US green card applications triple as wealthy South Africans rush to invest ahead
Citing concerns about their children's futures, South Africans with between R8m and R14m to invest are flocking to apply for the right to live in America, an expert says.
Applications for the EB-5 US immigrant investor green card programme, which requires a minimum of R7.6m (about $500,000), have more than tripled in the past 12 months, according to Nadia Read Thaele, director of LIO Global, a specialist firm in residence and citizenship through investment programmes.
This, she said, comes ahead of an expected increase in the required minimum from $500,000 to $900,000 (about R14m).
The US remains a top choice for emigration and the programme offers a relatively easy route to citizenship within a five-year period, she said, adding a main benefit is that candidates can retain their SA citizenship, as the US permits dual citizenship.
The rising pessimism about the economic future in SA has accelerated emigration and residency programme applications over the past year, said Read Thaele.
“Most applicants are concerned about their children and a big advantage of the programme is access to top-quality education, as children can study at US universities at the same rates as US nationals.
“The programme allows family investors to include their spouse and unmarried children (under the age of 21) in their application and the investor and his/her immediate family may live, work or start a business anywhere in the US.
“ ... We are even seeing parents who do not wish to live in the US, but would like their children to have the opportunity to live and study there, gifting the funds necessary to their children to participate in the programme.”
The EB-5 programme is operated by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) department, with two options.
In the first option, applicants must either create a new enterprise by investing $1m (about R15m) in a new commercial enterprise or $500,000 (about R7.5m) in a targeted employment area, which can include certain rural areas and zones with low unemployment. They must be hands-on in the business and must employ at least 10 qualified US workers.
The second option is to invest in a regional centre, which 90% of EB-5 applicants select, said Read Thaele. This involves an investment of $500,000 (about R7.5m) in an at-risk US job-creating centre, which creates employment for at least 10 US employees. There is no requirement for day-to-day management in this option, with the investor instead electing to be a policymaker. Only centres approved by the USCIS qualify, which makes it easier for the investor, because the centre would already have demonstrated its job creation, said Read Thaele.