indica News Bureau –
The waiting tenure for green card applicants in the EB-5 visa category could extend to seven years in 2019, a top honcho with a US-based financial services provider has said.
The federal visa program recently received an extension until December 21 from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), as part of the larger federal spending bill. The program was supposed to expire on December 7.
“The waiting period is on a steady rise. Those who apply towards the end of 2019 may see up to seven years wait to get a green card. So, it is better to plan ahead,” Ashish Saraff, MD (South Asia & Middle East) of AVG America Investments, told Moneycontrol.com.
The EB-5 visa program, or employment-based fifth preference category, gives foreign investors a chance to obtain a green card if they invest at least $500,000 in a project and create at least 10 jobs for Americans.
The processing time for an EB-5 application is 18-24 months for approval and six-nine months for processing of green cards.
So far, China has been the leading investors of this program taking about 80 percent of the approximately 10,000 visa numbers allocated to EB-5 investors per year, according to reports.
A growing number of Indians have been opting for the EB-5 immigrant investor program owing to stricter regulations on other visa categories such as H-1B and H-4.
As per the latest official figures, more than 500 applications have been filed by Indians under the EB-5 visa category in the ongoing year (October 2017-September 2018).
The US Immigration Fund, one of America’s EB-5 regional center operators with 6,000 clients, has observed that about half of their current EB-5 Indian investors were earlier pursuing the H-1B route to the US.
As per the USCIS data, EB-5 visa applicants from India have consistently increased in recent years with 307 petitions filed in 2017, a 178 percent increase from 2015.
Indian can take a cue from markets like China where, according to Saraff, applicants start planning for EB-5 as soon as the child turns ten years. “This is to ensure the process is completed before they move to the US to pursue higher education,” Saraff said.
Owing to the rise in demand for these visas from Asian countries, AVG America Investment is now looking to scale up operations in South Asia, the Middle East as well as North Africa, Saraff said.
Run by -based company provides a range of financial services including EB-5 services to clients.
However, EB-5 faces a number of pressing issues, including a number of notable fraud cases.
One of the most notable failures of the EB-5 was when a project came to a halt in October in New York. Investors walked away from their plans to build a massive Ferris wheel in Staten Island, which attracted 412 EB-5 investors.
Saraff told Moneycontrol.com that it is crucial that the Indian clients are transparent on the source of funds. According to him, nearly 20-30 percent applications from India are rejected due to improper disclosures on the fund sources.
A legal expert reviews each application, which is close to about 1,000 pages. Background checks are also carried out to ensure that individuals are not looking to immigrate for unlawful purposes.
Apart from these, the US government is likely to tighten rules for EB-5 service providers.
“Smaller players investing in dubious projects could go out of business as the authorities are striking down on errant behavior by entities,” Saraf said.
The program has received a number of short-term extensions for the past three years, with Congress unable to agree on a permanent measure.
The extension of the program on September 28 was part of a larger spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.
Each year, the US government allocates 10,000 visas for foreigners who invest through the EB-5 program.
Unlike the H-1B visa, EB-5 visa is not dependent on employment or educational qualification, and the applicant is allowed to work anywhere in the country.