SEVERE WX : Flood Advisory - Flood Warning View Alerts

Indians flock to America's 'golden visa' as H-1B route closes

Facing a crackdown on their favorite visa to enter the United States, hundreds of wealthy Indians are turning to anot...

Posted: Apr 26, 2018 1:46 PM
Updated: Apr 26, 2018 1:46 PM

Facing a crackdown on their favorite visa to enter the United States, hundreds of wealthy Indians are turning to another program that fast tracks immigrants to a green card.

Applications from India for EB-5 visas -- which give immigrants a green card if they invest $500,000 and create 10 jobs in the United States -- have surged in recent months.

The US government issued 174 such visas to Indians in the year ended September 2017, an increase of about 17% over the previous year, according to State Department data.

Interest has taken off since then. In October and November, the United States received another 307 applications from India for what is often referred to as the "golden visa."

Indian demand for EB-5 visas has "really become explosive in the past 12 months," Neil Weinrib, an immigration lawyer based in New York, told CNNMoney.

Reacting to the H-1B crackdown

The spike comes as the US government makes it harder to get H-1B visas, which allow skilled foreign workers to be employed in the United States. More than 70% of H-1B visas have been awarded to Indians in recent years.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the program for flooding the United States with cheaper foreign workers and taking jobs away from Americans, particularly in the tech sector.

Changes to the program -- like greater scrutiny of applications and a possible shortening of the three-year visa period -- threaten big Indian outsourcing firms such as Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro, which hire and send thousand of tech workers to companies in Silicon Valley. Those companies are now dialing back H-1B applications and hiring more Americans.

The Trump administration is also looking to reverse a rule allowing spouses of H-1B holders to work in the United States, putting further pressure on the program.

"[There have] been a lot of changes with the H-1B visa program ... a lot of [Indians] are considering the EB-5," said Preeya Malik, co-founder of Dubai-based consultancy Step America.

Malik's co-founder, Shai Zamanian, said roughly one in four of Step America's current Indian clients have received or applied for the H-1B but want to apply for the EB-5.

The company has also seen a 200% increase in inquiries about EB-5 from prospective Indian clients in the last six months, he added.

"There is a general understanding that the doors of migration to the US are slowly closing," Zamanian said. "H-1B aside, because there's an understanding that if they don't get in now they might not get in next year, we are seeing an uptick."

'Buy American, Hire American'

The EB-5 program, with its investment threshold and emphasis on job creation, aligns with Trump's exhortation to "Buy American, Hire American."

"The current administration is certainly in favor of EB-5," said Andrew Graves, head of business development at the US Immigration Fund. "The government likes this type of immigrant -- sophisticated, wealthy and who are going to come in and add value to US society," he added.

The fund, which connects EB-5 visa applicants to US investment projects, has been expanding its India business with new offices in New Delhi and Mumbai. Graves expects the number of Indian applications at least to double every year for the next several years, overtaking countries like South Korea, Vietnam and Brazil.

Related: CEO of $20 million startup could lose his visa and his business

China remains the biggest market by far for the visa, but it has been losing its luster.

The country accounts for thousands of EB-5 applicants every year -- more than 75% of roughly 10,000 visas awarded -- but demand there is now slipping because the backlog of applications means Chinese investors now have to wait at least 10 years for a green card.

Applications from countries that account for more than 7% of the total EB-5 visas available are put on a waitlist.

"A severe slowdown in the China market has brought more EB-5 practitioners to India," said Brian Ostar, head of global operations at EB5 Capital, which matches investors with opportunities. The long wait times for other visas have made the $500,000 investment the "quickest and most affordable option for many Indians," he added.

Still, the program is controversial. Critics argue that too much of the money goes to wealthy urban areas. Companies aren't required to disclose much about how they spend the funds, which can lead to abuse and fraud. Some lawmakers say the program effectively sells citizenship to wealthy immigrants.

'This is the right time'

Abhiram Satyadev is one Indian who has taken the investment route. He moved to the United States in 2011 to study for a masters. After graduating in 2013, he wanted to settle in the country but felt the H-1B program was too restrictive.

