US to retain EB5 visa, but double the fee
US issues 10,000 EB5 visas annually and most of these are grabbed by applicants from India, China

The US Congress’ extension for EB5 visa will end on February 8. Even if this visa — touted as the Golden Visa of Uncle Sam — is continued, it will come with a fat price as the US administration is considering to more than double the visa fee to $1.35 million from the existing $500,000.

EB5, introduced in 1990, is the easiest legal immigration (especially when the US is constantly in the process of building more stringent measures around H1-B visa) route to the US, and the country issues 10,000 EB5 visas annually and most of these visas are grabbed by families, entrepreneurs and students from India and China. The EB5 scheme was extended to February 8 after its earlier deadline expired on January 19.

“Sometime this year, the EB5 charges will increase either through legislation or through a regulatory change and new visa fee will be either $945,000 or $1.35 million. The new fee structure will come into effect by early May,’’ says Rogelio Caceres, co-founder and chief compliance officer at LCR Capital Partners, a Connecticut-based investment advisory firm.

Unlike in the case of H1-B visa, Republicans and Dem­o­crats are equally in favour of EB5 Scheme and the US administration and preside­nt Donald Trump too are supportive of EB5. It brings high quality, educated migr­ants from all over the world into the country; it brings foreign investments and also creates American jobs and therefore the authority is su­pportive of it, Caceres adds.

Apart from the fee hike, the US department of ho­meland security has also proposed some other chan­ges (such as reserving 3,000 visas for rural areas of the US, currently all 10,000 vi­sas are given in the metropolitan cities) in the EB5 visa programme. A regulation change will give a strong impetus to the Congress to act and make it a legislation with a revised pay structure of $925,000 and may not a higher $1.35 million, anticipates Vivek Tandon, founder and CEO at EB5 BRICS, a visa advisory firm.

“This might lead to a te­mporary cool off in the EB5 uptick. But this is the quick legal route available to immigrants with shortest possible – in less than two years–waiting time for Green Card and permanent resid­ency. India has a large number of people who are keen to use this channel,’’ says Tandon.

As per Caceres, “currently, we see a lot of interest for this programme from India. Our firm alone accounted for 50 per cent of EB5 applications from India in 2017.’’

The EB5 immigrant visa has been growing in popularity and numbers since 2014. Number of applicati­ons from India increased 10 fold in the last 3 years. Over 1,000 Indians are expected to file EB5 applications in 2018, expecting Green Ca­rds in less than two years.

On the contrary, in 2017, some 41 per cent of H1-B applications were denied visa and 70 per cent of these were Indian applicants. So even if you win the H1-B lottery, the visa is not guaranteed as USCIS’ (the US Citizenship and Immigration Services) review processes have become extremely stringent, reminds Caceres.

EB5 investments, that go into various sectors in the US including hospitality and realty, are monitored and regulated by the US Immigration Services and Securities Exchange Commission.