Created by the United States Congress in 1990, the EB-5 visa program is administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Its primary aim is to stimulate the American economy through job creation and capital investment, also known as Direct Investment. In 1992, the U.S. Congress created the Immigrant Investor Program, also known as the Regional Centre Program which specifically set aside EB-5 visas for participants who invest in commercial enterprises affiliated with regional centers, as approved by the USCIS. It mainly welcomes Indians who seek to invest a minimum of $500,000 and creating at least 10 qualifying jobs.
Indian students having acquired top undergraduate degrees are usually left with only two choices in the US – either apply for graduate programs and continue residing in the US with a student visa, or find employment with a company that will sponsor a Green Card in the future which leaves them tied down to the same employer. Most often, graduate programs become relevant only on the foundation of good work experience. Students are forced to make career decisions based on visa issues and not based on what’s best for their career. This usually leads to a situation where students have either no work experience or too much experience hence not making the cut for the best graduate programs.
Meanwhile, among the highly skilled worker category, a number of Indians have to wait for years before acquiring a Green Card, thus putting their whole lives on hold. Many are unable to fathom the idea of buying a home or making significant financial decisions. They always have one foot out the door, just in case their Green Card does not come in time. They lose out on the ability to build their lives with confidence. However, with a Green Card, individuals have the security needed to make long term life decisions like buying a house. The EB-5 Program also offers security in the event of a significant adverse event in the investor’s home country; the family can immediately gain entry to the U.S. without delay. Additionally, with US Citizenship, individuals do not require visas to visit most other countries in the world, which is a boon for frequent business and leisure travelers.
Having an EB-5 US Green Card early in life has the obvious advantages. Children, do not need the F1 student visa, and can benefit for lower in-state tuition and inexpensive state / federal education loans. Individuals are self-sponsored, they do not require a H1 visa, hence can work for any organization, even startups, providing great life experiences and rewards.
Over the years, there has been a tremendous increase in US Green Card petitions; both company and family sponsored Green Cards. This has caused a significant backlog and the wait can be as long as 15 years. Work visa quotas are also consumed in hours and hence stalling the dreams of hundreds of enterprising Indians. The EB-5 US Green Card is the only visa category which is has no backlog for Indians and therefore is fast becoming the visa of choice for many families who understand the value of time and realize that a Green Card delayed is just as bad as a Green Card denied. Finally, this little known visa category, maybe the only option left to many families from India to take advantage of US Permanent Residency and live the great American dream.
The author Sachin Chandavarkar, is Vice-President, New Initiatives of Essel Group