The United States of America is seeing a wave of layoffs – every second day, reports emerge of people being let off from their jobs across various sectors and there seems to be no end to the firings. According to Forbes, as of 31 March, more than 1,36,000 people had lost their jobs in major layoffs at US companies, more than the prior two quarters combined.
Big tech giants such as Google, Meta, Amazon have led the cuts. Alphabet, Google’s parent company in January laid off six per cent of its global workforce, equating to 12,000 employees. Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta has already laid off over 11,000 employees and is expected to lay off 10,000 jobs in the coming months. Similarly, Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has seen 27,000 job cuts or eight per cent of Amazon’s corporate workforce bid adieu this year.
Layoffs tracking platform Layoffs.fyi shows that the job cuts in the technology sector alone have been high in the US. The tech sector saw 90,000 people laid off in January. This number reduced to 39,471 in February, 37,662 in March, 19,807 in April and 11,491 in the month of May so far.
As these firings continue and people are wary of their futures in the US, many experts have noted an increase in EB-5 visa applications, also known as the US golden visa, and H1B visa holders are among those applying for it.
What is this visa? Why are Indians opting for this now?
What is the EB-5 visa?
TheEB-5 visa, the Immigrant Investor Program, was created by the US Congress in 1990 to stimulate the economy by attracting foreign investors who would create jobs and invest capital in US businesses. This program offers permanent residency to investors, their spouses, and unmarried children under 21, in exchange for investing large sums of money in a US business and creating at least 10 permanent jobs.
In its early years, the program was undersubscribed, with only a handful of the 10,000 available visas being used each year. This was in large part due to the long and complex application process, changes in financial requirements, and the fact that denial rates for investor petitions were very high.
Following the 2008 financial crisis, EB-5 visa scheme became a major tool for the US administration to bring foreign investors to the country. According to an Economic Times report, China has been the largest source of EB-5 visa applications, with nearly 90 per cent of all applications coming from China.
To acquire an EB-5 visa administered by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), foreign nationals have to invest a minimum of $800,000 (over Rs 6 crore) in a new commercial enterprise that creates at least 10 jobs for US workers.
Why are Indians opting for EB-5 visa now?
The USCIS has seen a rise in interest for the EB-5 visa from several Indians in America.
Nicholas A Mastroianni, president and CMO, US Immigration Fund (USIF), said, “The demand for EB-5 visas from India has surged by 400 per cent between 2016 and 2019. In 2022, the number of applications filed by Indian investors reached 1,381, marking a substantial 75 per cent increase from 2019 and indicating a persistent upward trend in the program’s appeal.”
There are a number of reasons that can be attributed to the rise in EB-5 visa applications among Indians. The biggest factor is the uncertainty around the H-1B visa program. Several H-1B visa workers have been let off from their jobs in America owing to the ‘Great layoff season’. According to a PTI news report, of the firings, between 30 to 40 per cent of them are Indian IT professionals, a significant number of whom are on H-1B and L1 visas.
With the firings, they are worried about holding on to their homes and lives in America all while trying to find a job that would support their visa. As one Twitter user, Shawn Wenzel, had earlier noted on Twitter earlier during the previous cuts, “These folks have 60 days to either find another company to sponsor them or leave the US.”
Failing to find new work within those 60 days would mean the employee would have to leave the US and then try to find new American employment from abroad. This can have devastating consequences to families, including the sale of properties and disruptions to children’s education.
However, if one applies for an EB-5 visa, it gives the applicant time and also eliminates the need for H-1B visa holders to return to their home country and go through consular processing, which can be time-consuming and logistically challenging.
What are the advantages of EB-5 visa?
Experts note that despite the high investment initially, the advantages of acquiring an EB-5 visa outweigh those of an H-1B visa. The EB-5 visa allows the applicant as well as his/her family to live, work, and study in any US states or regions. Additionally, the ability to concurrently file the EB-5 petition has made the program more accessible and appealing to H-1B visa holders.
It is known to be the one of the fastest methods to gain permanent residency in the United States – the estimated EB-5 processing time for India typically varies between 29 and 61 months. It also offers applicants’ education benefits such as access to public elementary, middle, and high schools and lower-cost in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.
Moreover, there’s no requirement for a visa sponsor, giving applicants a more stable and long-term immigration solution for themselves and their families.
Shashank Vashishtha, executive director, eXp India, a subsidiary of US-headquartered eXp World Holdings, espousing the benefits of the visa said to Economic Times, “While many European countries stopped giving Golden Visa, people started exploring other options. EB-5 visa is the preferred one as it gives the opportunity to work anywhere in the United States.”
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