As the door closes on H-1B, Indians turn to EB-5 for a ticket to the American dream
As the noose tightens around H-1B visas, the EB-5 visas, which grant US citizenship within 18 months, are turning out to be the most favoured ones, though they come at a whopping cost of over ₹3 crore.
But that has not deterred those who want to get them, with a few people even selling their assets such as land to pay the fee.
With an EB-5 visa, the investor, spouse and two unmarried children under the age of 21 are given US citizenship status.
Vijay Gowda, a 40 something techie who was working for a US call centre, wanted to continue living the American dream.
But his hopes were shattered when his H-1B visa ran out and reapplications (through Infosys and Mphasis), in both the pre and current Trump era were rejected. He sold off a plot of land in the outskirts of Bengaluru. Now he has a chance to live his dream. “With this, I can get my wife and daughter to the US,” he said.
In comparison, the same citizenship process otherwise takes a minimum of seven years. With an EB-5 visa, the wait time is reduced to 18 months. This visa costs $500,000 and soon could go up to $800,000.
“The cost of getting an EB-5 visa is likely to go up post December, by 60 per cent,” John Linn, Director of Asia-Pacific Operations, US Immigration Fund (USIF), told BusinessLine. USIF holds a licence to issue EB-5 visas.
People like Gowda and some others considering this option told BusinessLine that with the H-1B process getting tightened, it is resulting in higher rejections as the US considers techies’ skill sets as irrelevant.
People do not have to rely solely on H-1B lottery, which has a 30 per cent probability these days of getting approved, according to immigration lawyer Rohit Turkhud, Partner at Fakhoury Global Immigration.
While H-1B visas are capped at 85,000 every year, EB-5 is capped around 8,000, and according to Linn, 85 per cent of these visas are lapped up by the Chinese.
Typically, the money collected from an investor is put into an escrow account, which is then lent out for investment purposes such as construction of an art centre.
Executives from USIF said some of the projects that they back include real estate developers backed by Jared Kushner, son-in-law of US President Donald Trump.
‘Citizenship for sale’
This business proposition has angered some sections of US Congressmen who have likened this to putting up US citizenship for sale.
Turkhud says the rhetoric is hogwash. “EB-5 visas have helped investments in public infrastructure projects, which has had a cascade effect on job creation in places such as New York at a time when jobs are much needed. On what grounds is the (US) Opposition justified,” he asks.
There have been other fears regarding the validity of EB-5 visa in certain quarters. Linn added that the likely increase in the cost of procuring an EB-5 visa has got nothing to do with its validity. “There is no objection to the validity of this visa, and it has been on since 1990. The debate in the (US) Congress has been on increasing the cost of getting this visa, which has remained the same since its inception.”
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