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Sharp hike in US EB5 visa investment limits expected: Expert

New Delhi, May 27: With the latest deadline for the extension of the US EB5 visa, popularly known as the “Golden Visa”, that allows foreign nationals to apply for a green card by investing in the US, set to expire on September 30, investment limits under the scheme are expected to be hiked sharply, according to an expert.

The Office of Management and Budget earlier this month released its Spring 2018 Unified Agenda, meant to inform the public of regulations under consideration that the US administration plans to enact, which seeks, among other things, to sharply hike the EB5 investment limit from the current $500,000 and $1 million.

“The Office of Management and Budget has announced that in August of this year, the final action will be taken for the new regulations for the EB5,” Rogelio Caceres, Chief Commercial Officer of LCR Capital Partners, a firm that helps EB5 applicants with investments, said.

Stating that the administration of former US President Barack Obama proposed the changes in these regulations right before he left office in January 2017, Caceres said: “The $500,000 limit will go up to $1.35 million and the $1 million limit will be increased to $1.8 million.”

Introduced in 1990, the EB5 visa programme as of now allows an individual to invest $500,000 in either of two Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) — a high unemployment area in a US metropolis or a rural area outside of a metro — or $1 million in a non-TEA area that can create 10 or more jobs, and get US citizenship in a shorter time than H1-B visa holders.

With President Trump calling for stricter norms for issuance of H1-B visas, largely availed of by Indian IT firms, the EB5 visa has been in demand for the shorter route to citizenship it offers.

A private member’s bill was also introduced last year in the US Congress by Democrat Zoe Lofgren, which seeks to increase the minimum salary of an H1-B visa holder to a whopping $130,000 from the current minimum of $60,000.
Also, in March this year, the US administration announced the suspension of premium processing of all H-1B visa petitions for fiscal year 2019 which starts from October 1, 2018.

Stating that President Trump is “anti-H1-B”, Caceres said the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is now reviewing all H1-B petitions with a lot more scrutiny.

At the same time, the EB5 visa programme has also come under controversy with critics saying that it puts up US citizenship for sale. Authorisation for the EB5 programme has been carried on a temporary basis on Congressional spending bills since September 2015.

A total of 10,000 EB5 visas are issued every year with the limit capped at 700 per country. Indians are third after the Chinese and the Vietnamese in terms of EB5 applicants. (IANS)

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Ankur Kalita

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