Newly Published EB-5 Modernization Rules from USCIS: does it impact Indians?

On July 23, 2019, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) regulations to update the Immigrant Investor Program were published in the Federal Register. The new EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Modernization rules (New Rules) amend the historic Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations governing the employment-based, fifth preference (EB-5) immigrant investor classification and associated regional centers to reflect statutory changes and modernize the EB-5 program. The New Rules are creating quite a buzz in the EB-5 community with good reason. Of particular note, the New Rules modify the EB-5 program by:

  • Increasing the required minimum investment amounts;

  • Providing the long-awaited priority date retention to EB-5 investors in certain cases;

  • Amending targeted employment area (TEA) designation criteria;

  • Centralizing TEA determination;

  • Clarifying USCIS procedures for the removal of conditions on permanent residence fulfilment;

  • Providing for periodic minimum investment increases henceforth; and

  • Implementing a myriad other amendments.

The New Rules are effective 120 days from publication, which is November 21, 2019. The effective date of the New Rules presupposes that Congress will extend the EB-5 Program’s current sunset date of September 30, 2019. USCIS clarified that it will adjudicate investors, who file a Form I-526 petition before November 21, 2019, under the current EB-5 program rules. Now the race is on to initiate and complete investments by the effective date. (Source natlawreview.com)

What is the impact of EB5 rule change on Indians?

The Indian media picked up this story and began analysis of the impact on Indians. However, a fact are worth noting: Although the number of EB5 visas  quadrupled from 100 to 500 (link), this is a reminisce number when one considers hundreds of thousands of Indians waiting for employment based (EB) and family (F) sponsored visas

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image source https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/eb-5-visas-issued-to-indians-quadruple-over-two-years-300818040.html

The reason for so few EB5 visas issued to Indians is not hard to fathom. The number of Indians who have half or a million dollars to spare is minuscule. Those who have a million dollars (6 or 7 crore rupees) to ‘invest’ are probably the crème de la crème of Indian business, government and society. They are not likely to think of ‘investing’ a million dollars for an American Green Card when they can just as easily get long-term visa to other countries around the world.

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Are Indians still desperate to cross into the US illegally?

The Indian and global media are running heartbreaking stories of the 7-year old girl of Punjabi origin who died while crossing into the US near a remote and deserted US-Mexico border area.  According to the Beast

The US Border Patrol agents found the remains of what is believed to be a 7-year-old girl from India in the Arizona desert on Wednesday morning, according to a Customs and Border Protection statement. The girl was said to be traveling with a group of migrants who were dropped off by smugglers and told to cross into the U.S. in a “dangerous and austere location.”

Tucson Sector Border Patrol agents found two adult women from India believed to have been a part of that group, and they said they made the journey with three others – a woman and two children – but were separated from them. Hours later, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department and Border Patrol agents found the girl’s remains 17 miles west of Lukeville and discovered the footprints of the woman and the other child leading back to Mexico.

Temperatures in the rugged wilderness where agents found her remains on Wednesday hovered around 107.6 degrees (about 42 Celsius).

While CBP agents are reportedly searching the area for more potential group members, none have been located on either side of the southern border. The agency also said the high temperature in the area on Wednesday was about 108 degrees.

“Our sympathies are with this little girl and her family,” Tucson Chief Patrol Agent Roy Villareal wrote in the statement. “This is a senseless death driven by cartels who are profiting from putting lives at risk.”

While my heart goes out to the little girl who lost her life under unfortunate circumstances, I am left scratching my head about the parents decision:

  • What would make a mother with two little girls walk across inhospitable and dangerous desert thousands of miles from their homeland, with two little girls?
  • Is the American dream really worth risking one’s life?
  • It costs thousands of dollars to buy air tickets, get some visas, and to fly half-way across the globe and to hire ‘human smugglers.’ Couldn’t that amount – hundreds of thousands of rupees – be spent in living a decent life and educating the kids?

Millionaires fleeing India in larger numbers: GWMR Report

A recent report by Global Wealth Migration Review (GWMR) suggests that Indians who have the means to quit the country are doing so in large numbers. The report indicates that a large number of Indian high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) moved to USA, UAE, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

According to the GWMR report, India saw the third highest outflow of wealthy individuals last year. Nearly 5,000 millionaires, or high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), left the country, which is 2 per cent of the total number of HNWIs in India.

The UK for the last three decades was ranked among the countries with the highest number of inflow of wealthy individuals but the trend reversed sharply in the last two years, thanks to Brexit.

China topped the list, as its economy is starting to show the impact of the trade battle with the US.  Russia occupied the second spot, ahead of India, as the Russian economy grapples with the impact of multiple embargoes. 

The report forecasts a growth in large number of entrepreneurs in India attributable to, good educational system and English speaking workforce. A strong growth forecast in the local financial services, IT, business process outsourcing, real estate, healthcare and media sectors (10 year wealth growth forecast: 200%).

