Multiple citizenship has been popular in the Gulf for some time and, while Caribbean and European programmes are often the most widely discussed, the US has seen a dramatic increase in Middle Eastern applicants for its EB-5 immigration investor visa programme.
Now seen as the most popular second citizenship destination worldwide, applicants and their immediate family are eligible to qualify for US citizenship after a period of approximately five years of permanent residency and it takes maximum two years to receive the initial Green Card.
There has, however, been some uncertainty around how long the programme will continue in its current form. At the end of last year, the deadline was extended until September 30, 2019, which encouraged a lot of people to move ahead and file their application rather than risk being affected by any potential changes (such as an increased investment threshold).
Interested parties have two ways of pursuing visa residency by investment in the US; either by investing through a Regional Centre, or direct investment.
About the EB-5 visa
EB-5 was created in 1990 to stimulate the US economy through job creation and capital investment, and it is the only way for nationals and immigrants in the GCC to fast-track US citizenship and obtain a Green Card. If successful, they can then live, work, study or build a business anywhere in the country. The minimum required investment amount for EB-5 investors remains at $500,000 with a view to investing in an approved business and creating ten permanent jobs; these approved businesses are located in a Designated Targeted Employment Area (TEA).
What is a Regional Centre?
An EB-5 Regional Centre is an organisation that has been approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to sponsor capital investment projects for investment by EB-5 investors. They act as a service agent and this approach is usually recommended for anyone whose priority is a Green Card/residency, as opposed to people who want to manage their investment directly.
The Regional Centre sets up an investment fund for investors to purchase equity in an entity that creates jobs or loans capital to a job creating entity. Regional Centers are able to take advantage of indirect job creation, whereas direct investors must prove that their investment will directly create full-time jobs for at least 10 qualifying employees within two years.
Providing it is part of a TEA, the Regional Centre model allows you to invest at $500,000 and they are responsible for the job creation and investment success. In comparison, direct investment requires $1m and the investor is responsible for those aspects themselves.
While it’s generally viewed as more straightforward, if you’re thinking about investing through a Regional Centre you still need to ask some important questions. For example, if problems arise will the Regional Centre still be able to fulfil the number of jobs required? When will you get your money back? What is the exit strategy? What is their project history?
It is always best to consult a law firm that specialises in immigration, and is conversant in corporate and securities law, so that you can benefit from objective, reliable and up-to-date information. The firm can also assess your eligibility and the likelihood of being approved, so it will save you time and minimise the risks.