How to become a US citizen?

This article was last updated on January 26 and will be updated regularly.

How to become a US citizen? That will be the topic of today’s article.

This article will also look at how to get residency in the US. It will look at green cards, residency by investment and also reviewing your investment portfolio if you move to the US due to local laws.

This article shouldn’t be considered as tax, legal or any other sort of advice and the facts might have changed since we first wrote this piece.

For second residency and passport services contact me on – advcie@adamfayed.com or via WhatsApp (+447393450837).

Introduction:

Since 9/11, getting into the US has become progressively more and more difficult even for countries with historical ties to America, such as the United Kingdom and Australia.

This article will review different ways to get residency and citizenship in the US in 2020 and beyond. This article has been researched with the help of legal experts but shouldn’t be considered legal advice.

Green Card:

Green card’ is the card that allows permanent residency in the United States. It is issued by the U.S.A. to the immigrants under the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act) in order to provide the benefit of living permanently in the country. 

The people who have the green card are also known as Green Card Holders or Lawful Permanent Residents. The green card was once known by the name of ‘Alien Registration Card’ or ‘Alien Registration Receipt Card’ but eventually got the name green card due to its green color.

It was found out in a survey that there are more than 13 million people in the United States with the green card out of which 9 million people are eligible for citizenship in the U.S.A.

Citizenship is only provided to the people who have been living in the U.S.A. for a minimum of five years and have a very good character morally. It can also be obtained for individuals having an age less than 18 years by having one parent as a U.S. citizen.

Every permanent resident of the U.S.A. is provided with a green card and people with age more than 18 years can be sentenced to a punishment of 30 days in jail if they are not having access to their green card (except for some circumstances). 

Applications for a green card are approved or declined by the ‘USCICS’ (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). It can also be issued by the Immigration Judge, members of BIA (Board of Immigration Appeals) or a federal judge by acting on behalf of the U.S. Attorney General by passing a special court order in the process of removal proceedings.

Any green card holder can be made removable from the U.S.A., if the individual gets involved in any sort of serious crime or an aggravated felony after the imprisonment of the respective individual is completed within the previous 15 years. 

There are 5 types of categories for immigrants in order to achieve permanent residency in the United States. They are:

  • Sponsorship from a member of the family.
  • Special Employment 
  • Green card through major investment (with a minimum of $500,000)
  • Diversity lottery program conducted by the government of the United States.
  • Reference as a refugee by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

The eligibility criteria for each category is as follows:

‘Sponsorship from a family member’ – Green card can be obtained with the help of family members under the following eligibility criteria.

‘IR visa’ – This is the type of visa obtained when the individual comes under the immediate relative category (which includes spouse, children under 21 years of age) of the existing U.S. citizens.

‘F1 visa’ – This is the type of visa obtained when the individual is an unmarried son or daughter (older than or equal to 21 years of age) of the existing U.S. citizen.

‘F2A visa’ – This is the type of visa obtained when the individual is a spouse or a minor child (under 21 years of age) of the green card holders or the lawful permanent residents.

‘F2B visa’ – This is the type of visa obtained when the individual is an unmarried son or daughter (older than or equal to 21 years of age) of a permanent resident of the U.S.A. 

‘F3 visa’ – This is the type of visa obtained when the individual is a married son or a daughter of the existing U.S. citizens.

‘F4 visa’ – This is the type of visa obtained when the individual is either a brother or a sister of the existing U.S. citizen.

‘Employment-based’ – The green card can also be obtained based on different types of employment categories under the following criteria.

‘EB-1 visa’ – This type of visa is acquired by three types of professional workers. They are 

1.) Foreign individuals who have an extraordinary ability in the fields of arts, science, education, business, and athletics. 

2.) Foreign individuals who are experts in research or professors with a minimum of three years of experience in teaching or research and are famous internationally.

3.) Foreign individuals who are either managers or executives who are subjected to international transfer to the U.S.A.

‘EB-2 visa’ – This category visa is provided to the people with an advanced educational degree (which includes a Ph.D., Master’s Degree, or a minimum of five years post-baccalaureate experience) or people with remarkable abilities in Science, arts, or any type of business.

‘EB-3 visa’ – This is the visa provided to foreign individuals who are skilled workers, professionals, etc.

‘EB-4 visa’ – This is the type of visa provided to the immigrants of special categories such as ministers, religious workers, workers of the U.S. government (either present or the past).

