Indian investment in the U.S. EB-5 investment immigration program has grown exponentially over the last three years.
While Chinese candidates remain the major investors in the program, Indians are closing the gap with more than $120 million total investment and a growth rate of 140 per cent since 2014.
As President Donald Trump clamps down on the popular H-1B work visa, more candidates are choosing the investment route to achieve U.S. immigration.
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.
There are also regular calls for the EB-5 program to be discontinued over concerns related to fraud and lengthy waiting lists. Trump is still to declare whether he supports the program, which requires job-creating investment in U.S. projects in return for permanent residence.
The uncertainty has resulted in more candidates applying to be part of the program, which has an annual cap of 10,000 visas. Individual countries are capped at seven per cent of the total, or 700 visas, a rule that has resulted in a years-long waiting list for Chinese candidates.
The program was recently granted the latest in a series of temporary extensions by Congress, this time until September 30, 2017.
A White House statement since the extension described the program as ‘in need of substantial repair’.
Talk of a major overhaul prior to the most recent extension of EB-5 proved to be posturing as none of the multiple proposals put forward gained any traction.
Several bills have been tabled with plans for EB-5, including raising investment levels and changing how a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) is defined.
Some of the uncertainty about Trump’s stance on EB-5 was cleared up in a government statement published by the Washington Post recently.
White House spokesman Michael Short said: “There are serious concerns held by the administration regarding the EB-5 visa program, in part because it is not being used as it was primarily intended.
“The administration is continuing to evaluate reforms to the program, which we believe is in need of substantial repair.”
Fraud Cases Linked to EB-5
- Brokerage firm Raymond James paid a nearly $150 million settlement in a case involving alleged misuse of $200 million in EB-5 funds. Federal regulators say Ariel Quiros and Bill Stenger used investor money intended for a biomedical research facility in Vermont to buy a luxury ski resort in a deal facilitated by Raymond James. Some 169 investors will be repaid following the settlement.
- Developer Lobsang Dargey was accused of defrauding Chinese investors out of money for a tower in Belltown. Dargey no longer has control of the project and denies any wrongdoing.
- American Life, a recipient of more than $1 billion in EB-5 investment money, was fined $1.2 million for facilitating payments to unlicensed intermediaries in the U.S.
Meanwhile in Canada, wealthy business immigrants are buying businesses and turning to Ottawa’s temporary work visa, ‘owner-operator’ policies to gain entry to Canada. Opportunities for investment-based immigration to Canada are otherwise limited. Current federal permanent immigration programs, although operational on paper, are not attracting interest from foreign investors.
This leaves a large pool of international investors seeking permanent admission to Canada to compete for a relatively small number of quota based openings under Canada’s provincial business immigration programs. Quebec dominates this area with its Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP). It plans to receive 1,900 new applications in 2017 and spots are filling quickly.
With baby boomers reaching retirement age in Canada, thousands of small and medium sized business owners within this large demographic, are looking to sell. With second-generation children often not an option to take over a family business, this creates the need for buyers. That buyer need not come from within Canada. Canadian businesses and their owners can readily consider the international investment market for viable transition strategies.
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