Does the United States lobby other nations to accept our millionaires as migrants? Do we, similarly, seek to pass off our high-tech workers to other nations?
On the face of it, that sounds like a ridiculous question until you realize that India is doing exactly that. Why try to get rid of a seemingly prosperous and useful population?
The latest indication of this policy popped up the other day on an American EB-5 website, reporting:
The Indian government is reportedly discussing with the United States to gain “treaty country status,” which would allow Indian investors to apply for E-1 and E-2 nonimmigrant visas, among other benefits.
If the U.S. grants India treaty country status, it could enable Indian investors to enter the U.S. through the E-2 visa by investing significant capital in a U.S. business. This possibility could also affect EB-5 applications since obtaining an E-2 visa is a sought-after stepping stone to qualify for the investor visa.
As background, while EB-5 is a world-wide program, available to well-to-do aliens from any nation in the world willing to invest in the U.S., the E-2 program for nonimmigrant investors is available only to nations that have investment treaties with the U.S. India is not on that list. An E-1 visa is for treaty traders (officers of international companies), while E-2s are for treaty investors; these programs, although they impact our domestic economy, are operated by State alone, while EB-5 involves both State and Homeland Security.
EB-5 investors from India (and China) are blocked from coming to the U.S. by long wait lists due to per-country caps, while there are no waiting lines (beyond processing delays) for those granted E-1 and E-2 nonimmigrant (i.e., temporary) visas.
India wants to do what little Grenada (in the Caribbean) has already done. It wants to give its citizens a nonimmigrant American visa (the E-2) that allows the investor to come to America while waiting their turn for the permanent EB-5 immigrant visa, a successful maneuver in at least one Grenada case, as reported earlier.
Were the U.S. to sign a treaty with India on this point Indian, investors waiting for their EB-5 visas to mature could make an additional investment in the U.S., which would give them temporary legal status here while waiting for the EB-5 visa to be issued.
Let’s return to the original question: Why would a nation want to shed itself of its millionaires?
There are several possible answers: First, governments generally tend to defer to the wealthy, allowing them to do what they want to do under most circumstances, even though that might conflict with public policy.
Second, India is clearly over-populated and has taken a series of actions to encourage emigration of all classes, such as the generally low-tech workers in the Middle East and the high-tech (H-1B) workers in the U.S. and their equivalents in Canada.
But there is, I think, a hidden, third reason: the politics of the Modi administration. Most H-1Bs from India are from the southern provinces of India, which is the very area in which the Modi party is weakest (as this map of India shows) so the departure of H-1Bs from this area may weaken Modi’s opposition, while the same set of people is busily paying income taxes back to the government (to the extent that that happens). I do not know about the geographical distribution of the expatriate Indian investors, but their numbers are minor compared to that of the H-1Bs.
So one could argue that it is rational of India to seek a treaty with the U.S. that would encourage the departure of some of its own millionaires. Whether it is rational for the U.S. to enlarge this lightly supervised State Department program is another matter. E-1 and E-2 visas are temporary in nature, but are easily renewed.