The report also pointed out another critical problem with the Indian economy of the degree of inequality growing at an alarming rate. The HNWIs hold nearly half the total wealth in the country.

The report highlights  Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, among global cities to look out for in the next decade.   However, the report also went on to mention that the outflow of HNWIs from China and India is not “particularly concerning”

The outflows of HNWIs from these countries are not particularly concerning as they are still producing far more new HNWIs than they are losing. Also, once the standard of living in these countries improves, we expect several wealthy people to move back.

Links

 

H1-B Cap for 2019 reached, and Indian companies top visa rejections

Here are a couple of updates on H1B Visas that are of interest to applicants and companies

The USCIS announced that

“On April 5, 2019, USCIS reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 H-1B visa regular cap for fiscal year 2020. USCIS will next determine if we have received a sufficient number of petitions to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap.

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed for current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted toward the FY 2020 H-1B cap.”

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According to a research report by CARE Ratings, the total number of H-1B applications approved to the top five IT majors — TCS, Infosys, HCL, Wipro and Tech Mahindra — stood at a mere 22,429, down from 43,957 in 2017, amid the rhetoric against immigrant workers by the Trump administration.

In FY18, a total of 331,098 H-1B petitions were approved and companies with the highest number of approvals were Cognizant Tech Solutions US Corp, TCS Ltd, Infosys Ltd, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Microsoft Corporation, which cumulatively received 33,576 approvals.  However, the number of approvals reduced by 11%, from 37,393 in FY14.

Out of the total awardees, 73% possess Bachelor’s degree and rest 27% have Master’s degree. The median salaries offered by companies in chart 2 were in the range of USD 75,000 to 131,000. 

A few key highlights from the report

  • Cognizant Tech Solutions witnessed 4,338 denials in FY18, the highest by any company. This was followed by TCS Ltd and Infosys Ltd. The top five companies were cumulatively denied 11,907 petitions, out of which 80% were of extension visas and rest 20% of initial visas.
  • Infosys with 26%, registered the highest number of H-1B visa denials among Indian IT majors, followed by HCL America Inc, TCS Ltd, Tech Mahindra Americas Inc and Wipro Ltd.

 

Also of interest Listing of top 100 H1B Visa Employers in the US in 2016-17

 

Amid a record driver shortage, Indian-American Sikhs are taking to trucking

NPR ran an interesting feature on truck drivers from Punjab filling the void in American trucking industry.

The trucking industry is experiencing a major shortage of drivers. But in the last two years, one demographic has been gravitating towards the industry by the thousands: Indian-American Sikhs. It’s an attractive blue-collar job because it doesn’t interfere with articles of faith, like turbans or beards.

Listen to story on NPR  https://www.marketplace.org/2019/03/07/world/indian-american-sikh-truckers/popout

Also check out “Sikh Truckers in America”

Starting at 2 am, Pandher hopes to cover the 520-mile stretch in about 9 hours with recommended breaks to reach Lincoln before noon. The long journey through the night doesn’t bother Pandher who is used to such hauls. What does bother him though is the nights and weekends that his work takes him away from his family and little children.

“As truckers, we do miss quite a bit on their (kids) growing up. And that hurts more than the hard work. But that’s the price you pay to be a trucker,” says Pandher, wistfully.

Pandher, who started as a truck driver, running an intrastate hazmat in 2003, today owns the Laramie, Wyoming, based Akal Travel Center, which has 9 trucks, 13 tanker trailers and 4 truck stops in Wyoming, Nebraska and New Mexico. Pandher is among the thousands of Sikhs in the American trucking industry.

Nearly 71% of the freight tonnage on land moves on trucks. The American trucking industry forms the lifeline of the U.S. economy. According to the 2012 Survey of Business Owners by the U.S. Census Bureau, there were nearly 600,000 trucking companies with $300 billion in sales. The American Trucking Association estimates that 3.5 million truckers move 10.55 billion tons of freight annually.

 

 

Indian dentist murdered in Australia, ex-boyfriend dies in subsequent road accident

A 32-year old Indian woman, who was practicing as dental surgeon in Australia, was found murdered in her car in Sydney. Her ex-boyfriend, who is the prime suspect, is said to have died in a ‘deliberate’ road accident later.

The body of Preethi Reddy was stuffed in a suitcase and was kept in the car, which was parked roadside. Preethi’s body had multiple stab injuries. The ghastly murder  is believed to have taken place on Sunday considering the details of her last contact with the family members. The victim hailed from Mahbubnagar district in Telangana. She was working as dental surgeon at Glenbrook Dental Surgery, a hospital about 70 km from Sydney. Reports say that she left home for a medical conference at St Leonards on Sunday (March 3) but failed to return home till evening. Her sister, Nithya Reddy, lodged a complaint with the Sydney police. Her family and friends also opened a Facebook page seeking help to trace her. After the cops declared tracing the mortal remains of Preethi, Nithya posted on the page, “Our dearest Preethi is no longer with us”.

