Only 10,000 are given green cards under the EB-5 programme each year
PHOTO BY ARCHIVE
DUBAI – Last year, there were 11,321 people given legal residency in the US and it was not through the popular non-immigrant visa H-1B.
How did they do it? By getting a US investor visa.
Speed of visa approvals is the biggest factor people are spending a fortune to get one. While the H-1B has a 10-year waiting period, the EB-5 can be had within two years.
The EB-5 investor visa is popular with the Chinese, Vietnamese and Indians, who make up the top three of the biggest applicant pools for the exclusive visa, according to US immigration records. In 2016, more than 82 percent of the applications came from China, with 3 percent from Vietnam and 2.7 percent from India.
How much money do investors have to spend? $500,000 is the minimum investment needed for the EB-5, a visa program created in 1990 to create more jobs in the US by bringing in investors.
In the Middle East, there has been a 60 percent increase in interest in the US investor visa program among people living in Arab nations, including many Indian nationals, said lawyers at Dubai-based STEP America, which specialises in helping investors with immigration issues.
“Generally, there is an understanding that the doors to [US] immigration are closing,” said Shai Zamanian, a partner in the firm. “Approval rates [for EB-5 visas] are quite high. People aren’t going to wait until next year, or perhaps a second term [of Trump] to see whether their chances [to immigrate] are further limited,” Zamanian said.
He said more expatriates are keen to “look for a safe haven” and are not hesitant to spend $500,000 for it.
Here are some basics about the visa program:
Foreigners can qualify for permanent US residency — a green card — if they invest at least $1 million in a new business venture that creates at least 10 jobs. The minimum investment is $500,000 in high-unemployment or rural areas.
Potential investors must file a petition known as an I-526 to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. If the petition is approved, the investor applies to the State Department for the visa — which allows permanent residence on a conditional basis. Once an investment project meets the requirements, the investor gets a green card. Immigration attorneys say the whole process can take up to two years.
The visa is currently available to people of all nationalities, except those from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
Only 10,000 are given green cards under the EB-5 programme each year. No more than 7 percent of that total may come from any one country.
The investor’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age are eligible for residency under the programme.
Last year, immigration authorities received 12,165 petitions for I-526. A total of 11,321 petitions were approved.
There have been reports of firms duping foreign investors and misspending cash meant to go into job-generating projects. In 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued a Newport Beach lawyer for misspending at least $9.5 million from 131 investors who wanted to participate in the program. Also that year, the SEC sued a couple from Orange County for allegedly misappropriating millions of dollars that were supposed to build a cancer treatment centre.
Lawmakers have proposed increasing the investment requirement to $1.25 million, or $925,000 in economically distressed or rural areas.
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