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The EB-5 Visa for Indian Students

With its world-renowned universities attracting over a million international students annually, the United States is a prime destination for holders of the F-1 student visa. Yet, this visa comes with several limitations, including constrained work options. The EB-5 program, however, provides a solution to these limitations, offering numerous advantages to foreign students.

Launched in 1990, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program aims to boost the U.S. economy and generate employment through investments. It has become an appealing option for foreign nationals, especially Indian students looking to advance their education and career prospects in the U.S.

By investing in a qualified EB-5 project, Indian students have the opportunity to secure permanent residency (Green Card) in the U.S. and ultimately pursue citizenship.

Through this article, Indian students can gain insight into the EB-5 investment route to permanent residency in the U.S., and get a better understanding of the benefits and challenges associated with the EB-5 visa.

How Can Investors Qualify for an EB-5 Visa?

To secure a permanent Green Card through the EB-5 visa, foreign nationals need to fulfill the requirements listed below:

  • The investor should possess a minimum net worth of $1,000,000 or have an annual income of more than $200,000 over the past two years, or a combined income with their spouse of $300,000 in the same timeframe.
  • The investor must invest the minimum amount of $1,050,000 into an EB-5 project, or invest $800,000 in a project located within a Targeted Employment Area (TEA).
  • The EB-5 capital must be invested into a qualifying New Commercial Enterprise (NCE).
  • The EB-5 investment project must lead to the creation of at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers for each investor and maintain these jobs for two years.
  • The source of the investment funds must be verifiable, legally obtained, and fully traceable.

Advantages of the EB-5 Visa for Students from India

The EB-5 program offers numerous advantages to Indian students, particularly in the areas of education and employment. Securing a U.S. Green Card via the EB-5 program enables international students to benefit from higher chances of admission, reduced tuition fees, access to a wider range of job opportunities, and unrestricted entry into the U.S. job market following their graduation.

Higher Education in the U.S.

Universities in the U.S. are frequently found at the top of global rankings, attracting a vast pool of both American and international students and leading to a competitive selection process.

U.S. universities also tend to admit fewer international students compared to domestic ones. However, as Green Card holders are classified as residents, they apply to colleges in the same category as U.S. citizens, as opposed to foreign applicants. This classification increases the chances of EB-5 investors when it comes to being accepted into higher education institutions in the United States.

The advantages for international students holding an EB5 visa extend beyond their chances of admission. Being considered U.S. residents, these students qualify for the reduced in-state tuition rates available in their state of residence, potentially leading to substantial savings — in some cases, up to $22,000 annually.

Job Opportunities and Residency

In addition to competitive admissions and high tuition fees, international students holding an F-1 visa may encounter work restrictions. Although they can work off-campus under specific conditions, many are confined to on-campus employment, which restricts their career advancement and ability to gain relevant work experience.

EB 5 visa holders face none of these limitations. They enjoy the same liberties as U.S. students, including the ability to engage in full-time or part-time work off-campus, secure internships, and pursue postgraduate opportunities.

This freedom to work without restrictions not only provides additional income but also enhances their resumes, giving EB-5 investor students a competitive edge in the U.S. job market upon graduation.

For international students planning to stay in the U.S. after graduation, the typical route involves applying for an H-1B visa, a lottery-based system historically posing challenges for Indian nationals as it requires sponsorship from a U.S. employer.

The EB-5 visa allows graduates to stay, live, and work in the U.S. without the complications of securing another visa. Unlike other pathways, the EB-5 program doesn’t require employer sponsorship, providing graduates the freedom to compete in the job market on equal footing with U.S. citizens.

An immigrant visa, EB-5 offers a much more permanent immigration plan than any student or employment visa, as those require frequent renewals. Through the EB-5 program, Indian students can obtain a permanent Green Card and apply for U.S. citizenship after five years of residency.

Indian students who are already in the U.S. can also count their two-year EB-5 conditional residency period towards their U.S. citizenship process.

Potential Pitfalls for Indian Students

The EB-5 program offers several benefits to investors and students, but understanding the risks they might face is also important for a successful immigration journey.

The risks involved in the EB-5 investment process fall into two main categories: financial and immigration risks. Financial risk involves potential loss of investment capital, while immigration risk is about the investor’s chances of obtaining a permanent U.S. Green Card.

Financial Risks

Qualified investors must be very careful while selecting an EB-5 project, with a minimum investment of either $800,000 or $1,050,000 depending on the project’s location, alongside other costs like filing fees and administrative costs. Furthermore, the program mandates that investments must be “at risk” without any guarantee of return, implying a potential for either partial or total capital loss.

Immigration Risks

There is an annual cap on the number of available EB-5 visas, divided among different countries. When this limit is exceeded, this triggers visa retrogression, delaying the process for applicants from countries with high demand, such as India. This could result in extended wait times for many Indian investors, so they should follow the monthly visa bulletins from the Department of State to stay informed about their country’s visa status.

However, Indian investors can bypass long wait times and enjoy priority processing through the reserved EB-5 categories that are in current status across all countries.

Investing in a rural EB-5 project is one strategy for Indian investors to qualify for such a reserved visa, streamlining their path to obtaining an EB-5 visa.

Starting the EB-5 Process

The EB-5 program is one of the quickest routes for Indian individuals to secure U.S. Green Cards for themselves and their families. Thanks to the priority processing opportunities, Indian students can live and work in the United States without getting affected by backlogs or having to depend on riskier, non-immigrant visa alternatives like H-1B.

To start the EB-5 process, Indian nationals are advised to seek guidance from industry experts, such as EB-5 immigration attorneys, during the investment process and beyond. These professionals can provide answers, offer counsel, and help navigate any potential visa issues.

Before taking the first step to start your EB-5 journey, please schedule a call with our team to discuss the details of your specific case and learn more about how you can obtain U.S. permanent residency through an EB-5 investment.