The middlemen in the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program are actively pursuing another set of clients in a way that throws new and unattractive light on America's visa waiting lists, a major by-product of our immigration policy.
No other major nation known to me sets up these lists — they either admit or deny admission and that's that. When we find that someone is qualified for a visa, but none are available because of long-established, congressionally mandated numerical limits, the alien is told to wait.
What the EB-5 agents have noticed is that there is a substantial class of would-be green card holders — already in the States — who are standing in a long line for these cards, and who have professional-level salaries. These are H-1Bs, largely from India. The average waiting time for Indian H-1Bs wanting to become green card holders is often estimated to be as long as 20 years. The EB-5 program offers visas for the investor and his or her spouse, and all the children under 21, if a correctly sized investment is made in a government-designated, but not insured, venture. It, too, has waiting lists.
Why not, the middlemen decided, offer the Indian H-1Bs, via the EB-5 program, shorter waiting periods in exchange for $500,000 and fees? (The minimum investment will rise to $900,000 on November 21, according to the recently revised regulations.)
The irony, of course, is that the H1-Bs have been, sometimes for 10 years or more, undergoing one kind of immigration-linked exploitation (while simultaneously depriving skilled Americans of jobs), and now they are being lured into another one.
As H-1Bs, their labor is rewarded with below-market wages, which is the real objective of that program. Now they are encouraged to invest in EB-5, in which their capital will also receive below-market returns, again the point of that program.
The symmetry is crystal clear, but the reader, and those H-1Bs, are unlikely to read about the two programs in those terms. In fact, what the H-1Bs will read is often misleading; we found these quotations from a casual look at the web:
From Mona Shah & Associates:
If you get into the EB-5 program RIGHT NOW, the minimum investment is still $500K and there is no backlog for India. Also, once your I-526 is approved, an EAD is issued within 90 days.
And from the US Immigration Fund:
No Visa Waiting List.
The second of these excerpts was from a message aimed at potential Indian clients. These messages are hopelessly (and years) out of date, and should have been revised long ago by the two firms; alternatively, USCIS, which runs the program, should demand that the middlemen in the EB-5 program live up to some kind of truth-in-advertising requirement.
According to the September Visa Bulletin, issued by the U.S. Department of State, the final action date for EB-5 visas is September 1, 2017, for Indians; it says: "numbers [i.e., visas] are authorized for issuance only for applicants whose priority date is earlier than the final action date."
That the "final action date" is two years ago for Indians seeking EB-5 visas does not mean that current applicants will wait only two years, as there have been a large number of EB-5 applications filed in recent years by people from India. And the waiting time for China in this program is substantially larger than the one for India. The final action date for Chinese EB-5s is October 22, 2014.