Suppose I have large independent means (say >20$ million) so I don't have to worry about work (at a $1000 a day I can live 54 years on that money not counting any investments) and want to go travel around the USA and enjoy the country. It is easy to imagine I could spend a year or longer on such a trip (just visiting every national park for 5 days would take longer than a year not counting travel, museums cities monuments etc.). Also suppose I'm from a VWP country if that is at all relevant.

Is there a legal way to achieve this with regards to visa requirements?

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    Not part of an answer, but don't forget you will need to think about the tax implications of living in the US for an entire year. – DJClayworth Jul 4 '17 at 15:07

A few options I'm aware of, assuming you don't have relatives in the US for a family-based route:

  • You could apply for a US B-2 visitor visa. These normally get you a stay of up to six months, but it's possible to be admitted for a maximum of a year, at least theoretically. After arriving in the US, you could decide to extend your stay and file for an extension to get another six months. You might use some of that wealth to have an immigration lawyer to prepare the paperwork in order to give you the best chance of success. The catch here is that a B-2 visa is strictly a non-immigrant visitor visa; you must demonstrate ties to your home and intent to go back there. If you're spending years at a time in the US, that's difficult to do. A more balanced approach, where you mix your US trips with time spent at home, is a good idea.

  • You could apply for an EB-5 investor visa. This requires that you invest a half-million to a million dollars in the United States in a qualifying business. There's a whole network of intermediaries, sometimes unscrupulous, involved in recruiting sufficiently wealthy people for such visas, especially in China, and like any investment opportunity, buyer beware! If you make a qualifying investment and everything is approved, you, your spouse, and your children under 21 will receive US Permanent Residency (green cards). You can then stay in the US as long as you like.

  • Want to start a business in the US? Perhaps buy an existing small business? It's possible, sometimes, to get a visa for that purpose, though the details of the routes under which you might do that are too complex to detail in this forum (often an E-2 visa). Suffice it to say, you get professional advice for this. An E-2 visa doesn't lead to permanent residency (potentially useful for tax purposes in some situations), and it requires that you actively run the business, not just write a check as an investor, but you could hire a manager and visit national parks while you keep tabs on your business. The investment required can be less than an EB-5 visa though. Another catch is that you could have to leave the US if your business fails or is struggling.

  • An employment-based visa. Perhaps you made your money through extraordinary success in business and your services would be in demand as a senior management consultant? A US company could petition for an employment visa for you, citing your special credentials. It would be fraudulent to do this for a sham job or if you had no intent to work, solely so you can come to the US and be a tourist, but some such immigration routes can lead to permanent residency (and eventually, citizenship if you wish) that will continue even after you leave your job.

  • An O visa is for "persons with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or extraordinary recognized achievements in the motion picture and television fields, demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim, to work in their field of expertise." Depending on how you made your money, maybe that's you, and perhaps someone wants you to use your skills in the US over a long period of time. O visas can be issued for up to three years if necessary, and further extended from there.

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    A more unusual option might be to throw your wealth around to endear yourself to the political leadership of your home country to the point that they make you an Ambassador to the US, or at least some other posting to a diplomatic mission in the US. Perhaps your presence is urgently required as a special advisor to the country's mission to the United Nations, and you see fit to do a lot of your advising in national parks? Travel.stackexchange.com is not responsible for any bribery charges brought as a result of such a campaign. – Zach Lipton Jul 4 '17 at 11:46

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