Bahamas Gets It Right on Investment Levels and Streamlining

By David North on April 26, 2011

Sometimes it is downright embarrassing to find tiny Third World nations handling immigration challenges better than the mighty U.S. does.

For example, The Bahamas has just decided to triple the investment needed if you want to get permanent residence there; the bar used to be $500,000 (often used to buy a house) and now it is $1,500,000. These are Bahamas dollars, but they are worth, depending on the mood of the market, a hair more or a hair less than the U.S. dollar.

Meanwhile, America has lowered its basic deal to sell green cards to investors from the previous price of $1,000,000 for the whole family, to $500,000 for the whole family; this is for the EB-5 visa discussed in a prior blog.

Not happy to sell membership in our society for as much as $500,000, three U.S. senators (one Republican and two Democrats) have come up with a complex proposal to let certain alien entrepreneurs get their green cards with $120,000 of somebody else's money, also the subject of an earlier blog.

The basic Bahamian position is that you are going to sink the $1,500,000 into a residence, a permanent sort of investment; on the other hand, in the existing U.S. (EB-5) program you can remove the $500,000, or what's left of it, after two years – but your green card, and your family's green cards, go on forever.

The AP article on the new Bahamas policy also carried this sentence: "Foreigners who spend less than the new $1.5 million threshold are still eligible to apply for permanent residency status but the process could take years."

Here, then, is a savvy government that knows that you can use the speed – or rather the lack thereof – of an immigration process to meet a social goal, i.e., boosting the amount of investment demanded of would-be retiring immigrants. This is in sharp contrast to the activities of USCIS, which is always trying to figure ways to get more migrants into the country faster with minimal procedural delays.

Our government loves streamlining while our nation's neighbors to the south see a benefit in a little well-placed foot dragging.

Some months from now, when Washington is facing a cold, wet fall, maybe one or both of the immigration subcommittees, and their staffs, should pay a visit to sun-drenched Nassau to see how an immigrant-investor program should be managed. (As a plus they could check out The Bahamas' highly effective little navy that manages illegal migration from Haiti so well, as we outlined earlier.)