The broadening consensus that change is coming to the U.S. EB-5 investment immigration program means anyone thinking of filing a green card application should consider doing so now.
There is growing support for the program to be revamped with increased investment thresholds after a series of last-minute short-term extensions ranging from weeks to months.
Investment requirements remain unchanged since the program’s introduction in 1990, and a general across-the-board emphasis on leaner and more-focused immigration programs means this could be the last opportunity for green card aspirants to take advantage of the existing EB-5 visa program.
Avoid a Costlier and More Complicated Program
Talks about increasing the minimum investment limit have been circling since January 2017, when lawmakers sought to introduce a proposal to increase thresholds to $925,000 and $1.35 million from the existing $500,000 and $1 million.
An increase in investment threshold would be simpler to navigate than changes in minimum job-creation requirements, tougher due diligence, or a stricter definition of targeted employment areas that allows access to the lower investment requirement.
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Avoiding the Pitfalls of Investment Immigration Programs
Short-term extensions stoke fears that lawmakers may allow the program to lapse. Revamped program is preferable to permanent termination for all those involved in the EB-5 visa industry, from candidates to developers.
But the simplest and easiest way to avoid approaching complications is to apply for the EB-5 visa now. Any changes in rules, especially related to investment or job creation, are likely to affect only those who apply after the new rules come into force.
Apply under Predictable Rules
Applying before the enactment of any changes will lock your application in under the existing set of requirements. This will ensure you don’t end up facing the brunt of changes introduced by lawmakers who feel the EB-5 program undervalues the US passport.
Further, potential new rules related to job creation, Regional Centres, due diligence and so on may be subject to varying interpretations by the authorities and the courts. The current EB-5 regime is stable with very little scope for sudden unfavourable rule interpretations. All this may change once new rules are introduced.
Enjoy Short Processing Times
Another reason to speed up your decision to apply for the EB-5 visa, irrespective of whether the program is revamped, is to reduce the processing time. Retrogression imposed by the State Department has meant that Chinese applicants may have to wait for five years or more to get their green card.
Some experts say the wait can extend as long as a decade, which puts the EB-5 on a par with the H1-B visa, at least for applicants from China. With Vietnam also facing retrogression, applicants from India can take advantage of the country’s unfilled quota.
Current US EB-5 Investment Requirements
- An EB-5 investor must invest in a new commercial enterprise.
- The investor must invest at least $1 million when investing in a general area of business or at least $500,000 when investing in a targeted employment area (“Regional Centres”).
- Within two years of admission as a Conditional Permanent Resident, the investor must create or preserve at least 10 full-time, direct or indirect jobs belonging to qualified US workers.
- See Tax Implications of Gaining Permanent Residence Through US EB-5 Visa.
Indian applicants historically apply for up to 450 EB-5 visas out of their annual quota of 700. China, on the other hand, has not only exceeded its quota but accounts for 90 per cent the annual 10,000 limit set by the U.S. government.
Indians can look to lay their hands on the coveted US green card in just two years.
Processing times for Indians may increase as more affluent citizens explore the EB-5 visa route to avoid H1-B complications.
As yet, the EB-5 visa is free of the controversies and political rhetoric surrounding H1-B. The latter is essentially a short-term work permit that was expected to, for a small number of eligible applicants, serve as a route to permanent residence. The US investment immigration program is designed as a direct route to conditional permanent residence.
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