The H1-B visa program has been a lifeline for many Indian IT professionals who have found work in the United States. However, the recent wave of layoffs has left many of them at risk of deportation. This has led to an increasing interest in the EB-5 visa program, which offers an alternative pathway to permanent US residency.
The H1-B visa program requires immigrants to find a new employer within 60 days of termination from their job. Failure to do so can result in deportation. This is because the employer sponsors the immigrant under this program, and if the immigrant is laid off, they lose their legal backing to stay in the US. According to the Wall Street Journal, tens of thousands of H-1B workers in the US have been impacted by large-scale tech layoffs, primarily because a disproportionately large number of foreign-born employees – one-quarter -- are in STEM fields of technology and science. With such a high number of layoffs in the tech field, the EB-5 “immigration-by-investment” visa is gaining attention as an alternative form of visa for immigrants.
The EB-5 visa program provides qualified foreign investors with the opportunity to earn a conditional, or temporary, two-year green card in return for investing $800,000 in projects offered through an EB-5 “Regional Center” designated by the USCIS (US Citizenship & Immigration Services) and located in high unemployment areas that create at least ten permanent full-time jobs for US workers.
The EB-5 visa program has several advantages. First and foremost, it provides a direct path to US residency. With the conditional green card available through the EB-5 program, your two years as a conditional permanent resident is credited towards the five-year lawful permanent residency requirement for US citizenship. You may apply for US citizenship after this five-year period. And unlike the H-1B visa, there is no need for a sponsor, and there are no educational or professional qualifications required to apply for this program.
Another significant advantage of the EB-5 visa is its flexibility. Investors can live and work (without sponsorship) anywhere in the USA. Furthermore, an investor's spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can also qualify for green cards under the EB-5 investor's application.
Every year, 10,000 EB-5 visas are allocated for immigrants and their dependent family members. As Indian IT professionals ponder the uncertainty created by waves of US tech layoffs and the limits of the H-1B visa, they are taking a close look at desirable alternatives like the EB-5 visa that offer more life and employment choices and greater freedoms for themselves and their family members.
Finally, Indians lawfully in the US on another visa, such as H-1B, now have more convenient options to change their status. Recent immigration EB-5 reforms allow immigrants to concurrently file for an adjustment of their status while still in the US, and recent changes to the Immigration Nationality Act can extend the 60-day grace period for re-employment, providing H-1B visa holders a cushion of additional time to consider their EB-5 visa options.
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