THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN: Rich Indians applying for costly EB5 visas

The number of wealthy Indians applying for costly EB5 visas at US embassies is increasing every year. EB5 visas enable one to directly become a green card holder  in the US, unlike the H1B visa, procuring which has become uncertain for Indians after the Donald Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies. However, for obtaining an EB5 visa, one of the best alternatives to get a green card, the total investment required is $500,000 (Rs 3.3 crore) for a family (investor, spouse and children below 21 years) and the time taken to process the application is around 18 months. Unlike the EB5 visa, it takes at least 15-18 years for an H1B visa holder to become a green card holder.

With 239 EB5 visa applications filed by Indians at the US embassy in 2015, compared to 99 in 2014, India has been ranked as the third country after China and Vietnam to be the largest investor in the United States by way of EB5 visas, with an investment of over $120 million, registering a growth rate of 140% since 2014. Procuring EB5 visas amounts to investing in the US, with a minimum amount of $500,000 (Rs 3.3 crore) legally acquired by the investor.

Though the official data for 2016 is yet to be released by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), immigration law firms and lawyers believe that the number of applications had been on the rise for 2016 as well.

In 2014, Indians had invested by way of EB5 visas just $50 million in the United States and was ranked at number five, making China the highest investor with about $4,800 million in the US, according to USCIS  data.

Abhinav Lohia, a partner from Davies and Associates, a US immigration law firm, told The Sunday Guardian, “Our firm alone had filed around 40 cases for EB5 visas in 2016 and this year, we have already filed around 20 cases and the number is going to increase. As the EB5 visa is one of the best alternatives to get a green card in the US, more and more people are joining to avail this opportunity.”

Rogelio Caceres, co-founder and CMO of LCR Capital Partners, leading US investment firm told The Sunday Guardian that most applicants want to secure an EB5 visa for their children to study in the US and settle down there.

“We have seen most applicants being parents who wanted to send their children to good universities in the US and want them to settle  there. The uncertainty over the H1B visa has also made many having the required funds to apply for the EB5 visa. After spending thousands of dollars in the education of their children,  most parents would not want them to come back to India, as remunerations in India are not as much as they are in the US,” Caceres said.

Abhinav also said that keeping in mind the current job market scenario in India, with thousands of employees being laid off from different multinational companies in India, “parents are sceptical of bringing their child back to India where job opportunities are shrinking”.

He further added that many startups and entrepreneurs are also shifting to the US as the ease of doing business there is much higher than in India.

“Many investors and entrepreneurs are moving to the Silicon Valley because things are much simpler and opportunities much greater. I think if one has the required amount of funds to secure an EB5 visa, one should go for it as there is no waiting period and one directly becomes a green card holder,” he told The Sunday Guardian.


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