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.


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.


Traveling to the US During COVID-19: Consular Applications & Interview Update

By David Cantor Global Director of Client Relations

It is notably a difficult time for anyone needing to travel to the United States. Whether it is for purposes of business, family or leisure – travel restrictions are still in effect for the United States through December 31, 2020 as a result of the Presidential Proclamation.

In recent months, various US Embassies and Consulates have issued formal reports on the commencement of adjudicating select visa-applications, conducting interviews and granted travel permission to those who fall within the National Interest Exemption.

The National Interest Exemption (NIE), effectively permits individuals from the UK and Schengen Region to travel to the United States – the most common applicants being Students (F1 and M1 visa holders), Researchers (J1 Visa), Investors (E2) and those who need to attend to urgent, temporary, business matters (B1 or ESTA).

In order to determine whether you qualify for the National Interest Exemption it is necessary to submit a request to the respective US Consulate.

Navigating these requirements can prove challenging, since there is no uniform policy for the re-opening of US Consulates. For instance, the US Consulate in Rome is now welcoming E-2 Treaty Investor Visa applications, while the US Embassy in London does not expressly mention this on the State Department website.

The same goes for other US Consulates throughout the Schengen Region, and we suggest you further consult an attorney to determine visa-processing viability and NIE procedures through the respective Consulate.

What remains clear, is that waiting periods and additional processing delays are likely accumulating. For example, the United States Embassy in London was previously adjudicating E-2 Investor Visas within a 30-45 day window – while, cases filed in March and April remain pending and the earliest interviews that are being granted is August 2021.

That said, for qualified applicants you are generally able to make expedited requests and obtain Consular appointments in a much shorter period of time. However, you still need to fully-understand the processing requirements for the National Interest Exemption, as it varies from Consulate to Consulate. 

The global response to Covid-19 is unprecedented. The United States has imposed restrictions on visits from a swathe of countries and regions in an attempt to limit the outbreak. Nevertheless, if you are considering a US visa application, we recommend starting the process. It takes time to prepare and L-1 and and E-2 visa application, so this uncertain time can still be used effectively.

The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa allows a person to move to the United States with their family for the purpose of own and operating a business. Spouses are eligible to apply for work authorization outside the E-2 business. Applicants must be a citizen of an E-2 Treaty Country. Click here to find out if your country is on the list.

If your country is not on the list, it is necessary to first become a citizen of an E-2 Treaty Country. Davies & Associates is able to package together citizenship by investment (CBI) of Grenada or Turkey with an E-2 visa application. Find out more about the process here.

The L-1 Visa allows for the transfer of a manager or executive from the overseas branch to the US branch of the same company. This visa can also be used as part of setting up a new US presence. Davies & Associates can help you set up the US office before transferring an employee there to manage that business.

The Schengen area refers to 26 European countries that have abolished their internal borders. This includes much of the European Union excluding the United Kingdom, Ireland, and recent joiners. It also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway.

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.


President Trump Reverses Ban on Foreign Students Taking Online Courses

President Trump has been forced to make a U-Turn on his attempts to revoke the immigration status of international students taking online courses in the fall. Most university courses across the United States have gone online in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, and many are expected to stay that way for the fall semester.

Students and their parents from around the world had been left to reconsider their education plans as a result of the president’s initial announcement.

However, a federal legal challenge by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) caused the Trump administration to rescind the policy.

Almost 400,000 F-1 student visas were issued last year. International students bring billions of dollars to the US economy in tuition fees and spending.

Many of our clients use the F-1 visa to send their children to school in the United States before transitioning to other visa categories after graduation. Some of those visas, particularly the H-1B, is currently under suspension because of President Trump’s executive order of June 2020.

However, other visa categories are not suspended. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program is a relatively fast route to a US Green Card requiring a $900,000 investment. The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa requires a plan to invest in and run a US-based business. As we mentioned in a previous blog posts, it is possible for parents and children to co-own the company to prevent the child from ageing out. Citizens of certain countries have to first obtain additional citizenship, often of Grenada or Turkey. This is usually a relatively straightforward process, contact us to discuss.

Both the E-2 Visa and the EB-5 Visa are exempt from the so-called “immigration ban”. A high proportion of our EB-5 clients are motivated to apply because of their children’s studies and work prospects after graduation.

Written by Duncan Hill. This blog is for informational purposes only, nothing in this blog constitutes legal advice. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your circumstances.


E-2 Visa: Worried about your Children “Ageing Out”?

Are you worried about your children “ageing out” of a family E-2 visa? Are you worried about leaving behind extended family members? We can help you solve this issue with some careful planning.

By Verdie Atienza & Sukanya Raman

If you are planning to move to America but are concerned about your child age and your extended family members to be a part of your application, we have a solution for you.

We see that a lot of Indian nationals are enthusiastic to move to America for obvious reasons like business opportunities, better standards of living, healthcare, education, etc. Though, take a step back as in most visa categories are limited to spouse and children below the age of 21 including the E-2 Treaty Investor visa.

The spouse and children may apply for E-2 derivative visas. The spouse may apply for Employer Authorization Document (EAD) to work for any US employer and the children are permitted to study.  

There are ways to structure the E-2 enterprise to address the issues of ageing-out for children and qualifying other family members. As once the children turn 21 they will cease to qualify as dependents under the E-2 Visa.