‘E-2 visa’ – This is the non-immigrant visa provided to investors from countries that have an investment treaty with the united states. The individual is required to make an investment which is a significant amount in an enterprise and should equivalent to supporting the person and their family for the next five years. The E-2 visa does not give the status of permanent residence to the person and they should also have an EB-5 visa, otherwise, they would have to leave after the tenure of the visa ends.

‘EB-5 visa’ – This is the visa provided to the foreign individuals who make major investments such as development of rural projects (where the person is expected to make at least $500,000 investment creating job opportunities for at least 10 native American citizens) or other development projects (where the individual is expected to make at least $1 million investment).

INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) used to approve or decline the passport applications until 2003, but after that, the decision-making power was taken over by the DHS (Department of Homeland Security). The major factors which affect the passport application procedure primarily are the category of immigration, country of chargeability, etc. 

Today we are going to discuss briefly the EB-5 visa which is a type of employment visa where the foreign individual can become a lawful permanent resident of the United States by making an investment in the development projects.

Requirements for an EB-5 visa:

There are two types of investment options through which a foreign individual can be able to obtain a green card. They are: 

1.) Investment for creation of a new U.S. Enterprise 

2.) An Investment made in a regional center

The qualifications required for a person who wants to obtain an EB-5 visa are that the person should be at least 21 years of age and he/she should have a legal source of income for the investment that they are about to make. Any sort of illegal source for the investment won’t be eligible for obtaining a green card. The person should be able to produce the tax returns, bank statements, and proofs of the legal sources from which they are obtaining the funds. 

There is an alternative option where the person can utilize the funds that they have received in the form of a gift or inherited from their family members. In this case, they have to be able to provide the legal documents which prove the funds have been passed on to the individual in a legal manner.

For any of the investment options, the person should be ready to make an investment in such a way that the investment itself should be at risk. Which in simple words means that there is no guaranteed profit for the investment made by the individual.

The investment made by the person should be able to create 10 full time (minimum 35 hours) jobs for qualified native citizens, green card holders or other authorized immigrants who have the access to work in the United States.

The funds have to stay invested until the person obtains the permanent resident status (green card). This process usually takes somewhere up to 4 years. The rules are almost the same for an E-2 visa except the required investment amount can be a little less and the residence that can be obtained is temporary and the user has to leave once the E-2 visa status has ended.

‘Investment for creation of a new U.S enterprise’ – The individual seeking a green card should make an investment for the creation of an enterprise which leads to either commercial development or rural development.

  • An investment of minimum $1 million has to be made in a new commercial enterprise (if it exists in one of the targeted commercial areas) or an investment of at least $500,000 has to be made in case of some rural development projects (if it exists within the targeted rural areas or areas with higher level of unemployment).
  • The individual has to make an investment so that at least 10 full-time jobs are created for the native American citizens with a decent qualification.

The individual should have earned the money (which he is ready to invest) in a legal manner. The individual should be able to actively manage the activities of the respective investment regularly or he/she should be engaged in the policy formation of the respective enterprise.

Commercial enterprises are profitable businesses and therefore any sort of non-profitable business won’t come under this category. The profit generated should be earned through lawful activities only.

The individual can start a new business, they can buy an already existing business or they can invest their money in an already existing business.

The amount is at least $1 million in the case of commercial enterprises and at least $500,000 in the case of rural or targeted unemployment areas. The targeted unemployment areas are the areas that have a consistently higher level of the unemployed population as defined by the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act).

‘Investment made in a regional center’ – The person seeking the EB-5 visa can also obtain it by making an investment in a regional center. This has been preapproved by the USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). The requirements for obtaining a permanent residency through this process are:

  • An investment of at least $500,000 should be made by the person seeking a green card in a regional center.
  • The investment should be made in a way such that it creates at least 10 full-time employment opportunities (either direct or indirect) for the qualifying native American citizens.

For this type of investment, the individual is not necessarily required to actively manage the enterprise in which he/she is making an investment. This can be a benefit as the person doesn’t have to hire employees and can be able to live and work anywhere in the United States.

People making an investment in the regional center don’t have any sort of requirements (such as past experience in business, language, age limit, etc.). Although it is necessary for people (involved in this type of investment) to have an excess amount of at least $1 million and have the proof that the income is generated from legal sources.

Application Process:

The application process for the person seeking the green card is in two stages. First, the person has to file a ‘Form I-256’ which is known as the ‘Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor’. After this Form I-256 has been approved, the person can be able to apply for the permanent residence in two different ways.

