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Indians are fifth largest investors in the program: US official

NEW DELHI | March 1

[caption id="attachment_25502" align="aligncenter" width="660"]USIF-EB5-India More takers The number of USIF Indian investors under the visa program quadrupled from 2016 to 2017 - Getty Images/iStockphoto[/caption]

The EB-5 Visa Program could be a good alternative for Indians wishing to migrate to the US, especially at a time when H1-B Visa rules are being tightened.

“The current administration isn’t against immigration, they are against illegal immigration. And they want to make the entire visa system more of a merit based system as opposed to a lottery. The EB-5 Visa is merit based as people are sacrificing something to get their green card,” said Andrew Graves, Director, Business Development, US Immigration Fund (USIF).

The EB-5 Program was created by the US Congress in 1990 and allows high net worth foreign investors to get a US visa for the investor and their immediate family through an investment of about $5,00,000 in a US business that will benefit the economy by creating a minimum of 10 permanent US jobs. Graves, who heads the India operations of USIF, said at present Indians are the fifth largest investors in the program but given the demographic size, they can turn into the second largest group in a few years.

“If you look at the demographics of India, it is an extremely large country and has lots of wealth. It has the second largest immigrant group to the US behind Mexico. The second largest international student base to the US is also from India,” he told BusinessLine, adding that most applicants use EB-5 for their children’s education in the US.

In 2017, there were only 307 applications under the EB-5 Visa from India as compared to 26,725 applications from those born in mainland China.

The number of USIF Indian investors quadrupled from 2016 to 2017 and Graves expressed confidence that it will increase further in 2018.

Graves however, said that changes are expected in the EB-5 Visa Program too. The US Congress may hike the minimum investment amount for EB-5 from $500,000 to close to $1 million and from $1 million to $1.8 million per applicant respectively.

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | NAVEENA GHANATE | Mar 1, 2018 us-immigration-fund-eb5-visa Due to speculation over the increase in minimum investments for EB-5 (employment-based fifth preference) Immigrant Investor Visa, the US Immigration Fund (USIF) is receiving many more applications for this visa type. An EB5 visa is issued to foreign investors investing in the US economy, i.e. a person who wants to start a business or wants to invest money in a US government approved project can apply for it. According to this visa programme, a person who invests $1 million in the US will be given a conditional green card. If the person is investing in a targeted employment area (TEA), in the US, then the minimum investment amount is $500,000. TEA is generally a rural area or region with high unemployment in the US. If the applicant can create 10 jobs for US citizens, then he/she will be able to get a permanent green card for their immediate family. EB-5 is considered a superior option to work, stay and become a US citizen quickly. The speculation is that Congress may hike the minimum investment amount from $500,000 to close to $1 million for TEA and from $1 million to $1.8 million for other areas, per applicant. According to USCIS data, Indian EB-5 visa applicants have increased consistently in recent years with 174 petitions filed in 2017, a 57 per cent increase from 2015. About 10,000 such visas are issued every year. The number of USIF Indian investors quadrupled from 2016 to 2017.  Andrew Graves, the head of USIF’s India operations said, “We expect that the number of investors in 2018 will increase to more than 200, assuming the minimum investment amount remains at $500,000. Should the minimum investment amount increase, a portion of the potential investors could be priced out. A change in the overall EB-5 market is inevitable if investment level does go up.” The EB-5 Program is expected to see significant legislative changes by March 23, 2018. So now is the time to invest at the lower investment amount. USIF is one of America’s leading EB-5 Regional Centre operators and holds the exclusive rights for raising and investing EB-5 capital for several large-scale residential and commercial real estate projects. USIF’s 24 EB-5 projects will generate roughly 18,000 EB-5 green cards arising from 6,000 investors and their families. The current waiting list for Indians for typical visa programmes like H1B, L1, EB 1A/B/C, EB-2, and EB-3 has grown to 10 years or more. There is currently no waiting list for EB-5 investors from India. Shan Chopra, partner at USIF and managing partner of The Chopras Group, said, “We’ve witnessed growing interest from families wanting to expand their business operations into the US or for their children to have greater freedom and mobility in their professional lives without having to rely on an employer to sponsor them. We’ve seen over 3,000 enquiries since we started and over 600-plus meetings via seminars and one-on-one interactions in the last five months.”  
EB-5 visas are sought by HNIs seeking permanent residency in US Romita Majumdar | Mumbai | February 28 us-immigration-fund America’s leading EB-5 Regional Center, US Immigration Fund (USIF), is encouraging Indians to apply for their EB-5 visas as early as possible given a possible change to the EB-5 program later this year and a tightening of other visa categories.

 “The requirements to be a qualified investor include one million dollars of net worth and a legitimate source of funds for the principal investment. The EB-5 Program could be expected to receive significant legislative changes by March 23, 2018. Now is the time to invest at the lower investment amount,” said Andrew Graves, the head of USIF’s India Operations.

 The US Congress created the EB-5 Program in 1990 to enable high net worth foreign investors to obtain a US visa for the investor and their immediate family by investing a minimum of $500,000 (Rs 32.6 million) in a US business that will benefit the economy by creating a minimum of 10 permanent US jobs.

 EB-5 has been under congressional review in the US and the investment amounts are expected to increase. According to the National Law review (US), there is a proposal to increase the minimum investment amount to $925,000 for projects in the new definition of targeted employment areas and increase all other projects by another $25,000 to more than $1 million.

 The EB-5 visa enables students and families to acquire a permanent US Green Card in a shorter time than H1-B, EB 1A/B/C, EB-2, and EB-3visa holders. In addition, the EB-5 visa allows students and immediate family members to obtain conditional US residency within 16-18 months, which can potentially give them access to lower in-state tuition rates and higher acceptance rates for prominent universities around the country.

 An immigration analyst, who did not wish to be quoted, said that even as Indian professionals aiming to work in US struggle to make sense of H1B regulations, it is highly unlikely that they will go for EB5 visas instead as the minimum investment amount itself is unaffordable for most applicants and it remains a preserve of high net worth individuals (HNIs).

 Shan Chopra, Managing Partner of The Chopras Group and partner of USIF notes, “A large number of our initial clients have done this purely to obtain access to the United States, not necessarily to migrate to the U.S."

 The EB-5 Program was seldom used until the global financial crisis in 2008-09 where many real estate developers looked for alternative sources of cheaper capital. Per USCIS data, Indian EB-5 visa applicants have consistently increased in recent years with 174 petitions filed in 2017, a 57 per cent increase from 2015.

 USIF plays a key role in the EB-5 process. The investment firm pools EB-5 capital from individuals and invests the pooled capital in highly qualified EB-5 projects in real estate with leading developers from New York City, New Jersey, California and Florida.

“EB5 applicants may include those settled in Middle east or students of wealthy Indians’ (parents) who do not wish to come back to India post studies or in some cases, IT professionals who are not able to get extension on their H-1 or L-1 applications,” said Ajay Sharma, President Abhinav Outsourcing, a visa consultancy firm. He added that while the program has been receiving lots of coverage since last one year, fact is that high interest from India is not getting converted into higher number of filed EB5 applications.

 USIF holds the exclusive rights for raising and investing EB-5 capital for several large-scale residential and commercial real estate projects. USIF’s 24 EB-5 projects will total roughly 18,000 EB-5 green cards arising from 6,000 investors and their families, numbers unmatched within the EB-5 industry.

 The number of USIF Indian investors quadrupled from 2016 to 2017 and the number of investors in 2018 is expected to increase to more than 200 given that the investment amount does not change said USIF .