With the EB-5 immigrant investor visa to the United States getting more expensive, wealthy Indians
are turning to the Caribbean island of Grenada
as a route to their US citizenship dreams.
Immigration lawyers said, in the past three months, interest in the Grenada Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme has increased from India, as the Caribbean country has an investment visa treaty with the US. Mark Davies, the global chairman of immigration law firm Davies & Associates, said there had been a definite drop in interest towards the EB-5 programme after the US changed the investment guidelines under it.From November 2019, the minimum investment required under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program had been raised to $900,000 from $500,000 in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) and from $1 million to $1.8 million in non-TEAs. “This, coupled with a longer wait time for Indians because of an annual country cap of 700, has led people to explore other options,” said Davies, who has been working with clients in India on their EB-5 investments for almost a decade.
Davies’ firm is currently helping processes a few applications for the Grenada CBI programme. There are a lot more enquiries which are likely to convert into applications over time, he said. Turkey is another country which offers a similar route to the US. Under the Grenada CBI programme, the applicant has to make a $220,000 investment in a government-approved real estate project. What makes the country an attractive destination is that it has an E2 visa treaty with the US, wherein a Grenadian can apply for US citizenship and usually get it within three months. A US E-2 visa allows an investor to live and do business in the US in exchange for a minimum investment of $150,000. The investment must be in an enterprise that the investor is able to “develop and direct” and which is at least 50% owned by the investor. In 2018, the US processed 40,000 E2 visas. Country-wise breakups are not available.
Mohammed Asaria, who is the director of Range Investments that facilitates investments in real estate projects for citizenship in Caribbean countries, said he was seeing a lot of interest from Indians, including NRIs from the Middle East, for this programme. The quick processing time, typically 90 days for the Grenadian citizenship, and another 90 days for the E2 visa, is also a big factor driving the shift towards this. “This is no longer an outlier — at all immigration conferences, Grenada is very topical and is at the forefront at the moment,” he said.
The added advantage of this route is that it allows the spouse of the visa holder to freely work in the US and also covers dependent children under 21. And it’s not just the Caribbean island that is benefiting from the higher entry threshold for the EB-5 programme. The Republic of Cyprus, which also offers a similar programme, is emerging as another preferred option. “In the last few months, we’ve seen a lot more interest from India after the changes to the EB-5 programme,” said Dillon Bhatt, the chief of international business development at investment consultancy firm Millwood Kane International.