Indians intending to apply for an EB-5 visa can benefit from the brief extension up to December 7 accorded to the existing scheme. This may come in handy as they can take advantage of the prevailing investment requirements of US $1 million (which translates to Rs 7.2 crore) or half a million dollars in specified target areas.

Riddled by controversy, including several investor-related frauds, the various facets of the programme, including investment norms, are likely to see a complete revision in the coming months. An Obama-era draft bill had proposed to hike the minimum threshold investment limit to $1.8 million and $1.35 million for investments.

The EB-5 programme allots green cards to foreign investor in exchange for their investments and an undertaking to create at least 10 American jobs. Investing via a regional centre, which in turn sponsors business projects, is more common than setting up one’s own enterprise.

The brief extension in the EB-5 programme, which was signed recently by US President Donald Trump. Else, the ‘EB-5 Regional Centre Permanent Resident programme’ had a sunset date of September 30. Incidentally, this cut-off date was also part of a six-month extension, one of the many extensions made in recent years.

Only 10,000 EB-5 visas are issued annually, with a 7% per country cap (700 per country). If a country doesn’t meet the cap, the unused visa quota is redistributed to other countries. The number of EB-5 visas allotted to Indians has risen by 93% with 174 visas being allotted during 2017 fiscal. According to latest official statistics of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), during October and November last year (ie: the first two months of 2018 fiscal) 307 applications were pending from India. Immigration experts cite that applications from India may have crossed the 1,000 figure for the twelve-month period that ended in September 2018.

Currently, for Indian applicants the processing time for an EB-5 application is 18-24 months. Conditional permanent residence status is then granted to the investor and his family (the children must be unmarried and below 21 years). After two years, the investor has to apply for lifting the conditions and move towards obtaining a green card, processing of which can take up to a maximum of two years. Immigration experts say that visa retrogression (which arises when the applications exceed the cap) could increase the waiting time for a green card by a few more months.

Based on anecdotal evidence, it appears that a majority of the EB-5 applicants from India are either working in the US or have a child studying there. Various reasons are attributed to the spike in interest in EB-5 visas, which include likelihood of an increase in investment limits, tightening of H-1B visa norms and an extraordinarily long wait for H-1B workers to obtain a green card (CATO Institute has estimated the waiting period to be 151 years for those with an advanced degree). The EB-5 cuts down the time to obtain a green card.

Sours: Times of India

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