They are ‘DS-260’ also known as the ‘Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration’ and ‘Form I-485’ also known as ‘Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status’. 

In both cases, the person is required to file a ‘Form I-829’ in order to remove the conditions on the Permanent Resident Status. This should be done within the 90-day period before the completion of the second year of admission into the U.S.A as the conditional permanent resident. By doing so, the conditions from the permanent resident status, once it is approved by the USCIS.

It is very important to remember that a two-year conditional residence period is mandatory for people seeking permanent residence status. The conditions shall be removed by meeting up with the entrepreneurial requirements (or showing the marital status) before the two-year time period ends and a separate naturalization application is brought forth for review by the USICS. Conditional permanent residents also enjoy the same type of rights, privileges, etc. as the permanent residents.

For Form I-526, the individual should be able to produce the evidence that they have invested or actively investing the required investment amount. They should also submit foreign business registration records, tax returns filed within the previous five years, evidence identifying the source of the income and copies of any pending or active civil, criminal actions that involve money within the past 15 years (if any) in order to prove that the source of income is legit and not generated through an illegal manner.

They also should be able to submit evidence that they are actively involved in the commercial enterprise or rural development project. They should also submit the required details of the 10 full-time jobs that have been created for qualified U.S. citizens. Tax records, photocopies, employment eligibility verification details, etc. should also be submitted as evidence during this process.

For Form I-829, the person seeking permanent residence status should produce similar evidence as mentioned above. They should submit Investment-related documents such as invoices, receipts, contracts, bank statements, business licenses, tax returns, and tax statements.

They should also be able to submit the employment-related evidence such as the salary records, tax documents, I-9 forms for the employees, etc. They should be able to prove that in both application processes that the employment process shall continue until the time period of a conditional permanent resident is completed.

Rights and Responsibilities of the Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card Holders):

Rights of the Green Card Holders:

  • They can be able to reside permanently in the U.S.A as long as they are not made removable under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • They can serve the United States by joining in any type of U.S. Armed Forces or Law enforcement agencies.
  • They can be able to work anywhere except for some jobs and companies owned by the federal government.
  • They can be able to experience equality of law.
  • Travel to other countries as a tourist (up to one year).
  • They are able to sponsor a visa for their family members who also aspire to become green card holders.

Responsibilities of a Green Card Holder:

  • The Green Card Holders are required to follow the rules and laws of the U.S.A.
  • They should regularly report their tax reports to the respective Taxing authorities.

Citizenship:

The process that involves attaining citizenship in the United States is known as ‘Naturalization’. Green Card Holders who have been residing in the U.S.A. for at least five years are eligible for the process of Naturalization.

The qualifications and requirements that are necessary for a person to become a citizen in the United States are:

  • The person should be more than or equal to 18 years of age.
  • The person should have been a green card holder for at least 5 years.
  • During the 5 years, the person is required to be present in the United States for a minimum of 2 and a half years without an absence period longer than 180 days.
  • The individual should be present in the U.S. throughout the entire period of naturalization. 
  • The person seeking citizenship of the United States is required to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America.
  • The individual should pass in a United States Civics Exam. He/she should have been exhibiting a good moral character.
  • The person should possess a good knowledge of the English language (both reading and writing).
  • They should be familiar with the history of the United States and its Government.

By following the above-mentioned steps people who want to reside and become a citizen of the U.S. can make their dreams come true. We hope that you might have success in your pursuit if you are a person living outside the U.S.A and wishes to become a citizen of the United States.

Other considerations

If you are moving to the US, it is best to reevaluate your investment portfolio because there are numerous rules and regulations associated with what investments you can hold, whilst being an American resident.

Many brokers will even close down your accounts, if they know you will be moving to the US.

Citizenship services

For those interested in citizenship services, we have done the needed due diligence on providers, including lawyers, and help with the general process.

As part of the citizenship and residency services, we will also review your investment portfolio for free, if requested.

Conclusion

Becoming a resident or citizen of the US has become progressively more difficult, but is still possible if you follow the right processes.

These procedures might become more difficult over time. As such, an already costly and lengthily process for most, is likely to become more stringent over time.

Further reading

I am the most viewed writer globally on Quora.com on financial matters, with over 214 million answer views.

On the answers below, taken from my Quora answers, I discuss:

  • Can reinvesting stock market dividends make you rich?
  • What are the worst stock market investments you can make during the coronavirus period?
  • What are the benefits of being cash poor but asset rich?
  • How should a recent college graduate invest a small amount of money?

To read more click on the link below.

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