In order to obtain an EB-5 visa, which holds parity with a Green Card, individuals are required to invest a minimum of $800,000 towards creating a minimum of 10 job opportunities.
Indians are reportedly collaborating to pool funds and invest in real estate projects to fulfil this requirement.
“We can take 20 investors with $800,000 each, to collect $16 million. The sum will then be lent to a developer who’s building a $50 million rental apartment, building, or a hotel. And the investors don’t have to buy it, they don’t have to manage it and don’t have to employ any people, it’s a passive investment and they make a return through interest,” said Nicholas A Mastroianni III, president and chief marketing officer of US Immigration Fund (USIF), a company that facilitates EB-5 visas.
According to data, the number of EB-5 visa applications filed by Indians surged from 756 in 2019 to 1,381 in 2022, marking the highest number of visas filed in a single year. In 2022, the USCIS issued a total of 10,885 EB-5 visas, with India being the second largest market. For the fiscal year 2023, it is estimated that the annual limit for EB-5 visas will be around 14,200, out of which 4,544 visas are allocated to reserved categories.
“After the pandemic, many Indians have started looking for opportunities to settle abroad. While many European countries stopped giving Golden Visa, people started exploring other options. EB-5 visa is the preferred one as it gives the opportunity to work anywhere in the United States,” said Shashank Vashishtha, executive director, eXp India, a subsidiary of US-headquartered eXp World Holdings.
The demand for EB-5 visas among Indian investors surged by 400% between 2016 and 2019. However, the programme was suspended during the Covid pandemic, and now that it has been reinstated, the demand for the visa is on a sharp rise once again. The programme was reauthorised in March 2022, with the investment amount increasing from $500,000 to $800,000.
“The USIF client base used to be mostly Chinese clients with other investors from India, Vietnam, and other countries. In the last 2 years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of Indian Investors looking into the EB-5 visa program as an alternative for student visas and H-1B visas as these options are not permanent. About 75% of their current client base are Indian investors,” said Mastroianni.
For Indians, who are living in the US already, the process takes about four months while for those living in India, it takes about a year.
“The big challenge has been for H1B workers, they have been losing their jobs and they are there at the mercy of their employer. The good thing is the visa allows five members of a family to stay, so the per person cost is much cheaper,” said Saahil Verma, co-founder of Iris Living Spaces, which helps Indians in international property transactions.
According to experts, although the EB-5 visa programme began in 1990, it was not fully utilised until 2009-10. The programme has also played a role in providing funding for real estate projects. Historically, China has been the largest source of EB-5 visa applications, with nearly 90% of all applications coming from China.