Cyprus Ends Citizenship Program – What are the Alternatives?

Cyprus has announced it is closing its popular citizenship by investment program from next month, so what alternative options are available?

Under the Cyprus program, dual citizenship could be obtained within just six months in exchange for a €2 million investment on the island. Since Cyprus is a European Union member, Cypriot citizenship offered the opportunity to live and work in any one of the 27 EU member states (28 until Brexit).

Maltese Citizenship by Investment

The closure of the Cyprus program leaves Malta as the fastest route to European Union citizenship. The Maltese citizenship program requires a €650,000 donation, a €150,000 investment, as well as a commitment to reside in Malta and meet a threshold cost for the rent or purchase of a home.

EU Residency to Citizenship

The alternative European Union programs are more focused on residency by investment with the opportunity to progress to citizenship after a period of residency has been maintained. Bulgaria offers a fast transition from residency to citizenship, while the UK differs depending upon how much you invest, and for Italy it takes ten years. (More on this below)

Montenegro Citizenship by Investment Program

There is a candidate for European Union membership that offers citizenship by investment for those willing to wait an undetermined period of time to become and EU citizen. Montenegro offers a time-limited citizenship by investment program that is running to the end of 2021. The Montenegro program requires a minimum €250,000 investment in Real Estate (more capital is required in economically developed parts of the country) as well as a €100,000 donation to the public coffers. Not only is Montenegro a candidate for EU membership, it is also a member of NATO.

Turkish Citizenship by Investment

Another nearby NATO member, Turkey, also offers an enticing citizenship by investment program. The Turkish program is cheaper than the Montenegro program in that it only requires a €250,000 investment in Real Estate to be maintained for three years or more. Alternatively, Turkish citizenship could be obtained by maintaining €500,000 in deposits with a Turkish bank for three years.

Access to the United States E-2 Treaty Investor Visa

One of the many advantages of Turkish citizenship is that it offers access to the sought-after United States E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. This visa allows a person to move to the US with their families for the purpose of running a business. While the primary applicant must run the business, the spouse can apply to work in the United States.

You must hold citizenship of an E-2 Treaty country. Check our list to see if your country is on there. Citizens of many countries, including India, China, Vietnam, South Africa, Russia, Nigeria are not eligible for the E-2 visa. Combining an E-2 application with citizenship by investment is relatively straightforward. Click here or contact us to learn more.

Grenada Citizenship by Investment

Another country that offers access to the US E-2 Treaty investor visa is Grenada in the Caribbean. Its citizenship program is even more cost effective than the Turkish program. Investors can choose between making a donation to the government of $150,000 or making an investment in Real Estate starting from $220,000. The Grenada program has fast processing times – it can take less than two months to obtain citizenship. Grenada has a strong passport with visa free access to the UK, the EU and the People’s Republic of China.

Comparison of Citizenship by Investment Programs

United Kingdom Residency by Investment

Back to Europe, and the alternative options are to obtain residency by investment as a pathway to citizenship over the medium term. The United Kingdom, for example, offers residency in exchange for a minimum £2 million donation. Higher investment amounts reduce the amount of time before you can obtain settled status, termed indefinite leave to remain. For £2 million the time period is five years; for £5 million that is reduced to three years; and for anything upward of £10 million it requires just two years before you can apply for settled status. Twelve months after obtaining indefinitely leave to remain, a person can apply for UK citizenship.

UK Investor Visa Options

Italian Residency by Investment

Italy offers something similar to the United Kingdom. Recently, in response to Covid-19, the Italian government reduced the investment requirement for its investor visa. Italian residency by investment can be obtained in one of the four ways listed below. The investor must maintain ten years of residency before they can apply to naturalize as an Italian citizen.

at least 250.000 Euros in an innovative start-up company incorporated in Italy; 

at least 500.000 Euros in equity instruments of companies incorporated and operating in Italy; 

at least 2 million Euros in Government Bonds issued by the Italian Republic

philanthropic donations of at least 1 million Euros, in the field of culture, education, immigration, scientific research, recovery of cultural assets and landscapes

Portugal Residency Permit

Portugal offers a residency permit in exchange for an eligible investment. The permit is granted for a two year period, but can be renewed in two year instalments. After five years, the permit holder can apply for permanent residence or citizenship.

