Most of you know by now that when we made our move from South Africa to Arizona in 2017, we used the I-130 visa to do so. This is a special kind of green card that’s issued to family members of US citizens, such as partners and children. Harley already had her American citizenship, so it was only Dean who needed the green card, which you can read more about over here.
But I often get emails and other messages from you all. You ask about other ways to get to the US if you don’t have a partner who is a citizen. And for a long time, I honestly didn’t have any answers other than to try for the Green Card lottery, or maybe see if you can get a job that will do the work for you. But now I have a solution that will work for some of you. Granted, it’s not a fit for everyone, but there is indeed a way to buy your way in.
(Full disclosure: This post was sponsored, as becomes clear below. But since so many of you have written to me about this topic, I thought it might be helpful for some of you.)
Other countries call it a golden visa, but the US calls it the EB-5 Program, which is an investment visa. Essentially, you invest a minimum required amount, determined by the government, and you and your family are granted conditional Green Cards if the money used to invest was legally obtained. Once you’ve been in the States for a set amount of time, you can get permanent Green Cards, and eventually complete the path to citizenship if you like.
Christian Taulbee reached out to me on behalf of a commercial real estate developer. They offer the full program, both investment and immigration to the US. The company has been around since 1995, with over $2 billion in their portfolio with projects all over the world. Christian assured me,
“As an EB-5 regional center, we have helped place over 550 families in the EB-5 program since 2011, and every family that has invested in our projects has been approved. That’s a 100% track record spanning almost a decade!”
The joy of the EB-5 visa is that you aren’t stuck living in the same location as your investment. You could invest in retirement homes in North Carolina with Christian, and still move to Arizona (hey, I’ve got to punt my sunny, affordable state) if that’s what you’re looking for. This is particularly nice for South Africans, because certain states are simply more appealing for those looking for the same open spaces, big houses, and braai culture you’re used to back home.
Christian is the lead contact for all EB-5 operations, with every family getting his personal mobile number so that you can get in touch with him during the process. He’s currently working with 25 families from South Africa who are moving to the US thanks to the EB-5 visa, and I’m sure that there are plenty more of you who are keen to start the process.
Of course, it’s important to start thinking of the timelines. There are quotas in place depending on the investor’s country, and there are also proposed changes coming to the EB-5 program in the future. As a result, time is of the essence if you want to be locked in at the current rate, rather than the proposed increases.
At this time, you would need to invest $500,000 in the EB-5 program, plus pay the $50,000 admin fee. This covers you, the investor, as well as your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21. You’d then file an I-526 petition applying for the visa, with the plan to be invited to move to the US after 16-24 months with a conditional Green Card.
Once you’ve been in the States for two years, you can apply for a permanent Green Card. Upon receiving your permanent Green Card, you can immediately apply to become a citizen, which can take 3-12 months, potentially getting citizenship less than 5 years after making your initial investment. Or simply collect your investment payout and continue living with a Green Card if you prefer.
A permanent Green Card can only expire if you choose to abandon it, or you’re convicted of a crime of moral reprehension. Otherwise, it’s the fastest direct access to citizenship across the immigration visa spectrum. Of course, changes in the US means that there might be some increases to the investment amounts for EB-5. In all likelihood, the minimum investment amount will go up from $500,000 to somewhere between $800,000 and $950,000.
But this is why it’s good to act now if possible. Once you submit your petition and get a case number, you’ll be vested in the EB-5 in its current form. With the way the Rand-Dollar exchange rates fluctuate, I think we all know this is something to take advantage of sooner rather than later. $500,000 ranged from R5.87 million to R7.71 million in 2018 thanks to exchange rate fluctuations, and those variations could get even wilder in the months to come.
So, if this is something you want to do, it’s best to apply ASAP. You can get in touch with Christian directly via email at ctaulbee (at) ctp-fl (dot) com and arrange a free initial consultation, and check out his site over here. And then let me know how it goes – I’m always so excited to hear about your journeys to the US, and how you find the process of leaving, getting settled, and finding your feet again in the States.