EB-5 visa: Why is it getting more popular than the H-1B?
Welcome to America (if you have US$1 million to invest). Source: Shutterstock

In the US, there is a visa programme that makes foreigners eligible for permanent residence if they invest in a for-profit American enterprise and plan to create 10 full-time jobs for qualified US workers. Established in 1990, the programme aims to stimulate the economy by attracting foreign investment and job creation. It’s called the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.

Previously overshadowed by the more popular skilled immigrant H-1B visa, the EB-5 is now slowly catching up in popularity among students and skilled migrants thanks to the new restrictions increasingly imposed on the former.

According to News18, the EB-5 visa is now seen as a foolproof way to gaining a green card for children of rich and middle-class individuals.

“Most people want to invest in EB-5 mainly for their children so they are able to go to the US and stay there and not be dependent on any other visa category,” US Immigration Fund Director of Business Development Andrew Graves said.


“We’re also recently seeing a large uptick in current H-1B visa holders where they want their permanent residency … H-1B is just temporary and there’s a long lottery so they’re opting to go the EB-5 route. Plus the headwinds in the H-1B are not basically going away for the next year or so,” he added.

According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website, each EB-5 investor has to invest a minimum of US$1 million in capital, which can be in the form of cash, equipment, inventory, other tangible property, etc. For Targeted Employment Areas (High Unemployment or Rural Area), they have to invest a minimum US$500,000.

Graves said real estate is the most popular form of investment made because of its “safety of capital”.

US Investment Immigration Attorney Vaughan de Kirby said EB-5 visas were the answer for enterprising Indians as one qualified investment can result in a green card for the applicants, their spouses and children under 21 years old.

While the processing time for EB-5 category is just 18 months for Indian citizens, these visas offer employment at more competitive wages which are freely negotiable rather than dictated by the employer, Kirby said, as reported by Money Control.

“Given the uncertainty of travel restrictions, a green card is the best protection,” he said.

If freedom to travel, work and live anywhere in the US is what you are looking at, an EB-5 green card is just the right thing for you provided you keep the do’s and don’ts in mind.”

Applicants for the EB-5 are predominantly from China, making up about 80 percent of the total program’s market. South Korea, Vietnam and Brazil are other countries with high numbers of such investors.

“It is so popular that there is a waiting list. In 2016, we had over 14,000 investors from China while India had about 300,” Graves said.

For some graduates and skilled migrants, a permanent residence could mean a chance to pursue a better career and life in America. Source: Shutterstock

With the increasing number of restrictions placed on the H-1B visas, it may not be long before students and graduates from India, especially if they can afford it, to turn towards the EB-5.

Co-founder Rogelio Caceres and general counsel Matthew Virkstis of private investment firm LCR Partners in Connecticut predicts India could overtake Vietnam as the second largest EB-5 market this year, according to Money Control.

New changes to the H-1B visa program lately have made it harder for companies and individuals to apply and get the work visas to fill specialty occupations in the US. Furthermore, should they succeed in getting a visa, it may not be for the usual full three years, but shorter.

Last December, the Trump administration also announced plans to revoke permits that allowed the spouses of H-1B visa holders to work legally in the US. The Department of Homeland Security said it will propose the rules for this in June, which will be followed by a  public notice and comment period.

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