Investment route for US residency to get costlier

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Indians wishing to obtain a quick, even if expensive route, to the US as permanent residents, can breathe a sigh of relief. The investment link visa route or the EB-5 is likely to continue but will get more expensive, by as much as Rs 5 crore.

Recent steps by US authorities of extreme vetting of visa applications, especially of the H-1B visas for entry level employees, have boosted the popularity of EB-5 visa among rich Indians. A child wishing to study and later work in the US is gifted the requisite investment money to enable him to become a US resident under this route.

The number of such visas given to Indians has increased from 90 in 2016 (twelve month period ending September 2016) to 174 as of September 2017. In all, 10,000 such visas are issued each year. From India, the number of applications for such visas has increased exponentially, in recent months, say immigration experts. A series of recent tweets by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), allays fears that this programme will come to an end. One of the tweets states: “EB-5 visas provide lawful permanent residence to foreign nationals who promote economic growth in the United States. We’re working to fix the programme.”

The USCIS points out to draft rules, released last January, which were reported by TOI. These proposals had hiked the investment limit and were open for public comment up to April 2017. “Our proposed rule would increase investment levels and end gerrymandering. The changes would help true high unemployment and rural areas,” states the USCIS.

As per the draft rules, the minimum threshold investment limit was proposed to be raised from $1 million (Rs6.4 crore) to $1.8 million (Rs11.4 crore). This is a hike of Rs 5 crore. At present, investors are permitted to invest a reduced sum of half a million for business operations in specified rural areas or those with higher unemployment limits, known as targeted employment areas (TEAs) Here the proposed investment had been hiked to $1.35 million (Rs 8.6 crore).

Under the EB-5 programme, also dubbed as “cash for visa”, individuals can apply for lawful permanent residence (this is not citizenship) in the US if they make the necessary investments and create at least 10 permanent full time jobs for US workers. They are granted conditional permanent residence for themselves, spouse and children below 21.

After two years, they have to apply for lifting of the “conditions”. If approved, they and their family can permanently live and work in the US. If the child turns over 21, the investor can petition for his child as an unmarried child over 21 of a lawful permanent resident. However, as this petition involves a long waiting period of many years, it is more common for rich families to gift the investment amount to their child who applies for the visa in his or her own name.

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