United States Overview

The United States remains one of the most desired destinations for migrants and investors from all over the world. The US has a complex immigration system, and in each case it is warranted to assess the individual situation thoroughly in order to establish the immigration route offering the best chances and also to plan any tax implications in advance.

There are interesting immigration possibilities for investors, and under the EB-5 program you may be granted permanent resident status (a "Green card") within a short period of time.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program

For those who do wish to acquire permanent resident ("Green card") status, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is the most efficient way to acquire such status. Since 1990 when Congress created this program, each year, the US government allocates a substantial number of visas for individuals who wish to make a significant investment in a new commercial enterprise in the USA. Under this program, individuals, and their immediate family members, can become permanent residents of the US within a short period of time.

The EB-5 program requires that a foreign individual invests US$ 1 million or US$ 500,000 if the investment is made in a rural area or an area with high unemployment into a new commercial enterprise and create 10 new full-time jobs. Funds must stay invested and be at risk until permanent resident status is granted (usually about 4 years).

Regional Center Program

A certain number of visas are set aside for individuals who apply under the Regional Center Program. There are a number of designated "Regional Centers" in the USA, each with its own distinct industry and geographic focus. Under this program, applicants usually invest US$ 500,000 into one of the designated Regional Centre projects, thereby becoming a limited partner in that Regional Centre's new enterprise.

The main benefit of this option is that investors may rely on indirect job creation rather than directly hiring ten employees. Moreover, the day-to-day management of the investment is facilitated by the Regional Centres so that the applicant is free to live and work anywhere in the USA.

There are no requirements as to age, language or past business experience in order to qualify. Applicants however must have a net worth in excess of US$ 1 million and proof must be provided that their funds come from legal sources. Furthermore, one must remain in the USA for at least 180 days each year until unconditional green card status is granted if applicant wishes to apply for U.S. Citizenship.

Henley & Partners can advise and assist international clients with the selection of the most suitable Regional Centre, and handle EB-5 applications.

Alternatives to Green Card May Be Preferable

However, for wealthy individuals and families, in particular from the taxation point of view, permanent resident/green card status may actually be worth avoiding. There are many different possibilities to acquire a work permit in the US which does not subject its holder to global taxation. Possible suitable categories include for example L-1 intracompany manager executive transfers or E-1/2 treaty investor/trader visas, (E Visas can normally be renewed indefinitely). Also often a simple long-term visitors visa may be the appropriate solution if you would like to spend a certain amount of time in the USA but not become subject to worldwide taxation.

Citizenship

After five years of legal residence from the date of receipt of Conditional Green card, it is possible to acquire US citizenship and to obtain a passport which gives the protection - but also the taxation - of the most powerful country in the world. There are four ways to acquire US citizenship: by birth in the United States or in US territories (Jus soli), by birth outside the US to US parents, and by naturalization.