A bipartisan bill aiming to reform the US EB5 investor visa program has been introduced in the US Congress. Presented by Republican Senator, Chuck Grassley, and Democratic Senator, Patrick Leahy, the EB5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2021 calls for the reform and reauthorization of the EB5 Regional Centers Program for a period of five years.
In recent years, Indian nationals have emerged as prominent investors under this provision, which offers a direct path to US citizenship for migrants investing a certain sum of money into dedicated projects in specified areas.
Between 2016 and 2019, the demand for EB5 visas among Indian nationals rose by 400%, according to not-for-profit trade association Invest in USA (IIUSA), which endorsed the bill.
Executive director of IIUSA, Aaron Grau, said: “Many of these Indian nationals have been in the United States for a long time on non-immigrant visas like the H1B or L1A and the EB5 green card provides immigration certainty to them and their families.”
“The bipartisan bill supports the long-term reauthorization and reform of the EB5 Regional Center Program, which in turn will ease Indian investors’ anxiety of this visa program being cancelled,” Grau added.
According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data, Indian nationals were granted more than 300 EB5 visas in the 2020 fiscal year, representing the second highest amount after Chinese nationals.
90% of investors use the EB5 Regional Centers Program and the bipartisan bill is expected to pass in Congress. The bill has been introduced prior to the program lapsing at the end of June. While no new EB5 Regional Center cases could be filed while the program lapses, direct EB5 cases can continue to be filed.
Ever since the EB5 visa was launched in 1990, the program has drawn in capital investment of more than $41 billion from around the world to support US businesses and has created at least 820,000 job opportunities for American workers.
Clean up the EB5 program
Senator Leahy said: “I have partnered with Senator Grassley for years to clean up the EB5 program. We successfully worked with both the Obama and Trump administrations to take important administrative steps to promote integrity and curtail abuses that have plagued the program.”
“But the Department of Homeland Security cannot fix all of the EB5 program’s flaws on its own. Congress must act decisively to comprehensively address the fraud and other vulnerabilities that have come to define the EB5 program. Our bill would do just that,” Leahy added.
Grassley said: “It’s no secret that the EB5 Regional Center Program has been a mess for years. Foreign investors exploited the program to get fast-tracked green cards, domestic developers exploited foreign investors to get fast cash for bogus projects and government officials picked winners and losers to score political favor.”
“This has got to change. The Obama and Trump administrations took important steps to restore incentives for investment in rural and truly underserved areas, but Congress must act to fix other flaws that invite fraud and abuse. Our bill corrects the many defects in the current program and improves accountability so that it functions as Congress intended. Absent of these fixes, this program should not be allowed to continue,” Grassley added.
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