There are some clear disadvantages to residency by investment programs:

  • High Cost: Significant financial investment is required.
  • Complex Legal Process: The application process can be lengthy and complicated.
  • Regulatory Changes: Immigration policies and investment requirements can change, affecting the stability of the investment.
  • Tax Implications: New tax liabilities may arise in the host country.
  • Due Diligence Risks: Inadequate due diligence can lead to high-risk investments.
  • Limited Physical Presence Benefits: Some programs offer limited rights in terms of employment or access to social services.

What is the Golden Passport Citizenship?

Golden passport citizenship refers to citizenship-by-investment programs where a significant investment in a country leads directly to citizenship, as opposed to residency. These programs are particularly attractive for their offer of a passport that provides visa-free travel to many countries and other citizenship benefits.

Does the U.S. Have a Golden Visa Program?

No, but the United States offers the EB-5 immigrant investor program, which some consider the closest to the golden visa as understood in other countries. This program provides a pathway to permanent residency for foreign nationals who invest a significant amount in a new commercial enterprise that creates jobs for U.S. workers.

Tags: E visa, EB-1, EB-2, EB-5, NIW