With the Donald Trump administration looking to tighten visa norms, Indians in the US are making a beeline for the EB-5 investor programme, seen as a faster route to getting a green card.
The increased demand comes amid speculation that the US government could revoke H4 EAD, which enables dependent spouses of H1-B visa holders to work, and as the EB-5 visa option is slated to become costlier: the minimum investment criteria under the route is set to be hiked from $500,000 to $900,000 from November.
After rules for H1-B visa were tightened, the EB-5 route has become an attractive option for Indians to put themselves in the fast lane to avail the green card – for those who can afford it.
Why are H4 visa holders interested in EB-5?
An H4 visa holder applying for EB-5 was literally unheard of until now, says Mark Davies, an immigration expert and founder, Davies and Associates LLC.
But now, Davies' firm is working with H4 visa holders, who are looking to invest in EB-5 so that they continue working in the US.
“It is fear of losing the pay check,” says Abhinav Lohia, Director, South Asia and Middle East, Canam Investors, which is driving the increased demand for EB-5 visas.
The H4 visa became a lucrative option for spouses of H1-B holders after the Obama administration brought in a law in 2015. Some reports said as many as 85,000, mostly women, benefited from it.
But the Trump administration is likely to put a stop to this.
If it happens, “double income families will come down to single income,” says Pankaj Joshi, Managing Director, Nysa Global.
Currently, the wait time for obtaining a green card through the H1-B route stands at well over a decade.
Wait time for EB-5 visa
The rush for EB-5 visas is expected to increase as the minimum investment cost is slated to rise but Joshi added that there would definitely be a rush closer to November.
“Having said that, we are seeing many investors filing now as they want to get ahead in the backlog line,” he said.
The rush is expected to add to the wait period for green cards through the EB-5 route as well.
In July 2019, India crossed the country cap of 700 EB-5 visas issued per year and the visa backlog now dates back to 2015.
While the wait period was previously two to three years, experts reckon it could go up to eight or nine years now.
That is unlikely to deter Indians though.
"Earlier, if Indian parents applied for EB-5 when their kids were in the undergraduate programme, now they have started applying when they are in middle school itself," pointed out Lohia of Canam Investors.
Will such individuals considering shifting to other countries such as Canada, UK or Australia?
"From what I see, the US will always be the first option," Davies, an immigration expert, says.