We can structure the E-2 enterprise in such a fashion that it qualifies children over the age of 21, dependent parents, unmarried siblings.

To qualify for the E-2 Treaty Investor visa, the requirement is to own at least 50% of the E-2 company to show operational control. For this reason, the E-2 company may qualify two Treaty Investors having 50-50 ownership. The child who may age-out can make an investment to acquire at least 50% of the E-2 enterprise to qualify himself as a Treaty Investor.

If the goal is to bring members of the extended family like parents or siblings, they can be made 50% owners of the E-2 company, and they may also obtain derivative visas for their spouse and dependent children as well.

In cases where there are multiple family members, two or more E-2 enterprises can be set up. With relatively low investment requirements, it should not be too difficult for foreign entrepreneurs to raise capital.

Another advantage of the E-2 option is that the E-2 enterprise may file a petition for E-2 employees who must be the same nationality as the treaty investor. The prospective employees must either be engaged in duties of an executive or supervisory character or if employed in a lesser capacity, have special qualifications.

Children over 21, parents, siblings, and other extended family members may potentially qualify for E-2 Employee Visas provided they have the same nationality, and they meet the requirements for employees under the treaty.

India is not a Treaty country, but with attractive Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programs offered by countries that have E-2 treaties with the US like Grenada, Turkey and Montenegro, the path to the E-2 visa are clear. Compared to the investment the amount for EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program and the wait time to get a green card is much longer than the E-2 Visa.

The processing time for E-2 visa is much quicker ranging from six to eight months from the date of application. Meaning, your children can start school in American from the next academic year onwards. E-2 visa is not like other non-immigrant visas. E-2 visa can be renewed indefinitely, which gives you stability and permanency. There are no country limit or quota limit under the E-2 Visa.

To conclude, below are the most well-known advantages of the E-2 visa:

1.           Quick Processing Times

2.           No Quota Limitations

3.           Relatively Less Capital Investment Needed

4.           Funds to be Invested may come from various sources

5.           Control of Investment Funds and the Treaty Enterprise

6.           You may opt for a franchise

7.           Dependents are entitled to E-2 derivative visas

8.           Flexibility with Travel

9.           Potential Tax Advantages

10.         Relatively Low Legal Costs     

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.


Relaxation on H1-B and L-1 Visa

E2 Visa Validity and Authorized Stay in the United States: Know the Difference

Cost of EB 5 Visa

Mark I. Davies is the Global Managing Partner and founder of our firm. Mark also Chairs our Global Business and Investor visa team and focuses his practice on EB5, L1, E2 and other business and investor visa solutions.

 

There is significant confusion as to the difference between E2 visa validity and the period of authorized stay in the United States.

What an E2 Visa Does?
A valid, unexpired, E2 visa gives you the ability to come to the US border and seek entry to the United States in E2 status.  Although an E2 visa does NOT grant the right to be inside the United States in E2 status or any other status it ordinarily results in a visa holder being lawfully admitted to the United States in E2 status.Beyond the tweet, there is very little detail on what would be covered in the executive order. Immigration is a broad concept in the United States, ranging from asylum and the rights of undocumented workers to green cards for investors under the EB-5 Visa program. Would, for example, spouses of Americans (K-1 visas) be included in a ban?

What is E2 Status
E2 status is legal status granted to individuals located in the United States who have been admitted to the United States under the terms and conditions of the E2 program or had their status changed to E2 status from another visa category.

How do I obtain E2 Status?
There are two ways to obtain E2 status:

  1. Using an E2 Visa to Seek Entry to the United States at an International Border
    When you use your E2 visa to come to a US border and seek entry to the United States the CBP officer at the border will approve or refuse your admittance into the United States in E2 visa status. Usually the officer at the border will admit the holder of a valid E2 visa holder into the United States for a period of two years of authorized stay, regardless of when the E2 visa expires.Please note that while a period of two years is usually granted on occasion CBP officers have granted a period of authorized stay of less than two years.  In addition, CBP officers often make mistakes when documenting the period of authorized stay in the US Government’s computer systems.
    Retrieve your Form I-94 here
  2. Change of Status
    If you are already in the United States in another visa status it is possible to “change status” to E2 status from within the United States.   In this way it is possible to be in lawful E2 status in the United States without ever having obtained an E2 visa.


My Authorized Stay is About to Expire but my E2 visa is still Valid?

The fact that you have a valid E2 visa is irrelevant to your period of authorized stay in the United States.  To extend your period of stay in lawful E2 status you can either:

  1. Apply for an extension of status form USCIS; or
  2. Leave the country and re-enter the US using your valid E2 visa. You will likely be given another two (2) year period of stay when you re-enter the US.

I am Inside the US and my E2 Visa has Expired
The fact that your E2 visa has expired is completely irrelevant to your period of authorized stay in the United States.  You can continue to live and work in the US until your period of authorized stay has expired.

When you next leave the United States you will need to go to a US consulate to obtain a new E2 visa renewed.  You will need a new E2 visa to re-enter the United States.

How do I know How Long my Period of Authorized E2 Stay is or if a Mistake has Been Made?
Every time you enter the US you must, within 24 hours, download a copy of your I-94 after entering the US.

Make sure the details are correct and that you have been granted a period of stay of two years.  If there is a mistake you can return to CBP at the port where you entered the US to have changes made.