Why are more Indians opting for EB-5 visa route to pursue higher studies in the US?
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, the US is the most preferred destination for Indian students seeking a foreign degree. As of July 2018, there are 7.5 lakh Indians studying abroad and 28% or 2.1 lakh students are studying in the US.
Apart from the vast difference in the quality of learning in India and the US, Indian students prefer an American degree because it often serves as an easy route to finding a job and settling in the country.
However, growing rhetoric against immigration, increased focus on H-1B visa misuse, controversial proposals like revocation of the AC21 rule, and adverse rule changes to the H4 visa means conventional options are no longer a simple route to the green card as in the past.
After a US degree, one can opt for Optional Practical Training (OPT) which is a work permit valid for one year only but the job must be related to the F1 field of study.
Similarly, a two-year extension to the OPT is possible but is available to certain STEM graduates only.
One can also obtain a 3-year H-1B visa with a 3-year extension but finding a sponsoring employer for this non-immigrant visa is very tough and this restricts job mobility and scope for negotiations. Further, lottery process means approval is a matter of luck.
If one considers applying for the green card on H-1B visa, under AC21 rule, such persons can stay and work in the US until a decision on their application. But the status is completely dependent on the AC21 rule. Adverse change or revocation of the rule can result in deportation Slow processing of green card application means lots of uncertainty and prolonged waiting time for permanent residence.
ABOUT THE EB-5
Seeking a simpler, faster, and less uncertain visa process, Indian students are now exploring the EB-5 visa route to pursue higher studies in the US.
Under this program, an applicant fulfilling these two requirements is granted a conditional two-year green card.
* Make an at-risk investment of $1 million ($500,000 if investment is made in a Targeted Employment Area) in a commercial enterprise
* Create ten permanent jobs for American workers
The conditions are removed if the conditions of the program are met over the two-year period. The EB-5 visa offers numerous advantages for somebody planning to pursue higher studies in the USA.
Qualifying for the green card by putting in an amount equal to the average cost of an American degree offers great value for money with numerous benefits and advantages.
FAST-TRACK GREEN CARD
Unlike other EB-category visas, qualifying for the green card under the EB-5 visa is a two-stage process with a two-year conditional green card issued upon approval of the EB-5 I-526 petition.
Based on current processing period of the I-526 petition, a successful Indian EB-5 applicant is likely to become a conditional green card holder in approximately two years.
After a two-year conditional status, he/she can apply for removal of conditions and get an unconditional green card. So, effectively, the applicant gets permanent residence status in approximately two years and continues to remain so with only the conditions being removed in the future.
This will simplify things for the student when searching for jobs and negotiating with employers in the US.
ZERO RISK OF POLITICAL OR LEGAL UNCERTAINTIES
The EB-5 visa offers a direct route to permanent residence. The student can avoid using short-term work permits or applying for extensions for temporary immigration permits. Timing the application properly can help the student time the green card approval with the completion of the course.
AN ATTRACTIVE FUTURE
With an EB-5 visa in hand, an Indian graduating with an American degree can search for jobs, setup a startup, invest in an existing business, or even lead a retired life if he or she chooses with virtually no restrictions.
For most Indians, studying in the US is merely the first step towards a prosperous and stable future. With existing options offering little long-term stability, the EB-5 visa may be the simplest and most elegant way to live the American Dream.
(The author is Founder and CEO, EB5 BRICS. Views expressed here are personal)