Investment options include, real estate, bank deposits, government bonds, setting up a company, and more. For real estate, the minimum requirement is €350,000 for old houses and €500,000 for newer builds. That amount is reduced in areas of low population density.

Greece Residency Permit

Greece offers residency permits for a cost-effective €250,000 investment in real estate. The permit is granted for five years and can be continuously renewed provided the underlying property ownership is maintained. Lease and timeshare options may also qualify.

United States Investor Visa

The United States EB-5 program offers a Green Card in exchange for a $900,000 investment. The applicant, a spouse, and any children under the age of 21 can be covered by a single investment. A Green Card offers permanent residency in the United States and can subsequently be converted to citizenship, provided residency conditions are met.

The investment must create and sustain ten American jobs and must be made in a Targeted Employment Area (outside of these areas the investment required doubles to $1.8 million.) While you can make and manage the investment yourself, most applicants opt invest with “Regional Centers”.

These organizations aggregate investors into new commercial ventures usually involved in construction. These job-hungry projects help ensure compliance with the requirements of the EB-5 program. While the capital is at risk, careful due diligence of the project and Regional Center will mitigate that risk.

Conclusion

This is not an exhaustive list. Other countries like Spain, Ireland, St Kitts & Nevis, and Dominica all offer residency and citizenship by investment programs. The abrupt departure of the Cyprus from the industry does not end the dream of global mobility by investment. The best thing to do is to share your goals and budgets with an immigration attorney who can advise on the best option to suit you, your family, and your business.

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients. External links are not an endorsement of the content.


Visa Bulletin Analysis

October Visa Bulletin Analysis

By Maxine Philavong

In the first Visa Bulletin of the fiscal year, October’s Visa Bulletin showed little to no movement in the family visa category, while showing movement in the employment-based category. Although this may be disappointment for affected people looking to obtain a family-based visa, this is good news for those looking to obtain an employment-based visa.

The October Visa Bulletin is perhaps the most important visa bulletin of the year. This is the first visa bulletin of the fiscal year, meaning that the State Department released its calculations for the total number of employment-based visas available for fiscal year 2021. The anticipated number of employment-based visas is 261,500, an all-time high. Current demand for visa numbers is well below the estimated annual limit of 261,500, according to the State Department, due in large part the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just as demand for visas are down due to the current pandemic, this month’s bulletin came much later than expected due to COVID-19. Moreover, the pandemic has caused many issues moving forward in all visa categories. For example, the ongoing visa and travel bans have made interviewing and acceptance much more difficult for family-based visa seekers. Similarly, the pandemic is cause for almost 100k individuals seeking family-based visas unable to reserve interviews due to embassy closures.

However, because family-based visa seekers have been paused, employment-based visas have moved forward exponentially. The following is a quick look at movement seen in the October Visa Bulletin:

FAMILY-BASED VISAS:

There was no movement for family-based visas. However, the bulletin provided some anticipated movement in the upcoming bulletins. Potential movement includes:

F-1: Potential forward movement for up to 3 weeks

F-2A: Current

F-2B: Potential forward movement for up to 3 weeks

EMPLOYMENT-BASED VISAS:

Employment-based visa applicants saw incredible movement due to family-based visas being paused.

EB-1: All countries expect for China and India remained current. China and India advanced three months to June 1, 2018.

EB-2: All countries expect for China and India remained current. China advanced six weeks to March 1, 2016, while India advanced two months to September 1, 2009.

EB-3: All countries except India and China were current in October. Cutoff dates for China advanced four and a half months to July 1, 2017, and for India advanced three and a half months to January 15, 2010.

EB-5: For the Non-Regional Center Program, India remained current, along with all other countries except for China and Vietnam. China’s cutoff date remained on August 15, 2015, and Vietnam’s cutoff date remained at August 1, 2017. The Regional Center program was extended from September 30 to December 11, 2020.

There has never been a better time to apply for an employment-based visa, especially the EB-5 visa. Davies & Associates is one of the longest-established EB-5 law firms in the industry and our team regularly contribute to the global media on the subject. We have helped hundreds of families, business owners and entrepreneurs relocate to America and have never had a case rejected on Source of Funds, which is one of the most challenging aspects of an EB-5 application. Our success comes from blending our highly qualified lawyers with an understanding of the culture, law, business practices and banking regulations in each jurisdiction we operate.

