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Buying a Business to Get United States Citizenship

U.S. citizenship is a prized global commodity. A well-kept secret is that buying a U.S. business can put you on a fast path to becoming a U.S. citizen.

The U.S. allocates 10,000 investor visas per year to individuals who are seeking permanent resident status in the United States who are will to invest in a commercial enterprise.
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I learned this while talking to Domenic Rinaldi, who is one of the more prominent business brokers in the country. He runs Chicagoland Sunbelt, which is a business brokerage in Chicago.

They get a fair number of buyer inquiries from people outside the United States who are aware of this fast-track U.S. citizenship program.

The program is officially known as getting "permanent resident status based on EB-5 eligibility" because immigrants through this program get EB-5 visas.

If you want all the details on how to become a U.S. citizen by buying a business, you'll need to read section 203(b)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. ž 1153(b)(5).

However, here's the short version of how to get U.S. citizenship by buying a business.

To get citizenship by buying a business, you first need to demonstrate that you are making a qualified investment in a commercial enterprise.

You have to show that by buying a business you will create 10 or more jobs either directly or indirectly. It helps your case if you can show that your business will result in increased exports, improved regional productivity, new job creation, or increased domestic capital investment.

The key is that the investment in a business will benefit the United States economy and create the requisite number of full-time jobs for qualified persons within the United States.

Through this program, you can get U.S. citizenship not only for yourself but also for your spouse and any unmarried children.

Three types of business will qualify an eligible individual for an EB-5 visa:

  • creating an original business;
  • purchasing an existing business and simultaneously or subsequently restructuring or reorganizing the business such that a new commercial enterprise results;
  • expanding an existing business by 140 percent of the pre-investment number of jobs or net worth, or retaining all existing jobs in a troubled business that has lost 20 percent of its net worth over the past 12 to 24 months

There are also requirements on how much you have to invest to get a Green Card through this program (although you don't automatically get a Green cardůmore on that soon). The minimum investment is $500,000 and in some cases you must invest more than $1,000,000. It depends on where the business is to be located.

To enter this Immigrant Investor program, you must complete CIS Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur.

Once the Form I-526 is approved, immigrant investors can apply to obtain status as a conditional resident by completing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

Note that this is conditional residency. To subsequently become a lawful permanent resident, eligible investors must file a Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions.

This Form I-829 has to be turned in within 90 days before the second anniversary of an Alien Investor's admission to the United States as a conditional resident.

So that's how you can essentially buy a Green Card and effectively buy U.S. citizenship if you have $500,000. To look for qualifying businesses to buy, I recommend the Chicagoland Sunbelt Listings and listings at

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Conversation Board

Do you think this is a good program or a bad program? Should immigrants with money be allowed to become citizens if they agree to invest in a U.S. business? We welcome your comments, as well as any tips, advice or personal experiences you'd care to share with our site visitors.

Angry 2/11/2009

I had no idea they could do this. What stops Osama Bin Laden from buying citizenship and getting into this country? This is bad. Goverment should focus on U.S. citizens, not on helping people outside our country.

Ken Gaebler 2/11/2009

I respectfully disagree. Anybody who can create jobs should be welcomed into the country. Immigrant entrepreneurs built this country. My guess is you wouldn't have whatever you've got if it were not for foreign-born entrepreneurs.

New Yorker Girl 6/2/2009

Yes, well said Ken Gaebler!! Those types of "Americans" forget they were the ones to drive off us Indians and then have a big celebration of food in our honor....honor? People from certain countries are not bad, its "egos" however that truly separates 1 type of people from another, not countries, skin color, race, gender, financial status, education, oh the list goes on and on.

roja 7/2/2009

You mean I bring money to the US in order to build the economy for you and I myself die under the stress of making life for at least 10 persons? Is living in the US worth that much really? $500,000 is a fortune. I can live with this money for an entire year in a five star hotel without working. The US government must find this law of EB5 visa very funny when I get a rate of interest of 17% if I put my 1 million in the bank for five years and can live like a thank you to your EB5 visa!

John Izzo 7/10/2009

This is bullshit. So, if you are rich then you can buy your citizenship. If you are poor then you are out of luck! Sounds like the land of democracy that we all have come to love. What a farce!

Fred Kennedy 7/10/2009

I'll sell my business for $1,000,000. I really don't think it is worth that much but if someone wants it they can have it for $1,000,000. Look me up ...

Decibella 11/15/2009

This is not right. This is like SELLING citizenship. Disgustingly desperate move, with future unwanted side effects. I am sure we can find better ways to build our economy.

N P 11/16/2009

Many countries have such programs where a perminant status is granted if someone is entering that country and is creating jobs and paying taxes into the economy, etc... US isn't doing anything special here... many countries have such programs... no biggy...

Steve 6/14/2010

Had a business for sale a few years ago, and I kept wondering why so majority of the lookers were from other countries. Asked my broker, and he told me about the fast track to citizenship law. The only thing is my business was not listed at $500,000 so I doubt that part. Many foreign born people have recently purchased several businesses in my area, and not one of these businesses sold for $500,000, so I think the law is a great deal more liberal than posted here.

Steve 8/11/2010

What if you want to buy a business in the USA, but do not want to become a US citizen? I am in Canada and I am interested in buying a business in Boston, expanding it, and creating jobs. Does anyone know the rules for living there and running a company?

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