Mar 25, 2020

Citizenship by investment in Grenada and access to the USA on an E-2 visa: the minuses

Please do not apply for citizenship of Grenada in order to use the Grenadian passport for gaining access to the USA via the E-2 program… At least until you find out about all the traps and pitfalls associated with acquiring and using the E-2 visa.

Economic citizenship programs that are offered by five countries located in the Caribbean basin are growing more and more popular with investors from various parts of the world. Grenada in particular has a very attractive offer to make to foreigners. Citizens of the country can travel to Europe, Great Britain, and China without a visa.

In addition to that, Grenada has signed a trade agreement with the United States of America that makes Grenadian citizens qualified for an E-2 visa to the USA. This visa type allows investing into business in America and living there all the year round. Few countries of the world have made such trade agreements with the United States.

The E-2 visa can be a perfect option for some entrepreneurs wishing to establish a business company in America. However, you certainly should not jump to the conclusion that this way of penetrating into the USA will suit everybody. There are potential risks and pitfalls that you have to be aware of.  

Yes, it is much easier and much faster to gain access to the USA via obtaining Grenadian citizenship in comparison to applying for an American green card. But you have to weigh all pros and contras before you arrive at the ultimate conclusion. We have described the pluses of this option here and now we would like to talk about its minuses.

Below please find the descriptions of some unfortunate situations that E-2 visa holders have faced. The information comes from the visa holders themselves as well as immigration agents who have been in this profession for a very long time.

The minuses of the E-2 visa to the USA: The change of the business owner immigration status can affect the company employees

If you are a citizen of Grenada, you have to invest into business in the United States in order to qualify for an E-2 visa. At least 50% of the business has to be owned by the E-2 visa holder. If an American citizen or a green card holder owns more than 50% of the company, the foreign investor (company co-owner) does not qualify for an E-2 visa.

Let us provide a real-life example of the risks that this requirement may entail. A group of foreign nationals set up a technological company in the USA thus obtaining E-2 visas. Then one of the company co-founders obtained an L-1 visa that allows repositioning of the managers within the company.  

After about three years of holding the L-1 visa, this person was granted a green card. This fact made other company owners unqualified for E-2 visas because now less than 50% of the company belonged to foreign investors. As a result, three key company employees who had lived in the United States on E-2 visas had to leave the country instantly.

Later, only one of them was able to obtain an L-type visa after going through a long application process. Unfortunately, these businesspeople asked for an immigration agent advice only after one of them had obtained a green card.

The minuses of the E-2 visa to the USA: Additional investments, change of proprietorship, or company takeover can affect the E-2 visa holder immigration status

A business company established in the USA for the purpose of acquiring E-2 visas for the company owners may seek to grow. As it raises funds needed for the development, the original owners’ shares in the company ownership will become smaller.  

Here is another real-life example. A businessperson sold his business to an investor. The investor, however, did not take the time to find out about the immigration status of some key company managers. As it later became clear, the managers were legally residing in the USA on E-2 visas and the change of ownership made their presence in the United States illegal. Thus, they had to go back home and the business suffered greatly.

Similarly, if the company is divided into several companies, the new business entities’ ownership structure may become unsuitable for E-2 visa holders. Thus, when applying for an E-2 visa, you have to bear in mind that company expansion may become problematic and change in its ownership structure may terminate the visa.

The minuses of the E-2 visa to the USA: The Children of the E-2 visa holder may grow ‘too old’

The E-2 visa holder and his or her spouse can prolong the visas over an indefinite period. However, this rule does not apply to their children. When the child turns 21, he or she loses the right to remain in the USA on his/ her parent’s E-2 visa. This requirement covers E-1, E-2, and many other visa types.

Here is one more practical example. An old client of an immigration agent once came back with a serious problem. His children had been living in the United States for nearly 20 years on his E-2 visa that he had obtained by building a small furniture factory in the country.

His older child who was born outside the United States managed to extend her legal stay in the country by obtaining a student visa. But as this visa type does not give the right to stay in the USA forever, the girl had to urgently find a job and hope for obtaining an H-1B visa. The sad thing about this situation was that the child had lived in the States almost all her life while visiting the country of her birth only on family holidays.

The minuses of the E-2 visa to the USA: Visa extension is not 100% guaranteed

A real-life example again. A family had lived in the USA for a number of years on E-2 visas. When the time came to extend the visas, they returned home expecting to file the application for the visa extension with the American consulate in the country. (You can apply for the visa extension both in the United States and in your home country. That is, you do not actually have to leave the US in order to have your visa extended.)

However, when this family filed the application, it was suddenly rejected. These people were only allowed to return to the United States as tourists. Needless to say, they had to sell their company at a low price and say goodbye to the life that they had built in America.

Practice shows that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the State Department sometimes shut the door to the States to foreigners without any warnings and explanations. You may have had the ‘green light’ before but there is no guarantee that you will be issued the same type of visa when you apply for it again. The same holds for the visa extension: your E-2 visa may have been extended before but one day your application for extension may be turned down. This practice is applied to all visa types, not only to the E-2 visa.

The minuses of the E-2 visa to the USA: This visa type does not pave the way to the green card

Normally, holding the E-2 visa does not entitle you to apply for a green card that allows legal permanent residence in the USA and later leads to naturalization and the acquisition of full American citizenship.

