US nearly doubles cost of ‘visas for millionaires’

US visas under an employment generation programme for wealthy foreigners that can lead to citizenship will cost more starting Wednesday with standard minimum investment going up from $1 million to $1.8 million, and from $500,000 to $900,000 in certain designated areas.

The EB-5 visas, which have also been called “visas for millionaires”, are popular among rich Indians and those who can afford it to scale up from H-1B visa for highly skilled professionals, according to immigration companies that have been pushing it in India in recent years.

The United States grants 10,000 such visa every year and there is a cap on the number that can go to nationals of any one country. Immigration lawyers said this visa type is very popular with those born in China, Vietnam and India, with wait times of 14, 7 and 6 years for them respectively.

Under the EB-5 program, foreign nationals can apply for conditional lawful permanent residence in the United States in return for necessary investments in a commercial enterprise in the United States and “create or, in certain circumstances, preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified American workers.”

Investments can be made in certain areas designated as Targeted Employment Areas (TEA and in nonTEA areas. The standard minimum investment goes up from $1million to $1.9 million, the USCIS announced Tuesday and from $500,000 to $900,00 in TEA areas. A “final rule” effecting this change and others will be published in the federal register Wednesday.

The last change in the investment level was in 1990. USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement, “Our reforms increase the investment level to account for inflation over the past three decades and … to ensure that the reduced investment amount is reserved for rural and high-unemployment areas most in need.”