The US administration might have banned the H1-B visas till year-end, but the grand American dream is far from over for Indians.
Now, US investor visa EB-5 is getting its mojo back. The demand is driven by current H-1B and H4 visa holders in the US and India as uncertainty around immigration mounts, say experts.
What is more important is that this increased interest is coming after a steep hike in the investment amount for the visa from $500,000 to $900,000, and at a time when the global economy is witnessing a slowdown.
Abhinav Lohia, Director, South Asia and the Middle East, CanAm Investor Services, an immigration services firm, said: “What we are seeing is a sudden surge in EB-5 since the first proclamation in April, after a steep slump between December and March.”
A majority of the enquiries are from the current Indian H-1B and H4 visa holders, who are worried about their status in the US after living and working there for decades. “As uncertainty mounts, those who can afford it are looking at EB-5 visas that could guarantee a Green Card that H-1B could not,” he added.
Surge in demand
The demand for EB-5 visas saw a steep decline between December 2019 and March 2020 after the minimum investment criteria was hiked from $500,000 to $900,000 from November 2019.
Earlier also, when H1-B visa rules were tightened in 2017, there was a sudden attraction for the EB-5 route.
However, it stopped after the investment amount was hiked. Pankaj Joshi, Managing Director, Nysa Global, said that there were zero queries for EB-5 till March 2020, and his company even shifted focus to other geographies such as Canada and Europe.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not help either as capital-raising proved tough, Lohia pointed out. However, the proclamation banning immigration at the back of COVID-19 has changed the situation.
What is happening now?
After zero business for close to five months, the first surge of queries emerged after April 22, when the first US executive order banning immigration for 60 days was issued. The second wave of queries, this time more than double, started after June 22 when visas such as H-1B were banned till the end of the year.
“From zero or maybe one or two to 15-20 queries per month is huge. We are also seeing actual business conversion rate of 20-30 percent,” Lohia said.
Why this mad rush again?
For one, Indians continue to aspire to work and live in the US. Also, recent times have seen a huge backlash against H-1B visa holders in the US.
Take, for instance, the issues they faced since the Trump administration took over in 2017. In the last three years, thousands of techies have returned home and we are looking at another exodus at the back of the pandemic and stringent visa regulations that continue around H-1B visas.
In addition, there are over 5 lakh Indians waiting for Green Cards. A report estimated that it would take up to 150 years before these Indians get their GC, which translates to ‘never’. That is why Indians who can afford it are looking at fast-tracking their Green Card through the EB-5 route, so that it could benefit their children.
Unlike H-1B visa holders, getting your hands on a Green Card through EB-5 takes only 3-5 years. There is a country cap of 700 per year for EB-5 visas, which India reached in July 2019.
The H-1B visa is granted by the US to 85,000 highly -skilled workers every year, mostly in the technology industry. H1-B visa means work permit validity in the US for up to 6 years. H-4 visas are for the dependents of H-1B visa holders.