Investing US$1 Million Buys Foreigners U.S. Citizenship, Chinese Elite Among Highest Applicants

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Last month, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin opted out of his U.S. citizenship, a move widely condemned as a tax dodge.

Now, the U.S. State Department aims to replace him, issuing over 6,000 “Investor Visas” to wealthy foreign investors hoping to opt in.

Under the U.S. government’s EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, foreign investors can get conditional U.S. visas allowing them and their families to work, live, and attend school in the United States. To qualify for the visa, they must invest at least US$1 million in a new or recently created business, US$500,000 for businesses in rural or high-unemployment areas.

The investment must demonstrate to have created or preserved at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers within two years. If the condition is met, investors and their families receive permanent resident status and can apply for full citizenship three years later.

“Our goal is certainly job creation, and that’s what this program is all about,” said Bill Wright, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “At the same time, it’s allowing somebody from a foreign country to come and invest in our nation.”

While the government program has existed since 1990, its popularity has surged recently, as China’s growing elite population expands. It now accounts for 70% of the roughly 3,500 investor visas issued last year.

State Department officials expect the program’s quota to reach 10,000 annually, which includes visas given to spouses and children of investors.

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