What’s the Best Way for a South Africans to Get a United States Green Card

The American Dream in 2023

United States Green Card, The American Dream in 2023

According to the United Nations Department of Economic Affairs, 117,000 South Africans have gained legal residence in the United States up to 2020, at an average rate of 5 to 10,000 a year. In 2021, slightly over 2,000 more emigrated to the USA, or about 2% of those leaving the country.

The reduction was partly due to COVID and partly due to it becoming more difficult. Nonetheless, it is clearly still achievable. There are several possible pathways for those who aspire to the American Dream.

South African Citizens , United States Green Card
EB-2, EB-2 NIW, EB-5

What is a “Green Card”?

Green Card holders are officially known as lawful permanent residents (LPRs) in the United States. The document that attests to their legal status is a “permanent resident card.” Historically, it was green in colour, hence the term “Green Card”. The holder, their spouse, and dependent children under the age of 21, are legally allowed to live; study in a school; college or university; and work or own a business in the United States.

Can a South African be eligible for a Green Card?

There are three possible pathways for a person from South Africa to legally obtain a Green Card. 

E-2 Visa

An E-2 Visa is NOT a Green Card, but a non-immigrant visa. It does give the holder, their spouse, and dependent children the right to live, study, and work in America for a period of up to 5 years, with renewal under certain conditions. During that time, there are provisions that allow an E-2 Visa holder to apply for a Green Card.

To apply for an E-2 Visa, you must be a citizen of a country with an E-2 Visa treaty with the United States. South Africa is not a country with this treaty.
However, it is possible to gain citizenship of a country that does not have an E-2 Visa Treaty with the United States.

Grenada, Turkey, and Montenegro are examples of countries which do have the coveted treaty and where citizenship can be obtained fairly quickly. In Grenada, for example, it requires an investment of USD 220,000 in an approved real estate project or a USD 200,000 donation to obtain Grenadian citizenship for a family of four and it takes approximately 6 months. With Grenadian citizenship, you can then apply for an E-2 Visa for you and your family to visit the United States.


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    E-2 Visa Minimum Investment

    An E-2 Visa generally requires an investment of around USD 250,000 in an appropriate United States business. It is important to note that the law does not state a mandatory amount of investment; instead, it mentions “substantial”, which, by practice is widely defined as around USD 250,000. The E-2 Visa can be renewed indefinitely, as long as the investment and business are still in effect and certain profitability requirements are met.

    If you qualify for the there are three more direct ways to gain a United States Green Card:  


    The EB-2 Start-Up Visa is for entrepreneurs whose innovative ideas will contribute to economic growth. It grants an unconditional Green Card (permanent residency status) and requires a financial commitment of at least USD 300,000, of which 30% must be invested in research and development. The applicant must have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree and appropriate work experience of 5 years.

    USA EB-2 NIW


    The EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) visa is designed to attract foreign professionals of exceptional ability and academic background, who can contribute to the United States economy. Currently, there is a significant shortage of pilots in America, via this program experienced pilots can gain an unconditional Green Card for themselves and their qualifying family. If successful, this takes around 12 to 18 months.

    “It is a rigorous process,” explains Bastien Trelcat, Managing Partner at Harvey Law Group (HLG). “Nevertheless, we have had a number of successful applicants. Encouragingly, considerations like age, nationality, and rank do not seem to count against the candidate with the USCIS.”


    The EB-5 is one of the oldest Residency-by-Investment programs in the world and confers residency in return for a financial commitment of at least USD 800,000, depending on the area where you intend to invest. Applications can include a spouse and dependent children under the age of 21 and there are no language or educational restrictions.

    This gives a conditional Green Card for 2 years. After that time, the applicant can file to remove the conditions and get permanent residency status for life (a full Green Card).

    As Mr. Trelcat of HLG confirms, “the details and some of the requirements for these visas can be complex.
    We do recommend you get professional advice.”

    In the United States advice on immigration matters are limited to law firms.

    Harvey Law Group (HLG) has more than 30 years’ experience in the immigration field. For more information please visit, https://harveylawcorporation.com/eb-2-visa-usa .
    If you would like to discuss your plans with one of our professionals, please contact us at [email protected].

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