Preethi, according to reports, went to a hotel where her ex-boyfriend Harshwardhan Narde was staying. CCTV footage showed her going to a nearby fast food joint on George Street around 2:15 am and then proceeded to her car. She was last seen at a line in McDonalds in the wee hours, where she bought a water bottle. The South Wales police traced her car parked in a street in Eastern Sydney.

“Preethi’s vehicle was parked on Strachan Street, Kingsford, about 9:30 pm on Tuesday. During a search of the vehicle, the police located Preethi’s body in a suitcase. Further inquiries have established that Preethi stayed at a hotel on Market Street in Sydney on Sunday with a man known to her. Strike Force Carlwood investigators have since been notified that the man died in a head-on collision on the New England Highway near Willow Tree at about 10 pm on Monday. Detectives from Oxley Police Area Command are investigating the circumstances surrounding the collision, which is believed to be a deliberate act,” a South Wales police statement said.

Harshawardhan, 34, was found lying dead after a head on collision. The police suspect it to be a case of suicide by ramming his BMW into a truck. The car later caught fire, reports further said. Narde was also a dentist. They both attended the same conference on Sunday. It is suspected that Narda might have murdered Preethi at the hotel and managed to stuff the body in a suitcase and leave it in her car seven kilometers away.

Preethi’s family moved to Australia many years ago. Her father Narasimha Reddy teaches at Western Sydney University.

US Government makes changes to H1B visa applications; Advanced degree holders get top priority

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a final rule for H1B visa applicants that will raise the probability of more US advanced degree holders filling the first wave of total available slots. This recalibration will filter out those with just bachelor’s degrees, making it harder for them to get an H1 Visa approval.

The DHS summary states:

This final rule amends Department of Homeland Security (“DHS” or “the Department”) regulations governing petitions filed on behalf of H-1B beneficiaries who may be counted toward the 65,000 visa cap established under the Immigration and Nationality Act (“H1B regular cap”) or beneficiaries with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions of higher education who are eligible for an exemption from the regular cap (“advanced degree exemption”).

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The Trump administrations’s rule goes into effect 1 April. In the current system, 65,000 visas are available in addition to 20,000 for those with advanced degrees from a U.S. institution. The annual lottery is scheduled for April generally starts with lottery for the advanced-degree holders first. The change is estimated to increase the number of advanced-degree holders selected in the lottery by 16 percent, or 5,340 workers each year, the USCIS said

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) chief L. Francis Cissna was quoted saying “these simple and smart changes are a positive benefit for employers, the foreign workers they seek to employ, and the agency’s adjudicators, helping the H-1B visa program work better”.

“The new registration system, once implemented, will lower overall costs for employers and increase government efficiency. We are also furthering President Trump’s goal of improving our immigration system by making a simple adjustment to the H-1B cap selection process. As a result, U.S. employers seeking to employ foreign workers with a U.S. master’s or higher degree will have a greater chance of selection in the H-1B lottery in years of excess demand for new H-1B visas.”

There are several experts voicing concerns about this move. Cyrus D Mehta, founding partner of a New York based law firm told TOI,

“The skewing of H-1B visas towards those with master’s degrees from US institutions under the new selection methodology is in some senses counter to the H-1B law, which was to permit those with foreign degrees, and equivalent work experience, to qualify for H-1B classification. Hence, a foreign physician with a master’s degree in medicine from a foreign university who intends to provide critical medical services in a shortage area in the United States may have less chances of nabbing an H-1B visa under the new proposal.”
“Even a highly skilled IT worker with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from a reputed Indian institution such as the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), will have less chance of getting an H-1B in the new proposal. Both the physician and the IT worker with foreign degrees have the potential of making contributions to the US in the same way, or even greater, as one who has recently graduated with an MBA from a US.

Others like feel that the move is a step in the right direction. Mohan K, an Enterprise Architect and a technology consultant says

“Foreign students pursuing advanced degrees in American Universities are likely to benefit from this move. Graduates of such programs are more likely get their H1 Visas approved and will stay back and contribute to the US economy.

While there will be some short term confusion, the move is likely to attract more students to American Universities.

However, students planning to pursue advanced degrees and PhDs in the US, should  will have to keep in mind that a rule like this is not ‘law,’ but a policy decision by the Trump administration. As a recent WSJ article indicates, the move may be challenged in the court or rolled-back by future administrations.

About H1B: The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa category in the United States under the Immigration & Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows U.S. employers to seek temporary help from skilled foreigners who have the equivalent U.S. Bachelor’s Degree education. Link to a list of The list of Top 100 H-1B Employers in 2017