As a U.S. licensed lawyer and Managing Director of the leading investment immigration advisory firm, Step Global, Preeya Malik has seen an increasing number of families asking for her assistance to secure their children’s future in the United States. More GCC families than ever before are now using the route of the EB-5 visa to unlock educational opportunities, financial benefits, and employment stability in the U.S..

In this article, Malik presents the most frequent scenarios encountered and how the EB-5 visa was able to offer a solution.

F-1 visa vs EB-5 green card: Know the differences

The F-1 visa is designed for international students who wish to pursue academic studies at accredited U.S. educational institutions. To qualify for an F-1 visa, individuals must have been accepted by a U.S. institution, demonstrate sufficient financial resources to cover tuition and living expenses, and intend to return to their home country after completing their studies.

F-1 visas are typically granted for the duration of the academic program, plus an optional period for practical training (Optional Practical Training or OPT), which allows students to work in their field of study for a limited period after graduation. Under the F-1 visa, employment opportunities on and off campus are generally limited.

One of the biggest advantages of a green card via the EB-5 program is it removes all the stress of securing a work visa and employment after graduation.

- Preeya Malik, Managing Director, Step Global

On the other hand, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is designed for individuals who want the option of living and working in the US without restriction. By making a refundable investment of $800,000 in a government approved project, the EB-5 program provides investors and their immediate families (spouse and children under 21) with a path to permanent residency and eventual U.S. citizenship if desired. EB-5 investors and their dependants can live and work anywhere in the United States. They are not restricted to a particular job or location.

Scenario 1: My child is unable to enrol in their desired program

One of the key advantages of the EB-5 program for students is the access to quality education in the United States, which has the largest number of prestigious and Ivy League universities in the world. Students with EB-5 visas can enrol in these schools and programs without submitting to rigorous quotas which have been set aside only for US residents and citizens. This greatly decreases the competition and opens the doors to a world-class education and valuable networking opportunities.

Although it is never too late to apply for a green card and obtain the benefits of the EB-5 program, the US EB-5 Green Card is the most advantageous for those families who are proactive in planning for children who want to study in the United States.

Scenario 2: My child has graduated form a US Program and is unable to secure an H-1B visa

This is perhaps one of the most frequent cases I have been dealing with over the past year, especially with massive layoffs of H-1B holders in the US. Students become increasingly disappointed and frustrated when they find they are forced to leave the US after their studies have been completed and their OPT time has expired, because they are unable to secure an employer to sponsor them.

Even those who are able to secure employment sponsorship, often do not get selected in the H1-B lottery which only happens once each year, thereby deferring their plans for both career growth and deterring their ability to stay in the US. When this scenario happens, parents may rush to find solutions for their children to be able to stay and work in the United States.

The first step is to submit their paperwork for Adjustment of Status (AOS) concurrently with their EB-5 green card application. The child does not have to leave the US and with the AOS submission, we can request an Employment Authorization Card and Travel Document (Advance Parole). The student’s status then changes from F-1 or OPT to “pending green card”.

Although it does not allow the applicant to achieve the green card faster, within months, the applicant will have the ability to legally live and work in the US without employer sponsorship or restrictions, while they wait for their EB-5 green card application to be processed. In this way, one of the biggest advantages of a green card via the EB-5 program, is that it removes all the stress of securing a work visa and employment after graduation.

Scenario 3: The education cost for 2 children in the US is simply too high

Applying for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is undeniably a smart financial move for those families who have the ability to invest the amount of $800,000 whilst considering the monetary benefits against the cost. Students with a green card in hand will pay on average three time less than F-1 international students on tuition fees. These savings can amount to more than $35,000 per year depending on the university, which can be particularly beneficial for families with multiple children or for children who will go on to do multiple degrees in the US.

Additionally, with an EB-5 Green Card, students are eligible to apply to a larger number of scholarships offered only to US residents and citizens, thus increasing the probability of being selected for financial assistance through the school. The various states and federal government also provide grants and 0 per cent loans, which are not available to international students but are accessible for Green Card holders and US citizens.

Once the EB-5 process is complete in a few years time, successful applicants should receive back their $800,000 investment and in the meantime will have saved thousands of dollars on their children education while contributing to the security of their future in the United States.

Scenario 4: My child is missing valuable work experience in summers and during the school year

Unfortunately, F-1 visa holders in the United States have certain restrictions they must adhere to. F-1 students are limited in the number of hours they can work on campus and paid off-campus employment without proper authorization is typically forbidden.

However, those with an EB-5 green card in hand can work freely and also avail themselves of useful work experiences that are also available to their peers.

These experiences on the student’s CV, could also help in obtaining employment post-graduation. For example, many of the top law firms in the US will only hire students who have worked for them summer upon summer as an intern.

Scenario 5: My child could not obtain employment and must leave the US

The Optional Practical Training year, offered to F-1 students who have graduated, allows the student to gain valuable US work experience in their field of study. However, time is not always on the student’s side, as they only have 60 days to find a position post-graduation in order to take advantage of the OPT. If this position is not secure in time, the graduate must leave the country and return home.

If your child is facing such difficulties, strategizing via the EB-5 Program is important. Even if they have returned home, we can find a way for AOS concurrent filing (discussed in Scenario 2 above) so that they may re-enter the US to live and work there as soon as possible without restrictions.

Want to know more? Attend the Step Global free seminar

The GCC’s leading immigration advisory firm, Step Global, headed by Managing Director and U.S. Lawyer Preeya Malik, is hosting a free seminar on Sunday, September 17 at 4pm for anyone interested in the US EB-5 Green Card program. Malik herself will be present to advise families who would like to know more about this opportunity for future planning and strategizing.

Included in the seminar will be a special presentation from one of the top Regional Centers in the EB-5 industry, who will be discussing their multiple EB-5 opportunities and answering questions. Step Global is privileged to be the only firm in the GCC working with the top 5 most reputed EB-5 Regional Centers, hence being able to provide clients with all the best project options available, in one place.