The description of the E-2 program explicitly says that the visa holder arrives to the USA with a “non-immigrant intent”. This means that he or she will have to leave the United States when the visa expires or have it extended otherwise. Of, course, the E-2 visa holder is not prohibited to apply for another type of visa.

Unlike an L-1A visa (Intracompany Manager/ Executive), an E-2 visa does not make it possible to apply for a green card. Even though you are the owner of a business company located on the territory of the United States and you are employed by this company, you cannot become a citizen of the country on this visa program.

The minuses of the E-2 visa to the USA: Lack of concord between consulates

The following situation can be encountered quite often: different US consulates make different decisions on similar applications. The most undefined parameter of the application requirements is the amount of the investment that is sufficient for obtaining a visa. It has to be “substantial”, but what exactly does this mean? It is hard to say.

For example, one American consulate can deem that the minimum required investment amount for the project that the applicant brings forward is US$ 50,000 while another consulate may claim that the minimum required investment amount for this project is US$ 75,000. Thus, you cannot be certain what sum of money is going to be “substantial” enough in the eyes of the consul.

The minuses of the E-2 visa to the USA: The uncertainty about the time that the application processing will require

If you apply for an L-type visa, for example, you can request an additional service that is called ‘Premium Processing’. If you do so, you will have a guarantee that your application will be processed and the decision will be made within fifteen days since the date of the application submission.  

With the E-2 program, Premium Processing is impossible and you never know how long you will have to wait before you are invited for an interview. One applicant was frustrated when he had to wait for four months before he was contacted by the consulate where he had applied for an E-2 visa.

The application processing speed can vary depending on many factors such as the time of the year, the availability of the consulate personnel, the number of pending applications, and so on. The waiting time is also going to be different with different US consulates located in different countries.

To conclude this section we would like to point out that the E-2 visa program does impose some limitations on the visa holder. However, if you intend to cling to the company that you establish in the USA and keep its ownership structure intact, this is an attractive opportunity indeed. Acquiring citizenship of Grenada is one of the least expensive ways to obtain the legal right to live and work in the United States for an unlimited period of time.

How can you acquire the Grenadian ‘golden passport’ and how much does it cost?

If you are not turned off by the information presented above, please find out below how you can become a citizen of Grenada and how much its passport is going to cost.

Please bear in mind that Grenada is the only country in the Caribbean that grants citizenship to foreigners in exchange for investment and is simultaneously a signatory of the trade agreement with the USA.

At the same time, if you are going to apply for an E-2 visa, you have to realize that demonstrating close ties with Grenada would be an advantage that will make your application stronger.

In other words, if you have this intention, it is preferable to acquire citizenship of Grenada by purchasing some real estate in the country. Your house in Grenada will show to the American immigration authorities that you have established close ties with the country indeed.

The price of the Grenadian passport

The economic citizenship program participant will have to be ready to make considerable investments in order to obtain the Grenadian passport. In addition to that, the main applicant as well as the members of his or her family will have to undergo serious security checks.

The main applicant to the citizenship-by-investment program has to be over 18 years of age. He or she can choose from two alternative options:

  • Make a non-returnable donation to the National Transformation Fund. The required donation amount is US$ 150,000;
  • Purchase a piece of real property that is approved by the Government of Grenada for participation in the citizenship-by-investment program. The minimum required investment amount is US$ 220,000. The property has to be retained in the applicant’s possession for five years after which it can be resold. The citizenship status will be retained if the property is not resold before the five-year term expires.

The main applicant as well as his/ her dependent applicants have to have clean criminal records and be in good health. The application for Grenadian citizenship will be rejected if the applicant has been denied a visa to one of the countries that Grenada has visa-free arrangements with.

The application can also be rejected if the applicant is deemed to be of potential danger to Grenada in some respect including the possible harm to the country’s international reputation that the applicant might cause.

Why become a citizen of Grenada?

Grenada, also known as the ‘spice island’, is one of the most impressive localities in the Caribbean Sea. It is a beautiful little country with lush tropical vegetation, numerous waterfalls, and world-famous beaches.

Grenada is a member of CARICOM (the Caribbean Community) and Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Citizens of this insular country enjoy visa-free access to nearly 150 states and territories in the world including the destinations that we have mentioned above.  

If you would like to obtain first-hand information about Grenada and professional advice on acquiring citizenship of the country, please contact us via e-mail [email protected]. We have been in the business for over twenty years and we have helped a great number of people obtain citizenship of a foreign country and a second passport. We will be happy to answer any questions about this opportunity that you might have and provide high-quality assistance to you in this matter.

What benefits does an E-2 visa to the United States have?

It gives the right to legally reside and work in the USA. The visa holder’s children can attend school. At the same time, the E-2 visa does not make the holder an American. This means that the holder’s incomes derived from outside the United States are not taxable in the country.

Can I extend my E-2 visa infinitely?

Theoretically, you can. If you open a furniture shop in the USA, for example, and keep owning it and working in it exactly the way you did when you opened it, retaining the visa is not going to be a problem. At the same time, the strict requirements to the visa holder make it rather hard to change the initial plans if this is what you would like to do.

How long will it take to acquire an E-2 visa if I become a citizen of Grenada?

There is no definite answer to this question. Normally, you will be contacted by the consulate within four to twelve weeks but there is no guarantee that you will. They have to process different numbers of applications at different times of the year and the waiting time mainly depends on how busy the consulate officers are.