The investment golden visa for the United States was in high demand among residents of the UAE and neighbouring Gulf countries in 2022 and continues to be the preferred investment migration route to the US in 2023. The US golden visa program experienced a number of positive changes in 2022 that made the program more appealing to families seeking to immigrate to the US by virtue of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.
The EB-5 program allows families to obtain their US Green Cards with an investment of $800,000 in a new commercial enterprise in the United States. A family including the main applicant, spouse, and children under the age of 21 can all be included in one single application. Each qualified family member will receive lawful residency and their own Green Cards, allowing them to freely work, live, and travel in the United States. The investment of $800,000 is returned to the family after the expiration of the investment term, which is approximately five years from the initial date of investment.
Foreign investors have two distinct routes through which they can participate in the EB-5 program: the direct investment route and the regional center route. Through direct investment, EB-5 applicants must directly invest in a new commercial enterprise in the US and actively manage the business. The regional center route allows EB-5 applicants to be passive investors in designated real estate projects that are sponsored by regional centers – a private or public economic unit designated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with the goal of promoting economic growth in the United States. The regional center route has historically been the preferred route given the higher rates of approval and the flexibility and ease that it provides to investors.
2022 recap for the US golden visa
The previous year was filled with positive reforms for the EB-5 program. The EB-5 Regional Center Program was reauthorized in March 2022 after passage of the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act (RIA). The RIA introduced a number of reforms that heightened the security and transparency of the program for EB-5 investors. The key reforms include greater stability for the program through reauthorisation until 2027, concurrent filing allowing EB-5 applicants to live and work in the US while they await the adjudication of their files, innocent investor protections, heightened security through greater government oversight, and the introduction of reserved visa categories allowing for faster processing times.
The RIA reauthorised the EB-5 program for the next five years. This lengthy reauthorisation by the US government provides comfort and reassurance for families looking to participate in the EB-5 program. The reauthorisation is a sign of the US government’s confidence in the program and its positive role in boosting the US economy through the injection of foreign capital.
Additionally, the grandfathering provision of the RIA provides that petitions filed on or before September 30, 2026 will continue to be adjudicated even upon the expiration of the EB-5 program. The grandfathering provision creates an added layer of security for existing EB-5 investors as their files will continue to be processed by USCIS in the event of a program suspension.
With the newly added concurrent filing feature, EB-5 investors can now live, work, and study in the United States while they wait for their Green Card applications to be processed by USCIS. Certain EB-5 investors residing in the US can now submit their Adjustment of Status petition (Form I-485) simultaneously with their EB-5 application (Form I-526E). This provides a huge benefit for EB-5 investors as they previously had to wait for the adjudication process to be completed prior to starting their lives in the United States. With this newly added feature, families can now begin living and working in the US immediately upon filing.
Innocent investor protection
The RIA protects good faith EB-5 applicants that have invested in a regional center, a new commercial enterprise, or a job-creating entity that has been terminated or debarred. In such a scenario, good faith investors will have six months to either (1) invest in another new commercial enterprise or (2) have the new commercial enterprise associate with an approved regional center. Therefore, innocent investors can still avail the immigration benefits of obtaining their US Green Cards through the EB-5 program.
Regional centers are to be audited by the Secretary of Homeland Security at least once every five years. A regional center will lose its designation if it fails to satisfy the requirements of the audit. In addition to regular audits by the US government, all regional centers are required to file Form I-956 (Application for Regional Center Designation) and Form I-956G (Regional Center Annual Statement) to provide required information, certifications, and evidence to support their continued eligibility for regional center designation. Regional centers must also file Form I-956F (Application for Approval of an Investment in a Commercial Enterprise) to request approval of each particular investment offering through an associated new commercial enterprise. This increased government oversight over regional center activities creates heightened security for investors.
Introduction of new visa categories
The RIA introduced a new category of EB-5 visas, called the reserved visa category or visa set asides. Of the 10,000 US golden visas available for the EB-5 program in any given fiscal year, 20 per cent are reserved for applicants who invest in rural areas, 10 per cent are reserved for applicants who invest in high unemployment areas, and 2 are reserved for applicants who invest in infrastructure projects. The new visa category translates into faster processing times especially for nationalities such as Chinese and Indians that historically faced backlogs and longer wait times.
Year ahead for EB-5 program
Thanks to the positive reforms of the RIA, the EB-5 program is set to flourish in 2023. “With a renewed program, we look forward to 2023 with renewed spirits,” says Shai Zamanian, Legal Director of The American Legal Center, the leading EB-5 experts in the region.
On January 3, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed to adjust certain immigration and naturalization benefit request fees charged by USCIS. The proposed adjustments would increase the government filing fee for an EB-5 application to $11,160, which is a $7,485 or 204 per cent increase from the current $3,675 fee. The proposed fees are based on the currently projected staffing needs to meet the adjudicative and administrative burden of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO). The increased fees would allow USCIS to better cover its operating costs, process cases on a timely basis, and prevent future case backlogs. “We anticipate that EB-5 cases will be adjudicated faster in 2023 now that USCIS is prioritizing the hiring of staff at IPO,” says Shai.
Written comments must be submitted on the proposed fee rule on or before March 6, 2023. The earliest that the NPRM can go into effect, thereby changing the government filing fees, is after the expiration of the 60-day comment period. “If you are a prospective EB-5 applicant, you still have a chance to file your EB-5 application prior to the date the fee change rule goes into effect and can benefit from the lower government filing fees,” says Shai.
Reserved visa category
The recently introduced reserved visa category remains current, meaning that there are currently no backlogs and therefore all EB-5 applications in these categories are adjudicated on a timely basis. The January 2023 Visa Bulletin published by the United States Department of State shows that Chinese and Indian EB-5 investors under the old category of unreserved visas are in retrogression. However, the reserved categories remain current and available for all nationalities.
“We anticipate greater participation in the reserved visa category in 2023. Given the benefits of visa set asides, such as faster processing times, especially for Indian nationals, we urge all interested applicants to take advantage of their chance now,” says Shai.
Contact The American Legal Center for assistance on your migration journey
With over a decade of experience in the EB-5 industry and having filed the most EB-5 applications out of the GCC region, The American Legal Center is well suited to assist you and your family with your US golden visa application. As the preeminent voice for families out of the Middle East pursuing access to America, the team of US licensed lawyers and professionals at The American Legal Center pride themselves on their excellent client care. Contact their team today to set up your appointment for a complimentary initial consultation.