People from all across the world are increasingly looking for a faster route to permanent residency in the US. The only way to do so is with an EB5 Visa. America, on the other hand, is allowing the entry of wealthy people, who can pump money into its economy. The EB-5 program has gained huge popularity amongst American business owners in recent times. It allows them to gain financial support much faster and more easily than traditional means, like loans.
Also dubbed as “cash for visa,” the EB-5 visa is meant for individuals who want to apply for a green card or lawful permanent residence in the United States for themselves, their spouse and children below 21 years.
All they need is to make some investments and create a minimum of 10 permanent full-time jobs for US workers. Confused? Let me explain.
What is an EB-5 Visa?
The EB-5 visa, also known as “The Immigrant Investor Program,” was created by the US Congress in 1990. The EB-5 Program is now administered by the USCIS. This program was created with the aim of stimulating the US economy through capital investment by immigrant investors. However, there’s a catch. The immigrants should not only invest, but the investment made by them should also result in the creation of at least 10 jobs. The qualifying employees for these jobs should be US citizens, lawful permanent residents or other immigrants authorized to work in the United States.
The investment made is a one-time investment, with the limit for the EB-5 investor visa program set at a minimum of $500,000. An article by Business Standard stated that investment amount could double by January 2019 and eventually go up to between $1 million and $1.3 million for EB-5 investors.
Rising Demand for EB-5 Amongst Indians
In any year, 10,000 EB-5 immigrant visas are made available by the United States. In addition, 3,000 EB-5 visas are earmarked for investors in the Regional Centers, designated by the USCIS. Until recently, the 10,000 limit has never been reached in a year. The visas are issued on the basis of the proposals submitted by visa applicants to promote the economic growth of the US. Per country, the number of EB-5 visas is capped at 7%.
The demand for this visa category is on the rise in India, owing to the stricter regulations on other visa categories like H-1B and H-4. Following China and Vietnam, India is the third highest filer of EB-5 visa applications. Between October 2016 and October 2017, the number of EB-5 visas issued to Indians rose to a record 174, from 149 between 2014-2015, says an article published by Indian newspaper, The Times of India.
During the October 2017-September 2018 period, more than 500 applications were filed by Indians under the EB-5 category. Based on the growth in the number of applications, there are high chances that in 2019, the application will rise to 700, according to an article on The Economic Times.
Who can Apply for an EB 5 Visa?
Entrepreneurs or businessmen, their spouses and unmarried children under 21 are eligible for a green card or permanent residency by applying for an EB-5 visa. All they need to do is make the necessary investment.
As a primary qualification for the EB-5 visa, the investors should invest either in a new commercial enterprise or in a troubled business. They can follow two routes to gain lawful permanent residency using the EB-5:
- The Basic Program
- Regional Center Pilot Program
They can either invest in a job-creating business directly or invest through USCIS-approved regional centers to promote economic growth in the areas designated by the regulatory authority. However, in both cases, the immigrant will be required to make a capital investment of either $500,000 or $1,000,000. The investment amount will depend on whether the commercial enterprise is located within the Targeted Employment Area (TEA) or not, where the unemployment is much higher than the US national average.
When investing in a new commercial enterprise, immigrants can only opt for entities that are established after November 29, 1990. If they are investing in a commercial enterprise established on or before this date, it should either be restructured or expanded to result in a new commercial enterprise. The commercial enterprise could be a sole proprietorship, partnership firm, joint venture, business trust, holding company or corporation. The enterprise should be a lawful business and engaged in a for-profit activity.
Other than a new commercial enterprise, the applicant can also invest in a troubled business. These are businesses that have been operational in America more 2 years and running under a net loss of at least 20%, before the immigrant filed the investor’s form, I-526.
That’s not all, the immigrant will need to provide evidence that the money they are investing in the US came from legal or traceable sources.
To ensure that the immigrant has a good conduct, without any past criminal record or record of having broken any US immigration laws, a background check is conducted by the USCIS.
Other than the minimum $500,000 investment, immigrants need to pay the attorney fee, filing fee at the USCIS, a $50,000 administrative fee and other miscellaneous expenses, such as notarization or travel that may be incurred during the process of visa application. You can consider the total cost to add up to about $580,000, although it can vary from applicant to applicant.
To apply for the EB-5 immigration visa, the investor needs to make an investment/payment of $500,000 at a Regional Center of their choice. On behalf of the investor, an I-526 petition is filed by the immigration attorney with the USCIS.
After this, the visa application goes under processing. This stage can take somewhere between 1 and 6 months. It is, therefore, advisable to choose the Regional Center with prior research to ensure a speedy process.
If the initial petition is approved, the application is sent for consular processing by the attorney. This stage includes the adjustment of the status of the investor and their family in the US. This is required for investors who are in the US with a long-term visa.
If approved, the immigrant is issued a green card, valid for 2 years. To proceed further, the investor needs get the green card condition removed before the end of 2 years.
Usually, it can take about one and a half years for an EB-5 applicant to get a conditional green card that expires in 2 years.
Meanwhile, to maintain the EB-5 visa status, the investor needs to demonstrate that:
- The investment made by them is still in place and has not been withdrawn.
- The regional center was able to generate 10 jobs from the investment.
During that time, the immigrant should stay actively engaged with the commercial enterprise in which they have invested. Fulfilling this requirement allows them to get an unconditional green card, after which they can work anywhere or not work at all, says NOLO.
Disadvantages of the EB-5 Program
The EB-5 work visa has the power to become the most popular American investor immigration, but there are certain disadvantages that are stopping it from achieving such popularity. Placing your capital in an at-risk project is one of the major requirements of the EB-5 program. But, it may be an inconvenient and really high amount for many.
When an entrepreneur has invested in a commercial enterprise through the regional center route, they are not allowed to manage the business or take any serious business decisions. This can be a major setback for immigrants who want to pursue investment activities or develop a business in the US.
Then there are some other clauses that can cause stress for green card holders, such as:
- For tax purposes, green card holders are required to declare their income and assets in the US.
- Green card holders need to establish residence in the US.
- Green card holders should be present in the country at least 6 months before they have invested.
Best Agencies in India to Get an EB-5 Visa
- Abhinav Outsourcing Pvt. Ltd.: This agency provides a pre-screening assessment form to the applicants. The officers review the information provided by the prospective EB-5 applicant to be true. They make sure that the applicant meets the qualifying criteria for an EB-5 green card.
- EB-5 Brics: This is one of the leading agencies and takes a holistic approach for visa application. They have collaborated with the US regional centers, EB-5 immigrant law practitioners and direct investment specialists to achieve the best results. The team at EB-5 Brics conducts a comprehensive evaluation to avoid rejection of the EB-5 application.
EB-5 is one of the most difficult immigration categories. Not only does an investment have to made to qualify for this visa, which is a financial burden, the process of establishing eligibility is also expensive. I would recommend seeking legal advice before you apply for this type of visa to avoid ruining your chances of visa rejection.