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Ticket to US: Green card queue gets longer as more Indians seek EB5 visa

With more Indians opting for the EB5 route, the delay in getting such visas is inevitable in a way, as the US grants a total of 10,000 EB5 visas annually, of which the maximum a country can get is 700.

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To get the EB5 visa, individuals need to invest at least half a million dollars, or about Rs 3.5 crore, in targeted employment areas in the United States and create 10 full-time jobs.

For wealthy and upwardly mobile Indians, eying to settle in the US, the shortest and surest path was to obtain an EB5 or investor visa to get a green card, which usually came in about two years. However, now with more and more enthusiasts queuing up to fulfill their US dream through this route, the waiting period has become longer — somewhere around five years or even more.

With more Indians opting for the EB5 route, the delay in getting such visas is inevitable in a way, as the US grants a total of 10,000 EB5 visas annually, of which the maximum a country can get is 700. To get the EB5 visa, individuals need to invest at least half a million dollars, or about Rs 3.5 crore, in targeted employment areas in the United States and create 10 full-time jobs.

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There’s another reason for the growing number of Indians queuing up for the EB5 visa. Since the US administration has been tightening the rules around the H1B visa programme, which is a non-immigrant visa, an increasing number of H1B visa holders have started applying through the EB5 category to get a green card faster.

For H1B visa holders, even the five-year wait is a good option compared to other employment-based green card categories like the EB2 and EB3, which takes a minimum of around 12-13 years. “The demand for EB5 visa gained ground around 2017-18 as a lot of H1B visa workers started opting for it to get the green card because of the shorter waiting period,” Vivek Tandon, founder and CEO of EB5 BRICS (an EB5 advisory firm), told Financial Express.

Having a green card, officially known as a permanent resident card, allows a person to live and work permanently in the United States. Green card holders also get certain health, education and other benefits from the government. In contrast, there are various limitations in the H1B as it’s a non-immigrant visa and the person can work in the US for a maximum for six years at a stretch. Spouses of H1B visa holders are not allowed to work and such visa holders are not allowed to start any businesses of their own. However, there are no such limitations for green card holders.

Tandon said that earlier, people who used to apply for EB5 visas were as follows: Around 40-50% students studying in US, who wanted a green card at the end of their studies; 25% H1B workers; and 25% used to be business people. However, now an increasing number of H1B workers are seeking the investor visa to attain a green card faster.

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