As EB-5 investor visa fee increases, a spurt in I-526 filings from India likely in next four months

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Fee for EB-5 investor visa, one of the fastest routes to a Green Card, is set to increase on November 21.

According to immigration lawyers, there will be a wave of increased I-526 filings for EB-5 investor visas from across the world in the next four months as the cost of these coveted visas is going to increase on November 21, 2019.

India is one country from where there will be a huge spike in applications, especially because the visa wait time for Indians is also increasing, in addition to the fee increase.

While the news of the high price hike for attaining an EB-5 visa came as a damper for many, lawyers still insist that, in spite of the changes, the EB-5 visa remains one of the fastest and most straightforward routes to a get a US Green Card.

RELATED: EB-5 visas: Here’s everything you need to know about immigrant investor visa program (April 18, 2019)

Earlier this month, after a lengthy period of anticipation and uncertainty, the US government confirmed that the new minimum investment level for EB-5 will be $900,000.

It is for the first time since the inception of the EB-5 program that there is a fee increase.

Immigration lawyers say there may still be some avenues where the fee increase can be delayed or stalled. However, for now many who had been planning the EB-5 route may want to hurry their applications to avoid the new increased fee.

Aspiring immigrants seeking to lock in the current $500,000 price should consider acting soon, if they are sensitive to the new potential price increase. It takes a US immigration attorney an average of two months to document the source of funds for Indian EB-5 applicants, which narrows the window of time available.

“There is a particular sense of urgency in India where retrogression delays were announced last month,” said Mark Davies, the Global Chairman at Davies & Associates LLC, an immigration law firm headquartered in New York City. “Anyone interested in an EB-5 visa should prepare an application as soon as possible to maximize the chances of locking in the current rate, as well as assure the best possible spot in the queue. The exact length of the retrogression delay in India remains unclear, but we suspect this to be beyond four years, although pending legislation could bring some respite.”

RELATED: Indian EB-5 hopefuls face a 260% increase in Targeted Employment Area projects (July 29, 2019)

For the uninitiated, it is not just the H-1B that remains the top visa applied for by Indians. The demand for EB-5 has skyrocketed in India in such a short span of time that the country reached its annual quota of 700 EB-5 visas in June, more than three months before the visa year ends.

The 80 percent increase in the price is less significant than the industry had been expecting. The original plan was to increase the price to $1.35 million to take full account of inflation since the program started in the 1990s.

In the end, however, the lower $900,000 figure was chosen in order to maintain the differential between the prices of investment placed in an area of high unemployment and an investment outside of these so-called Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs).

Another significant change that investors must consider is that the minimum investment made outside of a TEA is set to increase to $1.8 million from $1 million in November, and the definition of what constitutes a TEA is likely to get stricter.

RELATED: Indian applicants to be now on waitlist for EB-5 visa (July 8, 2019)

The new rules switch jurisdiction over who can determine the geography of a TEA to the Department of Homeland Security from individual states, which had, in some instances, been gerrymandering to allow EB-5 investments to flow into wealthy areas with robust employment.

Davies said that it is always important to conduct due diligence on a Regional Center and its projects, especially to ensure that the projects would qualify under stricter TEA rules. A good Regional Center would be able to explain the potential implications of the new rules on their project with a client.

The combination of retrogression and a fee hike is likely to cause a rush to file in India over the next few months. This means the queue is only likely to get longer. There is a possibility that the annual country quota might be doubled to 1,500 visas, which would serve to halve the waiting times.

But would that mean that everyone who was planning to go the investment route must hurry up their applications?

“For those who can afford to wait a little longer and can afford the higher price tag, it might be less stressful to wait until after November when demand normalizes again,” said Sanjay Mistry, Chief Marketing Officer, Davies & Associates. “For example, families considering EB-5 as a route to a US education for younger children may have more time depending upon the children’s ages.  While waiting would allow for a less rushed application, it would also mean that more money would be tied up in the program for longer. This would make it more vital than ever to choose a reliable Regional Center with a proven track record to mitigate any risk to your investment and getting your funds returned along with your Green Card.”

Attorneys also advise that for Indian investors who need to be in the United States sooner, there are other options for living and working in the United States on a non-immigrant visa while on the EB-5 investor visa waiting list for permanent residency. This includes opening a new branch of an existing Indian business in the United States or moving there to own and operate a franchise business.

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