Although some say money cannot buy you happiness, it can put you on a path to U.S. citizenship for a price tag of $500,000.
Through the EB-5 visa program foreigners can earn a green card granting them permanent residency – and a path to citizenship – in return for investing at least $500,000 in an American business that creates at least 10 jobs.
The Federal program began in 1990 but has been growing in recent years. NBC News reports that since 2008, the number of applications for EB-5 visas has risen dramatically. In 2007 776 foreign investors applied for visas, and that number rose to 6,040 last year. This year could be the first time the 10,000 visa cap is reached.
The requirements of the investor program mean the new business must create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers within two years.
"My American friends, they don’t realize that the simple fact they were born here is worth $500,000," says Svetlana Anikeeva, a Russian immigrant who invested $500,000 in the construction of a Seattle office and retail space with her husband.
"It was most of everything we had at the moment,” Anikeeva said of the money.
After spending her junior year of high school in Savannah, Georgia, she knew she wanted to return to America to live one day. She and her husband helped run the family’s luxury automobile export business in Japan. But after the birth of their daughter, they began considering her future prospects and the advantages that an American education could offer.
In 2009, Anikeeva sent her application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. After it was approved the couple invested in an office and retail space in downtown Seattle. Now she is waiting on her permanent green card to arrive in the mail at the family home in Redmond, Washington.
If all goes well from there, she plans to begin the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.
"I think the wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of one's life? I think the day of my citizenship will be the happiest day of my life," she said.