Westward Ho!

Recently there has been a lot that has been spoken about US immigration policies. America is one of the biggest economies globally and clearly an attractive country for Indians who wish to migrate to the land of opportunities. There are various factors which make America an attractive option to migrate for Indians; better education, higher standard of living, better lifestyle and more.

The two most popular routes through which an immigrant reaches a step closer to acquiring a green card is the H-1B visa and EB-5 visa. Both routes have their own set of pros and cons which need to be understood.

H-1B visa programme

H-1B visa has been very popular amongst IT industry working professionals; it is a long-term work visa (initially issued for about three years that can be extended to six years and then possible one year extensions) which allows an individual to live and work in the US. The reason H-1B gained popularity is mainly because unlike other work visas the requirements of an H-1B visa are very minimal. H-1B simply requires a bachelor’s degree and a job offer from a US company requiring the applicant’s skills and expertise.

However, finding an employer seeking the applicant’s set of skills could be the challenging part and unless there is an employer ready to fund the applicant’s visa one is not eligible for an H-1B. H-1B visa allows the worker to stay for three years initially which can be renewed for another three. The biggest risk involved with the H-1B is that it currently works through a lottery system which means if the applicant’s petition is not picked in the current year the applicant will have to wait until the following year to petition again.

Further as per data revealed by The Art Law Journal, president Trump’s latest proposal of a minimum salary requirement for H-1B visas is for only those who earn $130,000 annually (Rs 83,05,050 approx.) also may act as a significant hindrance. This situation has left many Indian students in the US worried since a recent graduate even if hired by a top software giant will not likely to earn this considerable starting salary.

EB-5 visa programme

The EB-5 visa also known as the ‘golden visa’ is the easiest and the quickest way to obtain permanent residency also known as “green card” in the US. The immigrant investor applicant is required to make an investment of a minimum amount of $500,000 into a new business or development project and create at least 10 jobs for US nationals from the investment.

EB-5 visa can be obtained through two separate routes — direct investment or regional centre investment. EB-5 visa application speeds up the process of obtaining a green card and in certain cases can save an H-1B applicant over 10 years in waiting time for permanent residency. An EB-5 visa applicant gets to choose where to invest their money and they are also free to set up their own business as long as they employ 10 full-time US workers. The investment process may take up to two years under current processing times.

The EB-5 investor visa program is not a lottery system so obtaining the visa if one fulfils the basic requirement of the visa is not a difficult process. However, the most challenging part is to decide how and where one wishes to invest their money since after the investment it is extremely crucial to meet the criteria of creating 10 jobs through the investment.

Which one of the above is a safer bet depends on one’s future plans and expectations from the process. If one wishes to settle in the US eventually, then going via EB-5 route is more logical and it will give one a good head start to procure a green card. However, if one is okay with the risk of having to return to one’s home country then H-1B makes more sense.
(The writer is founder and CEO, EB5 BRICS)