Visas and Second Passport Updates
We live in a world where very little is constant. With the changes in technology, slow-moving governments are struggling to keep up. And the bigger the government, typically the slower and more inefficiently they work. Take the US for example, whose immigration policy is decades behind the rest of the world.
Whereas most countries have sensible immigration policies that allow for skillful entrepreneurs and inventors to easily obtain a visa and job – in the United States the HB1 visa has become a lottery game. That is unless you hire one of the consultancy agencies closely tied to the program.
US EB5 Visa
EB5 Visa is long overdue for an overhaul. It requires a foreign investor to invest 1 million dollars that create at least 10 new jobs. You and your family can’t qualify as one of the 10, and independent contractors also don’t count. And they have to work for more than 35 hours per week. The government doesn’t say how you will find these 10 hard workers at high costs, just mandates that you do. Oh well, better than in France, where even a 36 hour work week is prohibited by law.
I’m not sure politicians understand how much time and cost it takes to hire, train and employ 10 new people to a business. That’s a significant undertaking. Other places there are significantly lower bar in terms of manpower (in Singapore it is 4), Thailand (4). It’s hard to directly compare to other jurisdictions, but it is clear that the visa bar is set ultra high in the USA. So high, that talented entrepreneurs may look elsewhere for a place to move – such as New Zealand.
There are rumors this law will be changed; I wouldn’t count on it. The bi-partisan nature of the democrats and republicans is such that they’d rather see the country fail and be able to say “Told you so!” just look at the debt ceiling as a primary example. I wish the USA would become more reasonable, but Jim Rogers would agree – don’t bet on it.
While normally one is required to invest 1M or more and be active in the business if the investment is made in a rural area, the threshold is lowered to 500k, and the business can be of a more passive nature.
This program is currently set to expire in 2015 and sets aside just 3,000 visas for investors who invest in high-unemployment areas, or rural areas defined as any location outside of an official metropolitan statistical area or the outer boundaries of any city populated by 20,000 or more people.
The USA has relatively lax laws when it comes to owning land or acquiring real estate. It might be hard for a Chinese businessman to get a visa – but it’s damn easy for him to invest, and swaths of companies are marketing US land and property away to the highest bidder. These investors are flocking to depressed prices (Buy an entire neighborhood in Detroit!) and the strong US law and court system protects ownership under the law.
Whereas in South East Asia (i.e. Singapore, Cambodia or Thailand) it can be relatively difficult to buy land as a foreigner – in the Americas (USA, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina) the process is easier. Malaysia is still the best option for foreigners wishing to buy land in SE Asia. However, there is some talk about Vietnam opening up their real estate market to foreigners.
Much of what you read on the internet is only partially true. While it’s hard to get an HB-1 or EB=5 visa, there are loopholes. While 99% of the time it is impossible to own land in your own name in Thailand, it is possible to own land personally as a foreigner if you set up a BOI Company in Thailand.
There has been little movement since 2011 in the Honduras autonomous free zone despite talk to the contrary. A friend who spent boots on the ground there said many of the locals hadn’t heard of it. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.
It’s become slightly harder to become a permanent resident or receive an entrepreneur visa in Singapore in the last year. Now you need to receive/hold one of the following:
- Funding from a recognized third-party venture capitalist or business
- Proprietary or licensed Intellectual Property (IP) recognized by an
approved national IP institution;
- Research collaboration with a research institution recognized by Agency
for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) or any local tertiary
- Incubation at a recognized incubator supported by SPRING Singapore or
National Research Foundation (NRF); OR
- Support from a Singapore Government agency
St. Kitts and Nevis
Buy land for over $400,000 (total price is more like $500,000 after all fees) and you are still in a premier place to receive a 2nd passport. If you can afford it, this is the first place you should look to for a 2nd passport. You are required to hold on to the property for 5 years, then you can sell the property. As of new regulations from 2012, the next buyer can also qualify for citizenship.
The least expensive legitimate 2nd passport in the world (available without a waiting period) is still Dominica, however, the price has gone up. The travel document is relatively strong, and about to be stronger if their application to be approved to the Schengen area visa-free finally goes through. Although I discussed it over 10 months ago, Dominican citizens still haven’t received Schengen Visa Travel Status.
Since the increase in price in late 2012, the number of applicants has gone down. However, they are still processing applications. My lawyer on the ground tells me that he still processes between 4 and 5 per month. If you got in for less than $200,000, consider yourself one of the lucky ones.
There was a recent buzz last year when Antigua opened (or re-opened) a citizenship by investment program. However, even after official parliamentary approval, the program in Antigua is still not off the ground.
Word on the streets is that although the legislation is completed, there is still some bureaucratic holdups with regards to the forms necessary for due diligence, and the forms haven’t been finalized.
There is a relatively new program available in Canada for French speakers. If you can speak French fluently, this is an excellent opportunity to be had. Contact Matt @ threesquareimmigration.com
While there is some ‘instant’ citizenship by investment programs around the world – what is much more common is a permanent residency and a pathway to citizenship.
There are many countries that offer this path, in fact – most countries of the world have a permanent residency program for foreigners. Unless you are looking to migrate to North Korea – chances are there is a program that you could apply for, particularly if you are an Entrepreneur / Investor.
Being that entrepreneurship is the foundation of any free-market society, many countries around the world are aware of the need to foster an environment that welcomes expertise and foreign direct investment.
Some of the more popular investor programs
[note: the above list is not exhaustive]
We’ve seen a recent wave of programs introduced by
failing ailing countries in Europe. Greece and Spanish land is being sold off, and a PR is being waved as a flag to entice foreigners to deploy cash into the struggling European economy.
While most countries of the world are happy to accept cash as an investment, others are also willing to bet on the sweat equity of foreign entrepreneurs who can provide jobs in the local economy. This is an extremely prudent move by these governments.
The cash spent on Spanish land is quickly dried up, and if the government really wanted to help the people in Spain (facing 30% unemployment, and 50% unemployment for the young) they would foster a startup environment that could inject new life into the economy and jobs for young people.
Some of the more popular entrepreneurship programs
- New Zealand
In coming posts, I’ll write up guides on the more popular enterprise programs, and the process to achieve what we’ll call: Residency by Entrepreneurship.