by Yayoi Ashikaga, Managing Partner, AOM Visa Consulting
The United States historically has maintained friendly relations with Japan, and it is no doubt that the symbiotic relationship between the two countries is important both economically and socially. Currently, there are roughly 426,000 Japanese citizens residing in the United States which is the highest number in the world outside Japan. With a strong presence of Japanese multi-national companies with offices in the United States, it is unsurprising that E-1/E-2 visas are popular. In fact, the number of E category treat visas issued to Japanese citizens is the highest in the world. However, while immigration to the United States is as popular as ever, interest in and use of the EB-5 program remains low. In 2018, Japan ranked as just the 18th largest investor market with 66 investors. While small, it is interesting to note that that number increased by 29 from 2017; perhaps a reason for optimism in Japan’s emergence as a growing investor market.
Japan is a homogenous country with a very strong economy with a gross domestic product (GDP) that trails only the United States and China according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). On top of that, the country is very safe; therefore, people who consider migration are still in the minority as there is no political, financial or human rights issues that cause citizens to want to emigrate. However, in recent years, Japanese high net worth individuals (HNWI) have become active in migration for several reasons which will be detailed below. Japanese people tend to choose the neighboring countries as migration destinations, with Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand being popular options. In the case of options for investor visas, though, very few people choose the U.S. Migration to foreign countries can be very challenging for Japanese people due to big cultural differences and language barriers. Japan has a close relationship with the U.S., but EB-5 is seldom used by Japanese citizens as a path for migration as they tend to utilize other visas categories. This is perhaps due to a lack of knowledge of the existence of EB-5 as a path to U.S. citizenship.