The changing landscape of EB-5: Recent reforms, challenges, and opportunities

By Piyush Gupta, VP of Business Development & Growth – India and Middle East, CanAm Enterprises

As we cross into the remaining months of 2023, the outlook for the EB-5 visa and immigration program in the United States remains optimistic, continuing to attract individuals looking for both a pathway to living in the country and a chance to invest in its economy.

This mutually beneficial program enables international investors to attain provisional green cards and permanent U.S. residency while directing their capital toward job-creating ventures in the country. While the program has encountered a number of challenges and several evolutionary steps since its inception in 1990, the steadfast demand from foreign investors underscores its enduring appeal.

The continuing allure of the EB-5 program stems from the myriad of advantages it offers immigrant investors. The prospect of investors obtaining permanent U.S. residency for themselves, and their children remains a driving incentive, coupled with access to world-class healthcare and educational institutions and the freedom of international mobility.

A pivotal juncture of the EB-5 program’s evolution came with the enactment of the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act (RIA) of 2022. This legislation ushered in a series of momentous reforms aimed at enhancing accountability within EB-5 regional centers — with whom more than 90 percent of EB-5 visa applicants work to invest in qualifying, job-creating projects — while safeguarding the interests of investors. A cornerstone of these reforms is the establishment of new and stringent ethical, accounting, and transparency rules enforced by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Another ground-breaking provision grants USCIS the authority to conduct on-site visits to EB-5 project locations, a measure that ensures adherence to program standards. By fostering transparency and diligence, these reforms work harmoniously to inspire investor confidence by delivering accurate and current information pertaining to their investments.

In conjunction with the RIA reforms, the classification of qualifying EB-5 projects has undergone a transformative shift. To create incentives to drive economic development in more rural or high unemployment areas of the U.S. and generate additional investment in projects that build out America’s infrastructure, the RIA reserved about one-third of EB-5 visas annually for these so-called “set-aside” categories. Immigrant investors benefit from this incentivized focus. For example, EB-5 petitioners for rural projects receive the benefit of “priority” visa processing and applicants in all set- aside categories are immediately eligible for visas – no additional waiting times for backlogs.

The RIA also offers a major new convenience to Indians who are already in the U.S. lawfully on another visa. The RIA made “concurrent filing” possible for those visa holders, meaning that it’s no longer necessary to return to your home country to adjust your visa status; you can adjust your visa to that of a lawful permanent resident (Form I-485) concurrently with the filing of an EB-5 petition (Form I- 526E).

The EB-5 visa program also offers Indian students an array of advantages as they set their sights on higher education in the United States. Paramount among these benefits is the provision of a pathway to U.S. residency, effectively shielding them from the uncertainties often associated with student visas. With the EB-5 visa’s coveted green card status, students can unlock heightened access to U.S. public colleges and universities, with the potential to pay lower in-state tuition rates offered to American families.

Beyond the financial realm, the EB-5 visa program extends to graduating students the unbridled freedoms to pursue further studies, jobs and careers that are not typical of other, temporary student or work visas offered by the U.S. government.

Since the RIA took effect last year, the EB-5 program has seen a resurgence of interest and investment. More immigrants from India participate in the EB-5 program than most other counties, surpassed only by China in having the highest the number of visas issued in FY2023. And, in about a year after the RIA changes were put in place, an estimated $973 million in investment has been raised through EB-5 program. This trajectory, along with a U.S. economy that remains strong and continues to grow, bodes well for EB-5 investors and their families seeking to start a new life in America.

About CanAm Enterprises 

CanAm Enterprises, with over three decades of experience promoting immigration-linked investments in the US and Canada, has a demonstrated track record of success. With over 60 financed projects and $3 billion in raised EB-5 investments, CanAm has earned a reputation for credibility and trust. To date, CanAm has repaid more than $2.26 billion in EB-5 capital from over 4,530 families. CanAm manages several USCIS-designated regional centers that stretch across multiple states. For more information, please visit www.canamenterprises.com.

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