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Indian applicants to be now on waitlist for EB-5 visa. This is a US visa for indian who want to invest capital into a project in US. The EB-5 program requires an investment of at least $900,000 ( according to the new rules since November 2019), but does not require special skills or degrees. After the first two years of investing plus any country quota-related delays, an EB-5 visa holder can petition for removal of conditions, by providing proof that they’ve invested in a project that created at least 10 jobs.

Indian applications for the EB-5 “investor” visa have skyrocketed over the last couple of years, so much so that the State Department has now announced that Indian applicants will be placed on a waiting list. Yet even with a delay, the EB-5 visa remains one of the fastest and route to Green Card for Indian nationals.

Each year, 10,000 EB-5 visas are made available for individuals and families who are able to invest $500,000 (increase to $900,000 now) with a Regional Center in the United States. Since no country is allowed more than seven percent of the total, there is a cap of 700 visas per country per year. The Regional Center uses the investment to fund real-estate projects that create and sustain at least ten full-time American jobs.

Until very recently, EB-5 visa issuance to Indians were nowhere near the annual cap. In 2013, only 35 EB-5 visas were issued to Indian nationals, and by 2017 only 111 visas were issued. It was only in 2018 that this jumped significantly to 400 visas, and it was not until this year that EB-5 visa issuances to Indian nationals passed the 700 mark for the first time.

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This threshold was passed in June, meaning it has already used up its annual quota with several months of the “visa year” remaining. The year runs from October to September meaning no EB-5 visas will be issued to Indian nationals until the year resets on October 1.

As the EB-5 visa has grown in popularity in India, applications have spiked, leading to a backlog with the US authorities. When the visa year resets in October, the next in line for a visa are applicants who filed in May 2017. This means that an applicant filing today will have to wait until visas have been made available to any successful applications made since then.

It is difficult to establish how long this will be. We estimate that around 1,000 applications have been made in the past year. One application does not equate to one visa as a whole family can be included in a single application. However, some applicants will be denied, and others will drop out of their own accord.

The delay could be around four years, so it is vital to start planning an application as soon as possible. Since many of clients are parents wishing to get a Green Card to allow their children to study in the United States and work after graduation, it is important to now start thinking about an application as soon as the oldest child enters secondary school.

Many of the rest of our clients are entrepreneurs who are keen to unlock the potential of the vast American market. These clients are able to move to the United States on other types of visas such as L1 and E2 visas which allow them to set up their business while they wait for a Green Card to become available through the EB-5 program.

Since this all means locking your investment up for longer, it is important to place your money with a reputable Regional Center. Be sure to look for a Regional Center offering a good project in a robust real estate market.

Despite the delay, the EB-5 remains the fastest route to a US Green Card.

Lawrence Chang is President and Principal of Maryland Center For Foreign Investment (MCFI), winner of the EB-5 Regional Center of the Year from the US-India Business Council.