President Biden’s decision to reverse President Trump’s travel ban has released pent up demand for US immigration services from Nigeria.
Nigeria was hit with a US travel ban in February 2020 after President Trump introduced new restrictions as part of his ongoing immigration reforms. The move added Nigeria and five other countries to what was widely referred to as a “Muslim Ban” that dated back to the start of his administration.
In Nigeria, where around half the population are Muslim, the ban specifically targeted those seeking permanent residency in the United States. This hit particularly hard in the family-based immigrant (Green Card) categories, but also effectively put a halt to the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program in the country.
EB-5 Visa Nigeria
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program had been growing rapidly in popularity in Nigeria over the past few years, albeit from a low base. In 2016, 38 EB-5 visa were issued to Nigerians, and by 2018 that number had jumped to almost 100.
The travel ban coincided with an increase in the minimum investment amount for EB-5 to $900,000 and then the outbreak of Covid-19. So a temporary dampening of demand in 2020 was likely with or without the travel ban.
But now EB-5 reopens and the pent-up demand is able to unleash. There are just over 700 EB-5 visas available to each country each year. This means Nigeria has a way to go before it hits its annual cap. But if its EB-5 growth trajectory resembles other countries like India, things could move fast.
The EB-5 program provides a fast route to a Green Card for a minimum $900,000 investment that creates ten jobs. Most people invest with an EB-5 Regional Center to help ensure compliance, but it is also possible to make the investment yourself through Direct EB5. A single investment can cover the primary applicant, a spouse, and any children under 21.
L-1 Visa Nigeria
Where we are seeing the most interest right now from Nigeria is the L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa. Technically Nigerians were not prevented from applying for this visa as part of the travel ban, but it made the whole process much harder.
Then in June 2020, President Trump announced a worldwide ban on the L-1 visa among many other visas as part of his plans to contain the economic impact of Covid-19. The L-1 visa is only just reopening as Trump’s ban expires. The pent up demand has built up quite a queue worldwide, so it is a good idea to get started on an application.
The L-1A visa allows an international manager or executive to move from the Nigerian office to the US office of the same company. If you are looking to expand your business to the US, you can use the L-1 visa to move to the US to oversee the set-up and growth of the new office. The L-1B visa permits you to transfer an employee with “Specialized knowledge” to the US.
The L-1A visa is limited to a maximum of seven years and the L-1B for a maximum of 5 years. But you would not get the full amount in one go. Nigerian L-1 visas are issued up to a maximum of 2 years, at which time you would need to apply for a renewal. After the maximum period, you must switch to a different visa or return to Nigeria.
E2 Treaty Investor Visa Plus CBI
The other visa a lot of potential Nigerian clients ask us about is the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. The E-2 visa allows a person to move to the US for the purposes of owning and operating a business. People use it to buy restaurant franchises or gas stations, but the business opportunities are much broader than this. You no longer even need physical premises.
The visa is hugely popular, but there is one catch for Nigerians. Nigeria does not hold an E-2 Treaty with the USA. This means that Nigerians seeking an E-2 visa need to first become citizens of a country that does have a treaty. The process is known as E-2 + CBI.
The two E-2 countries with the cheapest and fastest routes to citizenship are Turkey and Grenada. Turkish citizenship can be obtained with an investment in real estate from $250,000 or bank deposits worth more than $500,000. Grenadian citizenship can be obtained with a donation from $150,000 or a real estate investment from $220,000. Citizenship of both countries can be obtained in a matter of months.
The extra step can seem like a hassle, but we have helped clients through this prcoess and it is simpler than it sounds. Plus, for many, the E-2 visa is worth the effort. Spouses of the primary applicant can apply for a separate US work permit, investment requirements are relatively low, and the visa can be renewed forever – provided the business is still in good operation.
The combination of Covid-19 and a travel ban has hit Nigerian immigration to the United States hard. But the travel ban is lifting and the vaccination program is underway. The 2020s look set to be brighter for Nigerians hoping to move to the United States.
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