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Imminent increase in investment threshold for EB-5 programme for US citizenship

An imminent, dramatic increase in the investment threshold for foreigners to access a US Green Card via the EB-5 Programme is prompting a flurry of interest among South Africans.

Says Chris Immelman, who heads up Pam Golding International: “Within a month this amount increases from $500 000 to $1.35 million, which, taking into account the exchange rate, is a significant hike for South Africans wishing to acquire USA citizenship via this method. Already we are seeing families being gifted the funds from relatives to enable them to take up the opportunity before the increase is implemented.”

The EB-5, which was created as a means of stimulating the US economy through job creation and capital investment by foreigners, is at present the quickest route to obtaining a Green Card, which is valid for 10 years and provides the opportunity to acquire citizenship.

Pam Golding International recently teamed up with American Dream, which is represented in major centres in South Africa, in providing a turnkey service to help locals gain lawful permanent residence in the USA.

Says Stuart Ferguson, CEO of American Dream: “Due to the looming hefty increase, we’ve seen a surge in demand from all the major cities as well as a number of enquiries from neighbouring countries, including Kenya, where families are also seeking an alternative passport and access in order to educate their children in the US.

“The EB-5 investment visa programme guarantees that a family will get Green Cards, leading to citizenship after five years. The benefits are many – the American economy is booming, it’s easy to start a business there, and Green Card holders have access to all the advantages of education and business opportunities, plus, the investment capital returns to the investor after a period of five years. Schooling in the US is advanced, largely due to very large US corporations making contributions to enhance facilities for schooling and education. Furthermore, being an English-speaking country, it is easy for South Africans to adapt.

“Having processed hundreds of applicants in recent years, we find most are high net worth individuals or middle management executives with young children, or those planning ahead for their retirement.”

Adds Immelman: “At our recent presentations held in Johannesburg, Cape Town, George and Durban, we saw packed audiences and as a result are planning additional roadshows countrywide.”

Explaining why the EB-5 investment threshold is about to more than double, Ferguson says that this has not been overhauled since the programme has been in existence and the US authorities have elected to link it to their annual Consumer Price Index (CPI), which has increased to an all-time high of 255.16 Index Points in May this year (2019). The EB-5 programme was launched by the US government in 1990, when the CPI averaged at around 130.