Contact D&A for a free consultation to learn more about the EB-5 Visa Program today.


September Visa Bulletin Analysis

By Maxine Philavong

In its last visa bulletin of the fiscal year, USCIS announced little movement amongst immigration work and family visas from its previous August bulletin.

As fiscal year 2020 comes to an end on September 30, it was expected that the September Visa Bulletin would show not much movement form the previous August bulletin. While this prediction was true, this was to be expected at the end of any fiscal year. At the end of each fiscal year, there are usually not as many visas available as there would be at the beginning of the fiscal year. This year, the agency reports that the fiscal year 2020 Worldwide Employment-based preference limit is 156,253 immigrant visas. This number has nearly been reached.

Although there was not much movement in the most recent bulletin, applications should not be discouraged. More movement is expected to come from the October Visa Bulletin, as it will be the first Visa Bulletin of the 2021 fiscal year. Applicants should keep an eye out for the October Visa Bulletin, which has not been released at the time of writing this article.

The dates listed for employment-based visas are as follows:

For EB-1, all countries expect China and India remained current in September. China and India advanced three weeks to March 1, 2018.

For EB-2and EB-3, just as they did for EB-1, all countries remained current with exception to China and India. China remained at Jan. 15, 2016, while Indian remained July 8, 2009 for EB-2 visas. For EB-3, China stayed at Feb. 15, 2017 and India remained at Oct. 1, 2009.

For EB-5, India and all other countries remained current, with exception to China and Vietnam.  China’s cutoff date will advance by one week to August 15, 2015, while Vietnam’s cutoff date will advance by more than one week to August 1, 2017.

The USCIS only indicated movement forward for employment-based visas in China, where EB-1 dates moved up three weeks and EB-5 dates moved up one week.

In the most recent Visa Bulletin and previous years, EB-5 has steadily had the most countries current in respect to other visa types.

At Davies and Associates, we’ve helped hundreds of families gain entry to the United States through the EB-5 program. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program offers a direct route to a US Green Card. The minimum investment requirement is $900,000 and other conditions, such as job creation, apply. The EB-5 Visa is exempted from President Trump’s current “immigration ban”.

Dates for family-sponsored visas are as follows:

For F-1, all countries including China and India have moved up one month to Sep. 15, 2014, except for Mexico and the Philippines. Mexico advanced two weeks to Jan. 8, 1998, and the Philippines advanced three months to Dec. 15, 2011.

For F-2A, all countries are current.

For F-3, all countries expect for Mexico and the Philippines moved up two weeks to June 15, 2008. Mexico moved one week to Aug. 01, 1996 and the Philippines moved three months to Feb. 15, 2002.

For F-4, all countries expect for India, Mexico and the Philippines moved two weeks to Sep. 22, 2006. India moved two weeks to March 8, 2005, Mexico one week to June 22, 1998 and the Philippines moved four months to Jan. 1, 2002.

USCIS Approval Slowdown

At the end of July, USCIS announced that they would furlough 13,000 of their employees at the end of August if Congress did not allot $1.5 billion of funding. If they had gone through with the furlough, applicants would have expected longer wait times than originally anticipated. Meaning, applicants would have been more movement backwards than their original date. After discussion, Congress has allotted the needed funding and USCIS has cancelled their plans to furlough their employees. Applicants should not expect the longer than usual wait periods, however, Davies and Associates will continue to update as USCIS announces next steps.

Contact Us to discuss your case.

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients. External links are not an endorsement of the content.


Direct EB-5 Visas – The Criteria

If you are an investor and looking to expand your business to the United States, then the EB-5 visa program allows you to set up a commercial entity within the territory of the United States, subject to the fulfillment of its various criteria. More than 90% of EB-5 investments are made through EB 5 Regional Centers, and as a result, very few law firms have experience with the alternative: the so-called “Direct” EB-5 applications.

