EB-5 Applicants Are Told To File Visa Applications Now
As US legislators and the current White House administration continue to enact immigration restrictions, the ultimate fate of the EB-5 visa program is becoming even more precarious. The popular investor visa program awards successful applicants with permanent residency in the United States if they can meet the required investment amount and job creation targets.
Congress has slated the program for a massive overhaul and barely approved a six-month renewal late last month as part of an omnibus spending package. It’s not the first time the EB-5 program has seemingly been kicked down the road without any long-term commitment from legislators, keeping many potential applicants on the edge of their seats.
The standard capital investment required for the EB-5 visa is $1 million USD, but this amount is cut to $500,000 USD if the investment is made through a venture in a targeted employment area (TEA). Rural areas and areas with high unemployment usually qualify for the TEA designation.
Many proposals for the revamped EB-5 have been made, and nearly all of them include a hike on the minimum investment amount. One such proposal in January 2017 suggested increasing the minimum amount to $1.35 million USD, while a draft bill from Congress last month put the amount at $925,000 USD.
The potential investment threshold increase and general uncertainty surrounding the program have immigration attorneys advising their EB-5 clients to get their applications in as quickly as possible. Those who submit their applications before the new legislation goes into effect will be eligible for the original investment minimums. The proposed changes are expected to be the law of the land by September 30.
The EB-5 program has never existed as a permanent visa program and has always been dependent on renewal by Congress every few years. However, many lawmakers are applying extra scrutiny to the investment visa after Nicole Kushner Meyer, sister of Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of and advisor to President Donald Trump, promoted the visa in Beijing to draw in investment for a skyscraper project in New Jersey.
The program has been a favorite among Chinese nationals, comprising up to 90% of total EB-5 applicants every year. However, this flood of applications has stretched wait times for green cards to as much as five years. Congress may intend to hike minimum investment amounts to reign in the popularity of the program going forward and cut into the backlog.
The effectiveness of such a move may be questionable, at least as far as Chinese economic migrants are concerned. Despite the wide range of investment thresholds worldwide – from as little as $150,000 to as much as $10 million in some cases – Chinese applicants continue to top the charts, and will likely continue to do so for the EB-5 program for as long as it’s available.