So with help from his father -- an entrepreneur based in Bangalore -- he invested in a real estate project in Baltimore through EB5 Capital. He applied for an EB-5 visa in 2015, while working on an H-1B, and got his green card in 2017.

"Having an H-1B is not a solution, it's more like a band aid," Satyadev told CNNMoney. "If you want to stay here then eventually people will want to ... get a green card, and if they have the money, I think this is a good program."

Satyadev, 28, now works at a government-run water treatment plant called DC Water, a job he says he wasn't eligible for without a green card.

"I really wanted to stay here, if there was no EB-5 process then I would probably be struggling right now," he said.

His advice to others considering the program? Get in now.

"This is the right time," he said, pointing to calls by the Department of Homeland Security that the minimum investment threshold should be increased.

"You don't want to wait too long because policies can change anytime."

-- Edwin Thomas contributed to this report

Huntsville/Redstone
Partly Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 38°
Muscle Shoals
Partly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 42°
Huntsville/Madison
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 35°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 38°
Fort Payne
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 38°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 493252

Reported Deaths: 9929
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson709861374
Mobile36108725
Madison32405455
Tuscaloosa24110410
Montgomery22565500
Shelby21929215
Baldwin19732283
Lee14961153
Morgan13659251
Calhoun13275286
Etowah13176319
Marshall11261209
Houston10086261
Elmore9376185
Limestone9359134
Cullman8891181
St. Clair8822223
Lauderdale8603211
DeKalb8446175
Talladega7517163
Walker6518255
Jackson6492102
Autauga626491
Blount6097127
Colbert6001118
Coffee5245102
Dale4640107
Russell404730
Franklin399177
Covington3957106
Chilton3870100
Escambia377472
Tallapoosa3585142
Clarke343650
Chambers3410110
Dallas3403141
Pike293372
Lawrence282984
Marion281895
Winston246767
Bibb245060
Geneva239670
Marengo235855
Pickens224654
Barbour211551
Hale209768
Fayette200256
Butler196166
Henry182441
Cherokee177038
Monroe166139
Randolph163640
Washington156535
Clay144354
Crenshaw144354
Macon142043
Cleburne137739
Lamar132833
Lowndes131051
Wilcox121825
Bullock116936
Conecuh106724
Perry105527
Sumter98331
Coosa88823
Greene87632
Choctaw55023
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 775004

Reported Deaths: 11411
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby872191491
Davidson81420861
Knox45877581
Hamilton40298459
Rutherford38301383
Williamson25238203
Sumner21329315
Montgomery17380212
Out of TN1693194
Wilson16371210
Unassigned15639125
Sullivan14318273
Blount14036181
Bradley12867139
Washington12759234
Maury12203163
Sevier12011163
Putnam10592169
Madison10092229
Robertson8941120
Hamblen8013162
Anderson7971156
Greene7283145
Tipton6945103
Coffee6311114
Dickson6205106
Gibson6187140
Cumberland6102121
Carter5962152
McMinn591791
Roane588896
Bedford5789119
Loudon567965
Jefferson5642118
Lawrence556383
Monroe532290
Warren530975
Hawkins523894
Dyer5234101
Franklin472585
Fayette466171
Obion436694
Rhea414473
Lincoln413362
Cocke397593
Marshall390756
Cheatham390543
Campbell380059
Weakley378659
Giles373296
Henderson361973
Carroll347981
Hardeman338164
White337166
Macon336373
Hardin331163
Lauderdale309742
Henry300675
Marion293644
Wayne287130
Scott286843
Overton284857
Claiborne278967
McNairy267253
Hickman264941
Haywood264860
DeKalb264349
Smith255636
Grainger242446
Trousdale238922
Morgan229637
Fentress229144
Johnson216338
Chester201548
Bledsoe200110
Crockett197147
Unicoi180347
Polk175522
Cannon174529
Union171933
Grundy168330
Lake167826
Sequatchie155327
Decatur153737
Humphreys153221
Benton150739
Lewis146825
Meigs125921
Jackson125034
Stewart123324
Clay106930
Perry103227
Houston102732
Moore94416
Van Buren79520
Pickett74623
Hancock49612

Community Events