While non-immigrant employment based visas have been in the eye of the storm in the past few years, and perhaps because of it, other visas that allow a faster track to US permanent residency have quietly gained in popularity. EB-5, a lesser known option allows for a quicker foothold into the US immigration fabric. The only catch being, having the half a million readily available required to pay your way through. Recent statistics have shown that although a 7% cap is enforced on every country, the recent surge in EB-5 applications shows that people do not have the patience to go through the tedious processes laid out for other visas like employment based-H1-B or family based visas.
According to data released for FY2018, USCIS naturalized 756,800 permanent residents which was a record number and reached a five-year high. This was 18% more than the naturalizations in FY2014. With more than 2 million naturalization applications received between FY2017 and FY2018 alone, there are more than 730,000 applications pending.
Off these numbers, the EB-5 has seen the largest surge in applications lately. While China leads in the total number out of the annual 10,000 issued, India has been in the limelight with the biggest surge and ready to hit total quota for the first time. With a 93% increase from FY2017 when 411 EB-5 visas were allotted, FY 2018 has seen 585 EB-5s, a 6.1%! This also gives hope to Indians applying because every applicant that applied was approved as long as the requirements were met.
This, inspite of the lengthy I-526 processing times, the investments from India have continued to rise in the past couple of years. The current EB-5 processing times range from 29 to 45.5 months.
Primary reasons for the recent surge in EB-5 applications are:
- Imminent increase in the investment limits from 0.5 million to 0.8 million based on a proposal in the US Congress;
- The choke-hold in the form of backlogs for H1-B petitioners to gain a green card which is now estimated to be around 20-30 years and
- The severe tightening of legal immigration protocols that have resulted in extreme vetting, spike in rejections and an up-rise of RFES that need a tremendous amount of paperwork and additional costs.
The current cost of obtaining EB-5 visa is $500,000 invested in a government approved business venture in the US along with a $50,000 administrative fee plus other miscellaneous expenses. This also has to generate 10 fulltime employment for US citizens. This would get conditional permanent residency status for the investor and his family including unmarried children under 21.