Migrating to the US as an investor may get dearer

Tina Edwin New Delhi | Updated on March 18, 2018

Draft law proposes doubling minimum investment commitment for EB-5 visa

Indians looking to use the US immigrant investor visa programme to seek residency in that country may in future have to commit a lot more than they do now to obtain that visa. This is because major changes proposed to the US immigrant investor visa programme, known as EB-5 visa, if approved in its current form by Congress, will almost double the minimum investment that prospective immigrants must commit to be considered eligible.

The draft Immigrant Investor Visa and Regional Center Program Comprehensive Reform Act released on March 8 proposes to raise the minimum investment commitments from $500,000 to $925,000 in target employment areas. For other areas, including high-employment areas, the investment commitment will increase from the current $1 million to $1.025 million. The increase in threshold investments for the two areas narrows the advantage that investing in target employment areas, mostly in rural parts of the country, had all these years.

The draft, once cleared by Congress, will replace the existing investor immigrant programme that was introduced as a pilot in 1992 and reauthorised every few years.

The window of opportunity to file for EB-5 visa under the current programme with $500,000 investment may close on March 23, as the 1992 law is set to lapse on that day.

However, if Congress were to reauthorise it for a short period till the new law comes into effect, the opportunity to apply under the existing conditions could remain for some weeks.

The increase in the minimum investment required can sour the dreams of not just some high-networth individuals who wish to seek permanent residency in the US, but also of students in American universities, H-1B holders and professionals, CanAm Enterprises Vice-President for India and The Middle East Abhinav Lohia said.

EB-5 is also popular with H-1B visa holders as it allows them to get a green card faster than they would under other residency visa programmes. Information technology and finance professionals from India also apply in significant numbers for the EB-5 visas, said Lohia. It is not yet clear if the draft will get legislated soon, though there is speculation that it may be attached to an omnibus appropriations Bill in Congress.

Job creation clause

The draft also proposes to amend the clause on the minimum number of jobs created by the investment of EB-5 visa applicants.

The current requirement is for creation of 10 jobs within two years of grant of conditional EB-5 visa. That could change to nine jobs for targeted employment areas such as rural areas and priority urban investment areas and 12 jobs in other areas.

If the draft legislation become law, a moratorium of 120 days may kick in, during which period fresh EB-5 visa applications will not be accepted.

However, all applications received under the existing programme till the cut-off date would be processed at the current investment thresholds.

Published on March 18, 2018

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