While the debate about immigration continues – so far without reforms in the United States– other governments are taking advantage of U.S. inaction to lure wealthy foreign investors to their own countries.
Many countries besides the US have immigrant investor programs including but not limited to Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Spain, and Germany. A few examples will show the differences between the United States and other countries’ investment visa programs. Since these kinds of visas are tied to financial investment, it is most common to find investment visa programs in countries where investment is encouraged.
The Dominican Republic is one of the least expensive countries requiring an investment of about $100,000, whereas Austria is the most expensive, requiring approximately $10 million investment.
As of February 2014, Canada’s Immigrant Investor Program has been slated for termination and replacement. It is an example of how changing global economics affect immigration investment visas worldwide and shows why investors must constantly check the status and availability of these visas before making long-term investment plans.
Singapore is in a financially important part of the world. It currently has a Global Investor Program that requires minimum investment of $2.5 million. Investors receive permanent resident status subject to periodic renewal. As another example of constant flux in investor visa programs, in 2012 Singapore terminated a separate investor visa program started in 2004 called the Financial Investor Scheme in part due to its effects on inflation.
The Hong Kong immigrant investor program is called the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme. In place since 2003, this program requires a minimum of $10 million HKD or about $1.3 million USD in a number of specific classes including equities, debt securities, certificates of deposit, or subordinated debt. Such an investor obtains a non-Hong Kong permanent resident status for two years, with two-year extensions, and the possibility of applying for permanent residency after seven years.
In October of 2014, Australia announced a new Premium Investor Visa, or PIV, offering a 12-month pathway to permanent residency for those investing $15 million Australian (around $13.2 million U.S.) or more into that nation. The PIV program will speed up visa approvals and expand investment opportunities. Australia is also reforming its two-year-old Significant Investor Visa program to make it more attractive.
Similar programs exist for the United Kingdom, New Zealand. and other countries, with varying investment amounts and limitations. St. Kitts and Nevis has an economic investment visa program for real estate purchases and investment in its sugar industry.
A European example is Finland. Foreign investors can qualify for a visa based upon self-employment if they personally own a commercial enterprise or are a general partner in a limited partnership. The investor cannot merely own shares in the enterprise, and they must personally perform the work in Finland. After the investor has been a Finnish resident for five years, they may apply for citizenship.
As a final example of international investment visas, the Arabian Peninsula is a good example of creating a program that allows fast status for ready investor. Dubai is the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) most populated city and has become a major and thriving metropolis. Dubai’s investor visa program was established in 2012. Its investor visa provides for a two-year residency to foreign nationals who own property in Dubai that is valued at more than 1,000,000 DH that is unencumbered by a mortgage. The Dubai investor visa does not lead to UAE citizenship, which is more detailed and often requires a marital relationship with a UAE citizen that is not available for purely investment purposes; however, it is a fast way to obtain a long-term visa.
Investor visas are still easier to obtain in the United States for one reason: If all other immigration requirements are met, a foreign investor willing to invest at least $500,000 and create ten jobs in the United States can probably be approved for an EB-5 investor immigrant visa which leads to a legal permanent status and in 5 years to U.S. Citizenship. Each year 10,000 EB-5 visas become available to foreign investors. The EB-5 differs from the E-2 investor visa primarily because the EB-5 offers a path to permanent residency while the E-2 confers only non-immigrant status. While the EB-5 program needs some reform – along with the rest of the U.S. immigration system – it nevertheless now attracts about $1.8 billion into the United States every year. If you’re a foreign investor considering an investment in the United States, speak at once with an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney who can help you with the complicated application forms and address your questions and concerns.
More immigration reforms are badly needed to enhance the United States’ ability to compete against Australia, Canada, and other nations seeking highly-skilled foreign workers. For now, if you’re a foreign investor, a U.S.-based employer hiring foreign-born workers, or if you’re seeking a temporary work visa or student visa for work or study in the United States, you can get the legal help and advice you need by consulting with a trustworthy, experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney.