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Six-fold surge in GCC approvals for US citizenship program

The EB-5 investment program that grants citizenship opportunity in exchange for at least $500,000 in investment, has recorded a dramatic (almost six-fold) increase in interest from persons from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC’). That is, according to the latest numbers on EB-5 visas per country in 2018.

Background on the EB-5 Program

The EB-5 visa was set up in 1990 to help foreign investors wishing to establish ventures in the US.
Investors wishing to participate in the program are currently required to invest at least $500,000. Doing such, allows them the chance to receive a green card, possibly becoming full American citizens within around five years.

The EB-5 program has had a significant increase in total participant numbers in recent years. The number increased by 8,233 between 2010 and 2019. However, the program now has a limit of 10,000 participants.

GCC - 2018 EB5 Placeholder
GCC - 2018 EB5

Overall increase in GCC & Middle East EB-5 Approvals

The UAE recorded a 350% increase, leading to 54 approvals. However, when considering nations outside the GCC as well, China still led with over 48% of all participants. The Asian nation contributed to the highest number of approvals last year at 4,642.

Nonetheless, amongst the GCC, there was movement in trends with Saudi Arabia jumping from one to fifteen approvals in the last year. Qatar was another high performer, increasing from just one approval to sixteen, in the same period.

Increase in EB-5 Approvals in GCC & Middle East
# Country 2017 Approvals 2018 Approvals Change
1 Qatar 1 16 +1500%
2 Saudi Arabia 1 15 +1400%
3 UAE 12 54 +350%
4 Israel 8 25 +212%
5 Lebanon 6 18 +200%
6 Jordan 6 16 +167%
7 Turkey 27 69 +155%
8 Bahrain 0 2 +100%
9 Iraq 0 29 +100%
10 Kuwait 0 4 +100%
11 Oman 0 2 +100%
12 Syria 24 32 +33%
13 Iran 40 53 +32.5%

Whereas the rest of the GCC states had registered zero approvals in the previous year, last year it was Kuwait-4, Bahrain-2 and Oman-2. The percentage increase in approvals for the six GCC states in 2018 was a staggering 564% from the previous year.

Other EB-5 approvals in the region

Apart from these countries, others within the region also received significant approvals for EB-5 visas. Syria’s increased by 33% to 32 approvals, while Lebanon had eighteen, representing a 200% surge. 53 moved from zero to 29, while Iran rose by more than 32% to 53. Jordan’s 16 was a 166% increase from what she had in 2017.

No application was rejected, and a number of families had already immigrated to the US an the approvals were done faster than in the previous years, with a family from Egypt getting approved in just ten months.

Trump and the EB-5 Visa

The events probably have a connection with the Trump presidency. Since the commencement of Trump’s presidency, GCC nationals have been more likely to seek EB-5 visas. This has partly been attributed to Trump’s stance on the Middle East with regards to Immigration, and partly to the American unemployment rates, which hit its lowest levels in 49 years.

Trump’s government made it harder for immigrants to get employed in companies in the US through the H-1B and other visa programs, in order to tackle the unemployment rates in the nation.

This left the EB-5 program as the only open and sound channel for accessing residence in the US, and thus, it has attracted so much interest and a faster approval. The EB-5 program is now the most reliable option for anyone seeking to reside in the U.S. and obtain a passport after having their initial residency approved. That is why the EB-5 program has attracted so much attention from people who, otherwise, would have looked elsewhere.

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