Month: July 2017

US Immigration Advice for Venezuelans

Due to political turmoil and civil unrest, Venezuela has unfortunately become a difficult place to live. For Venezuelans who are fortunate enough to have qualifying family members, the US immigration process can allow them to safely relocate to the United States. However, those who don’t have such family ties have limited options.

Venezuelan businessmen and entrepreneurs who want to live in the US to invest and develop their own companies cannot readily do so due to the fact that the US and Venezuela do not have an existing treaty for an investor’s visa. The EB-5 immigrant investor program is only open to those who have at least $500,000 to spend and even then, the lengthy backlog means that applicants would have to wait at least two years before obtaining an immigrant visa. However, an island in the Caribbean now holds a shorter and easier path for wealthy Venezuelans to live and work in the US.

Since 2014, the government of Grenada has offered citizenship to wealthy foreigners in order to expand its economy and increase investment into real estate and tourism projects. For a mere $200,000 (excluding application fees), a family of four can obtain Grenadian citizenship in as little as three months without ever setting foot on the island. There is no requirement to buy a home or reside in the country and the investment is tax free.

Although Grenada is not the only country that offers a citizenship by investment program, it certainly presents the best deal as one of the most affordable options and one of the few that can lead to a US investor’s visa. The US has a treaty with Grenada for an E-2 investor’s visa, which grants the qualifying applicant up to five years to live and work in the United States. Additional criteria for the E-2 visa include: at least 50% ownership of the US investment enterprise; the applicant must seek to enter the United States solely to develop and direct the business enterprise; and the applicant must have invested, or be actively in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital into the US enterprise. A substantial amount of investment can be as little as $100,000 for a business enterprise and a potential investor can either purchase an existing business or develop his or her own.

For affluent Venezuelan citizens who want to relocate to the US with an E-2 investor’s visa, Grenada’s Citizenship by Investment program provides a possible alternative to the backlogged EB-5 program. While wait times for EB-5 visas exceed two years, an E-2 visa can be obtained in only a few months. Once in the US, the investor can then work in his business, obtain employment authorization for his or her spouse and enroll their children in US schools. As long as the business operates and continues to fulfill the qualifying criteria, the E-2 investor’s visa can be renewed indefinitely.

With the deteriorating state of affairs in Venezuela, affluent Venezuelans should look to Grenadian citizenship as an attractive opportunity to live and work in the US.

The consequences for treating your green card like a tourist visa

Once you receive your green card, you should familiarize yourself with the requirements for obtaining U.S. citizenship.  One of these requirements is establishing continuous residence.  If you spend too much time out of the U.S., you will hurt your chances of becoming a U.S. citizen.  You must establish 5 years of continuous residence (or 3 years if you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen), and absences of longer than 6 months may disrupt your residence.
If you are planning on being absent for more than 1 year, you should apply for a reentry permit before departing.  But understand that a departure from the U.S. for this length of time is a disruption of continuous residence and will delay your eligibility for U.S. citizenship.
There are even more severe consequences for staying outside of the U.S. for lengthy periods of time.  The government could charge you with abandonment of your residency and initiate removal proceedings.  This often arises when someone is seeking re-entry after a long trip abroad.  It may also come up when you apply for U.S. citizenship.  If the government charges you with abandonment, you will be scheduled for a hearing with an immigration judge.  Be aware that having a re-entry permit does not prevent a finding of abandonment.
In short, plan your trips abroad wisely.  If you have a green card, you should be residing in the U.S.  If you don’t want to live in the U.S., you can submit an I-407 to abandon your residency and then apply for a tourist visa.        

By Patricia Cooper Esq.