The U.S. Golden Visa is back and improved. Under Biden’s regime, this opportunity for foreigners has been expanded with new security measures in place and a chance to move to the U.S. much quicker. The program is called the EB-5 Visa programme, which allows for a family to migrate to the U.S. with expedited processing to obtain their residency Green Cards and ultimately, the U.S. passport.

This visa has been quite popular with expats residing in the GCC, especially those with children as it unlocks a tremendous educational benefits such as free schooling. Even at the University level, those participants of this program can obtain government support to pay for all educational expenses including tuition, housing, books, and transportation. Even with one child, the program can easily compensate.

This visa category requires an investment of $800,000 into government pre-approved projects for a period of five years, after the 5 year term, the investor is eligible to receive those funds back. The investment itself can be subject to a payment plan option, so the full funds do not need to be invested all at once. Processing times are expedited, providing a quicker path for investors and their family to gain their residency. Upon filing of the application, the investor and family members can apply to stay in the U.S. while they are waiting for approval of their applications. They can gain work authorization, and their children can enroll in schools tuition free.

The pilot program set up by the U.S. government is called the EB-5 “Regional Center” program where investors can invest passively and not be involved in the management of the investment - they simply invest for a 5 year period and are eligible to obtain those funds thereafter. The EB-5 Regional Center is one of the most effective routes for foreign investors to migrate to the U.S. Under the program investors must inject a substantial amount into a U.S. approved commercial enterprise in return for U.S. green card and residency for themselves, spouse and children under the age of 21.

On March 15, 2022, the U.S. Congress reauthorised the Regional Center program with a host of new rule changes that aim to provide a holistically better program and most importantly improve processing measures by allowing investors to move to the U.S. while waiting for their EB-5 application to be approved.

On announcement of the new EB-5 Reform bill, it is evident that the changes to be implemented imply that we are now working with a new programme. The fundamentals of the programme are still the same, where investors must invest $800,000 into an approved commercial enterprise and that investment must generate 10 jobs for U.S. persons. However, elements such as job creation counts, visa allocations, Regional Center designations have been changed.

It is therefore important for investors, immigration attorneys and Regional Centers to fully understand the changes and how they would affect all future applications. Shai Zamanian, the Legal Director of the American Legal Center in Dubai explains the new regulations and how it benefits new clients, “We welcome the new programme and sense client’s will appreciate it. There are tons of security measures in place and the U.S, government has shown and interest to be more proactive in monitoring EB-5 immigration investments”

Here are some key points on the substantial changes made to the EB-5 Regional Center programme:

Reauthorisation extension

The new law authorises the programme for the next five years, until September 30, 2027. Investors that submit their applications early will have a full immigration cycle before the programme requires reauthorisation again.

Move to the U.S. right away

Under the newly introduced measure called concurrent filing, EB-5 investors can file for their initial EB-5 application (I-526 application) at the same time as their adjustment of status (I-485 application). This essentially means that families can get work and travel authorization while waiting on adjudication of their EB-5 application. They can essentially file their application and begin taking steps to move to the U.S. right away. A significant change in the processing of EB-5 Regional Center program applications and a win for EB-5 investors. It will be helpful for those that are seeking to speed up the process of transitioning to the U.S. This is also helpful for those that have son’s and daughter’s in the U.S. studying as it can speed up their process.

Regional Centers Security Measures

Regional Centers are the government approved groups which can host projects in exchange for residency sponsorship. There are new security and compliance measures in place to ensure the integrity of the program.

These new rules placed on the Regional Center and projects are quite helpful to the investor as it expands and mandates additional police powers to protect the investor and bring greater transparency. Prior to this enactment, the policing authority was primarily the U.S. Securities and Exchange commission that provided more of a reactionary approach as the EB-5 watchdog. Whereas now, USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security will be more proactive in addition to the police powers of the SEC.

Time to act now

In the weeks to follow the industry will start seeing the various changes being implemented by the relevant authorities. Regional Centers have started amending their project offerings to align with the new regulations, and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is ensuring that their internal measures are on par with the new law. It is a new era for the EB-5 Regional Center programme, the industry is excited about the changes that have been introduced as they are essentially better for the investor.

The American Legal Center is a team of U.S. licensed lawyers that have been working on the EB-5 Regional Center programme, within the Middle East for over 12 years. In the month of June 2022, they successfully filed 6 per cent of all global EB-5 applications. Under the leadership of Shai Zamanian, they have in-depth experience on the vast number of changes that the programme has undergone in the past and can best guide prospective investors on how to prepare their file for application and approval.