Always wanted to live in the US?
Unfortunately, the country’s Permanent Resident Card, or green card, is notoriously difficult to get.
Unless you have a family member in the US, a job offer or a lucky streak on the diversity visa lottery, you might need to put your American dream aside.
Except if you’re extremely wealthy, that is. The USA is among a handful of countries that still offer ‘golden visas’, or citizenship by investment.
The Immigrant Investor Program, or EB-5 visa, is America’s version of this scheme.
Here’s how it works and who’s eligible.
How do you get a US golden visa?
The EB-5 visa requires a minimum $800,000 (€730,000) investment in an approved commercial enterprise in the US. Additionally, the business must create or preserve at least 10 jobs.
For projects outside of targeted employment areas, the minimum investment rises to $1,050,000 (€960,000).
The investor must plan to be involved in the business as a manager.
If your application is approved after filing evidence of your investment, you can begin applying for a green card.
If successful, you will gain the right to live, work, study or retire in the US. Your dependent family members - spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old - will also be eligible for a conditional green card.
After five years of living in the US, you can apply for citizenship.
How many golden visas does the US hand out?
The US issues just 10,000 EB-5 visas per year, including those given to family members of investors.
As of last year, when the programme was renewed for another five years, 20 per cent of these visas are set aside for projects in rural locations. These target areas with fewer than 20,000 residents or with high unemployment rates.
Each country is allocated a maximum of 7 per cent of all EB-5 visas each year.
Which nationalities apply for the most US golden visas?
The EB-5 visa is by far the most popular with people from China. In 2022, over 6,000 US golden visas were issued to Chinese nationals, with those carried over from the COVID-era partially accounting for the high number.
Due to the popularity of the scheme and the restrictive quota, Chinese investors currently face a decade-long wait for their green cards.
However, the waitlist is far shorter with the new rural scheme because it is considered a new category. This has led to fresh interest in the scheme.
India came next with 1,381 EB-5 visas in 2022, followed by Vietnam (815), South Korea and Brazil (336 each).
Which other countries offer golden visas?
Golden visas are becoming increasingly controversial in Europe. Many countries are eliminating or toughening up their schemes to avoid potential security risks, with Portugal the latest country to pull the plug.
The European Commission has warned that these schemes could be used for money laundering, tax evasion and organised crime.
Nevertheless, Austria, Italy, Greece, Malta, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey still have golden visa schemes in place.
Elsewhere, Singapore, the UAE and various Caribbean islands also offer golden visas. Although Canada does not have a countrywide golden visa scheme, some provinces do offer them.