A Direct EB-5 application is one where an investor opens, expands or acquires EB-5 qualifying businesses in multiple and varied industries across the United States. Davies & Associates has a successful history of representing clients from all around the world start and invest in businesses in the United States. This includes clients from India, Russia, Brazil, Azerbaijan, Egypt and many more countries. In this blog today we will discuss the criteria for getting a direct EB-5 Visa to the USA.

  • Capital Requirements: A Foreign company run by a foreign individual is required to make a minimum investment of 1 Million dollars for fulfilling the first requirement of EB-5. This amount is brought down to $ 500.000 if the investment is in a TEA region or a targeted employment region, which refers to mostly underdeveloped areas with high levels of unemployment. This requirement is statutory and this capital does not include costs incurred in processing and legal fees. It’s important to note that these criteria cannot be fulfilled with financed money, for example if you have borrowed from a bank and should come from the existing profits of a company.
  • Non-Profit Entities: Non-profit entities are ineligible for the EB-5 visa subject to certain exceptions. If you are looking to set up an NGO or any other organization on a non-profit model, then you would have to look for other avenues.
  • United States Commercial Entity: This one’s pretty basic, and requires the commercial entity to be registered in the territory of the United States and subject to federal and state laws. If your country has an investment treaty with the United States you can also look at the E2 visa which is by far the fastest way to get into the country. In case of an E2 visa, you can hire yourself and be your own sponsor for your immigration to the country.
  • Employment Generation: Other criteria of the EB-5 visa is an undertaking to create at least 10 full time jobs for US citizens. It’s important to keep this in mind if you are planning to get the workforce from another country.

We have told you briefly, about the criteria for getting an investor visa for the United States of America. We at Davies and Associates LLC have helped hundreds of corporations, successfully set up their businesses in the country, and we would love to hear from you in case you have any further questions.


5 Advantages of Taking EB-5 Visa Through Regional Center

The EB-5 visa is usually the quickest, most straightforward way to a Green Card to the United States. Applicants are able to secure a Green Card for themselves, their spouses and any children under the age of 21 within an average of around 18 months. There are two different routes to a Green Card. One is an investment of $1 million or $500,000 in setting up a new commercial enterprise. This is called the Direct EB-5 route and D&A is one of the few law firms with significant experience of this. The other, and by far the most popular option, is by investing with a Regional Center.

Why is the Regional Center route so popular?

  1. Compliance: It is important to remain compliant with EB-5 regulations so that there are no threats to the Green Card. One important requirement is that each EB-5 investment should create and sustain ten full-time American jobs. This can be a challenge to investors setting up their own business and non-compliance can put the investment and Green Card at risk. The Regional Centers are allowed a more complex calculation for job creation and, while there are never any guarantees, a good Regional Center can be expected to comply with the regulations on your behalf.
  2. Less work: EB-5 Investors simply need to place the requisite funds with the Regional Center and they do all the rest of the work for you. Setting up your own business comes with addition work, but of course, this can also be exciting and Davies & Associates Corporate Team is able to assist you every step of the way. Many of our clients decided to go the Regional Center route and then establish their own business when they have their Green Card. This means their business is not tied to EB-5 regulations and there is more leeway to grow the business in the most appropriate way.
  3. Lower investment: Regional centers usually locate their projects in so-called “Targeted Employment Areas” (TEAs), these are areas of high unemployment and rural areas. The EB-5 investment is actually set at $1 million, but this is halved to $500,000 if the investment is made in a TEA. People pursuing the Direct EB-5 route need to ensure that they establish their business in a TEA if they wish to make the lower investment. Davies & Associates is able to provide advice on this.
  4. Interesting Projects: Regional Centers invest in some truly exciting projects, from Golf Courses in Florida to hotels in Hollywood, California where all the A-list celebrities hang out. There are so many different projects with different business cases, it can be exciting selecting which project to invest in.
  5. Maximum flexibility: Investing in an EB5 regional center will give you utmost flexibility, in terms of not having to micro manage your investment. You are not required to live near the area where you have invested and you can travel and reside anywhere in the territory of the United States.

With over 800 Regional Centers of varying quality across the United States, it is vital to conduct due diligence on your chosen projects. Davies & Associates is uniquely positioned in that we have attorneys experienced in financial real estate who can provide advice on your chosen Regional Center and project.