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EB-5 skyrockets in India as H1-B under new threat: US Freedom Capital

ANI  |  Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India] 

US Freedom Capital, among India's leading EB-5 investment consulting firms today said that it expects the process completion time (from application to receipt of Green Card) to increase from 2 years to over 5 years for new applicants if they apply around July 2019 under the EB-5 Visa scheme. India has also witnessed a staggering increase in applications for I-526 petitions. Since FY2008 the number of EB-5 investors from India has jumped 1,405%.

It is expected at this rate, the number of EB-5 visas actually issued could hit the annual cap of 700 by July 2019 - or in other words the maximum number allowed per year, leading to the much higher waiting time for newer applicants.

"The great American Dream is being chased by many more Indians than ever in the past two decades, as indicated by the USCIS numbers. Since the inception of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa in FY1992, nearly 1,860 Indian investors have submitted their I-526 petition to USCIS and invested in a variety of EB-5 projects across the United States, contributing over $742 million in foreign direct investment to the U.S. economy. In FY2017 alone, IIUSA estimates that approximately $235 million EB-5 funding was generated by the investors from India, a 66% growth from FY2016," said Ankit Bhandari, VP - Investments, US Freedom Capital.

Earlier H-1B Visas were the priority route but with the tightening of norms by the US Government in recent years, EB-5 has now started to gain favour with the investors. On December 3rd, 2018, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed regulatory amendments around H-1B petitions. These amendments intend to put in place greater favorability in H-1B selection towards U.S. master's degree holders, who are described as "more meritorious" than other beneficiaries. Under the proposed reform, Internet-based electronic registration would be mandatory for all petitioners filing for H-1B on behalf of their employees. Petitioners would be given a specified window to register the details of each candidate, which would then be added to a pool of randomly selected candidates from a computer-generated program.

Although the proposed changes are the Trump administration's first attempt to enact regulatory reforms to H-1B, the program has been under threat since April 2017. In a recent report from the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), it was shown that the number of H-1B petitions denied for Indian-born professionals spiked from 16.6% to 23.6% from the 3rd to the 4thquarter of the FY 2017- a 42% increase in the span of three months.

Unlike H-1B, EB-5 does not depend on employer sponsorship nor on a lottery system. Rather, through this program, investors are eligible to apply for a green card and maintain the freedom as well as flexibility to live and work anywhere in the U.S. The EB-5 Investor Visa requires an individual to invest US $500,000 (approximately INR 3.4 crores) in a commercial enterprise in the USA to gain green card for their family, including all unmarried children under 21.

According to Mr Bhandari, "There has been a serious growth trend in applications for I-526 petitions in the last three years. What's worrisome, however, is that many of these petitions are pending, meaning that the wait time for approval is increasing exponentially. As of October 2018, this number was at 1,633 for Indians alone. As a firm, we have already seen an outpour of interest by clients looking to pursue EB-5 for themselves and their family. At this rate, it would be unwise to risk long waiting times and long application queues. At the same time, it is important to ensure the safety of funds invested and their compliance with the US EB-5 rules for the investors seeking Green Card. This is where the need to have a reliable partner, with a reputation, matters".

The above figures under each year depict the number of I-526 petitions still pending from that specific year as of October 2018.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, December 20 2018. 17:15 IST