By Moustafa Daly
Foreigners seeking residency in the United States (U.S.) through investment often use the EB-5 visa route, which requires an investment ranging between $800,000 and $1,050,000, depending on the location of the project and the creation of at least ten jobs for U.S. citizens.
For a fraction of that price tag, foreigners can still pursue investor residency in the U.S. via the E-2 visa route. This visa is only available to citizens of countries that are part of the E-2 treaty with the U.S. It is issued for up to five years and can be extended indefinitely.
The E-2 visa traces its roots to 1815 with the signing of the Treaty of Friendship between the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
There’s no fixed investment amount to be eligible for the E-2 visa, but authorities generally consider applicants who invest at least $100,000 – making it arguably ten times cheaper than the EB-5 visa.
The popular E-2 pathway towards the EB-5 visa in the U.S.
The E-2 visa, however, is a non-immigrant visa that doesn’t provide a direct pathway to citizenship. Instead, investors can qualify to request a status adjustment from E-2 visas to EB-5 visas, granting them a path to permanent residency. Once they obtain the EB-5 visa, applicants can apply for lawful permanent resident status (green card). After living in the country for five years with the EB-5 visa, they can then begin the process of becoming naturalized U.S. citizens.
This E-2 pathway to residency makes this visa a common entry point in the journey for U.S. residency and citizenship from nationals of E-2 treaty countries. For those who aren’t, however, exploring citizenship-by-investment (CBI) programs in those nations is a viable second option.
How so? A foreigner can potentially pursue citizenship in an E-2 treaty country by way of investment. Once they receive citizenship, they can apply for the E-2 visa as citizens of a qualified nationality – and still pay less than they would for the EB-5 visa.
This alternative route proved so popular for many EB-2 investors in recent years, with some CBI programs in E-2 countries attracting many foreign investors solely for the potential of them later being able to pursue E-2 visas.
In late 2022, the Biden administration introduced a domiciliation requirement for foreigners to be eligible for E-2 visas. As of Dec. 23 of that year, foreigners seeking E-2 visas must demonstrate in the countries from which they’re applying for at least three years prior to initiating an E-2 application.
In other words, obtaining citizenship from an E-2 country and immediately applying for the E-2 visa is no longer an option.
While this prolongs the process for foreigners pursuing an E-2 visa, many investors could still utilize this pathway if their relocation plans to the U.S. are more long-term.
E-2 treaty countries with RBI and CBI options for investors
As such, many CBI programs in E-2 treaty countries have risen to prominence for investors looking for an investment gateway to the E-2 investor visa.
Here, we delve into the top four RCBI programs in E-2 treaty countries.
Launched in 2017, Turkey's CBI program has emerged as a pragmatic avenue for global investors seeking Turkish citizenship. The program offers investors the prospect of Turkish citizenship in exchange for substantial financial commitments to the country. The program centers around three primary investment options such as real estate investments at a minimum of $400,000, capital investments of at least $500,000, or investments that generate significant employment opportunities for Turkish nationals.
Unlike other countries featured on this list, investments in Turkey lead to citizenship for a period of three months. Should investors be willing to relocate there, they’d be able to start pursuing E-2 visas in as little as three years of having fully resided in Turkey.
However, Turkey has been experiencing political tensions in recent years as opposition parties become more vocally opponents to the program, which they accuse of lacking proper due diligence. The Turkish government, however, has expressed its intention to widen the scope of the program and even potentially launch a residency golden visa by the end of this year – the full details of which are yet to be made public.
An E-2 treaty country since 1989, Grenada is the only Caribbean nation with an active CBI program to feature on this list. The island nation launched its citizenship by investment program in 2013 to capitalize on its visa-free access to the European Union (EU) and status as an E-2 treaty country. The program requires an investment of $150,000 to secure citizenship within three to four months.
Before the U.S. made three-year domiciliation mandatory to qualify for the E-2 visa in 2022, Grenada was regarded as a top destination for investors seeking a path to the E-2 visa. While it’s still a popular choice, the Caribbean nation could soon struggle to maintain investors’ interest due to the domiciliation requirement and increased demands and restrictions from the EU towards all Caribbean CBI programs.
Still, if foreign investors make Grenada their home base for three years after obtaining citizenship, they can qualify for the E-2 visa.
The latest country to be added to the E-2 treaty, Portugal has one of Europe’s most popular residency golden visa programs. Launched in 2012, the visa was designed to attract foreign investment and stimulate economic growth, primarily through real estate investments. Since its inception, it has not only achieved its intended objectives but also garnered international attention for its success and simplicity.
In 2023, however, the program’s real estate option was scrapped on the back of a rising domestic housing pricing crisis, leading the government to introduce changes that are now in the final stages of being approved by the country’s parliament. The changes, however, maintain other routes for Portuguese residency and citizenship by engaging in investments that create jobs for locals or help preserve cultural and artistic residency, with thresholds ranging between €250,000 and €500,000.
Typically, foreigners can pursue Portuguese citizenship within five years of residing in the country for at least 183 days a year. After obtaining citizenship there, they can start pursuing E-2 visas.
An E-2 treaty country for over a century, Spain has also been running a popular golden visa since 2013 that allows non-EU citizens to secure Spanish residency through investment. The program entails different routes that include a €500,000 real estate investment, €1 million investment in Spanish stocks or bonds, or investments that create at least ten jobs for locals.
However, achieving Spanish citizenship can take at least ten years of permanently residing in Spain.
Powered by Froala Editor