As Popularity Of Citizenship-By-Investment Grows, Tighter Vetting By Some Countries Should Be Recognized
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A U.S. passport is a deeply polarizing document for travelers. With the tensions abroad, holding a U.S. passport can put a target on the backs of otherwise unsuspecting travelers. Because of these potential dangers, gaining a second citizenship is becoming a wise investment in one’s security.
Many low-profile, sovereign nations maintain programs that offer travelers an opportunity to gain citizenship or some other desired immigration status in their countries in return for some financial “investment” in the country. One of the most famous is the U.S. EB-5 program, which is used to attract substantial investments (through government-sanctioned metropolitan area development authorities or agencies) — usually $500,000 per applicant – for the purposes of creating jobs in that area in return for being granted a “Green Card,” which then could lead to citizenship and a U.S. passport.
Other nations ask for investments funds dedicated to socially productive activities benefitting the local country, from real estate and job creation (as in the U.S. EB-5 program) or benefits in health, education, and training programs.
However, there are risks to these programs. The U.S. EB-5 program, for example, has often been subject to fraud – fraud on the recruiting end, as applicants in foreign countries are given fraudulent promises of immediate citizenship by corrupt local agents. In a recent high-profile lawsuit, 27 international investors, mostly from China, allege that the exclusive regional EB-5 center for the city of New Orleans extorted $15.5 million in proposed development projects that never took place. Abuses are also reported in other citizenship/passport-for-investment programs, especially those where the funds are received and put into the government’s general funds, with no strings attached and little background vetting or oversight.