Which is best for living the American Dream?

It’s important to understand the differences between the two popular choices for those hoping to live and work in the US

By Peter Calabrese

Successfully navigating the US visa process can be complex and challenging. The first step is understanding the options and deciding which course is the best for you, your family, and your unique situation.

Two popular choices are the EB-5 and H-1B visa programs. However, it is important to understand the differences between these programs, as a wrong choice can end up wasting precious time, and potentially, not delivering on the desired objective of obtaining a visa.

Read: Everything you need to know about EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act (March 25, 2022)

EB-5 immigrant investor program
First introduced in the 1990s, the EB-5 immigrant investor program has served as a valuable stimulus tool for economic development and job creation for more than three decades.

The visa program is administered by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and provides qualified foreign investors with the opportunity to earn green cards, conditional or temporary two-year visas, in return for investing $800,000 in businesses located in high unemployment areas.

Most often, the investment is made through a USCIS-designated Regional Center. The investment must create 10 new full-time, permanent jobs for US workers, and remain invested through the application process.

It is also important to note that program participants are eligible to get that principal returned upon loan maturity (after their Form I-829 petition has been filed) along with any interest that investment has generated.

Read: What the new reformed EB-5 visa program brings along (March 18, 2022)

In March 2022, Congress passed the new long-term EB-5 program legislation, which represents a new era for EB-5. Critical concerns such as grandfathering have been addressed and now all existing and future investors are legally assured that the immigration benefits they sought for their families through their EB-5 investment cannot be taken away.

The integrity measures are significant and will provide greater protections for EB-5 investors.

Live and work in the US
Both the EB-5 and H-1B programs can result in a visa that allows you to live and work in the US. However, there are several differences in the programs, eligibility requirements, and freedoms each visa allows that are important to consider before starting the process.

Permanent vs temporary: The EB-5 program results in a green card, which means the investor can apply for permanent residency in the United States and, if desired, apply to become a US citizen.

Read: Everything you need to know about H-1B Visa program (April 26, 2022)

H-1B is a temporary work visa. An H-1B specialty occupation worker or fashion model may be admitted to the US for a period of up to three years. That period can be extended, but it typically cannot be extended beyond a total of six years.

Investment vs work visa: EB-5 is an investment visa program. One of the main qualifiers is having the required minimum monetary investment amount.

In contrast, H-1B is a work visa that requires an employer sponsor and proof of eligibility to qualify for a specialty occupation.

Timing: EB-5 visa applicants can obtain a conditional green card in 18-24 months depending on the administrative processing time for the applicant’s country of origin.

The processing time for an H-1B visa varies on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, a temporary visa could be granted within a few months.

Read: USCIS reaches fiscal year 2022 H-1B Cap (March 2, 2022)

However, the USCIS has capped the number of H-1B visas available each year at 65,000, with an additional 20,000 available for international students set to graduate from US institutions with a master’s degree or higher.

Demand far outweighs the number of available visas. For example, USCIS received 308,613 electronic H-1B registrations for FY 2022 and 814 EB-5 Visa applications in FY 2021. Tighter restrictions and increased demand have made it more difficult to secure this type of visa.

Family members: Both the EB-5 and H-1B programs allow immediate family members of the visa holder (spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21) to reside in the US.

The EB-5 visa allows family members the ability to work, while family members of an H-1B visa holder must apply for their separate work visas.

Control your destiny: H-1-B visas require an employer sponsor. What that means is that your fate in the US is linked to that employer, which puts your boss in a power position.

Read: H-1B vs EB-5: Which visa to choose to move to the US (November 19, 2020)

Although there are laws to protect employers from abusing that position, they can constrain your choices. In some cases, H-1B visa holders stay with a sponsor and miss out on job opportunities that would bring career advancement or higher pay.

Additionally, that job also may impact where you and your family live if you need to be close to that job.

EB-5 has no sponsorship requirement, and therefore no restrictions on employment, but of course, it requires the minimum investment amount requirement of $500,000. You can choose the company you want to work for, start your own business or even relocate an existing business to the US

(Peter Calabrese is CEO at the CanAm Investor Services. CanAm operates sevenUSCIS designated regional centers across the US. It has worked with 6,000 immigrant families in the past 35 years)

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