EB-5 Visa Program Changes to Result in a Shift Focus From Asia to Latin America

China was once the top ranking country of EB-5 visa grantees. The program, which promises a visa upon approval and a green card between 9 and 16 months later, has been popular among the Chinese elite. However, in recent years, with a cap on the number of Chinese that can receive the EB-5 visa, there has been an increasing focus on applicants originating from Latin America. Now, Chinese immigrant investors are facing even tougher entry for US entry, further opening the possibilities for Latin American Investment.

According to Benjamin Jarmon, founder and executive director of Joorney, “There has been a necessary refocus in the EB-5 industry to South America, a continent that has been in political and economic turmoil for the past 2 years, which now presents natural customers for investments in the U.S. economy, a far more secure option.” For those living in Latin America, the opportunities for investing are low, the risks high, and the outcomes are anyone’s guess, resulting in a number of investors with un-invested funds.

Although critics argue that the EB-5 visa is geared towards high bracket earners, the USCIS is being more careful than ever in delivering visas and green cards. The proposed legislation will change investment requirements, increasing the minimum initial investment of $500,000 to $800,000, and will require additional background checks and verifications. These changes may initially limit the pool of applicants, but it marks the first investment adjustment made by USCIS to the EB-5 program since the 1990s.

Furthermore, while the EB-5 program focuses on both rural and urban areas, there has always been a greater attraction to urban centers. This has been a point of great contention among lawmakers. Projects in rural areas bring work to job seekers and boost the economy. However, investors are less interested in unknown areas and are keen on big cities. However, big city projects, despite the fact that they provide jobs for lower-income surrounding areas, are fixated on elevating already rich and powerful cities.

In conjunction with the cap on Chinese EB-5 application, Joorney expects the new legislation to lead to a ramped up increase in the number of Latin American application, even as the EB-5 program undergoes change and reform. There is a substantial percentage of South Americans with investable capital, who are also motivated by the political and economic unrest of their native country. The U.S. has recognized this issue, granting more visas to the Latino community than in previous years.

Applicants should not be discouraged as there have been some positive changes proposed, for example, the extending the renewal for the EB-5 program to 5 years. Jarmon emphasizes that now, more than ever, is the opportune time for Latinos to invest in U.S. ventures, “Between funds being locked down in Venezuela and the dropping exchange rate in Brazil, high net worth individuals in these countries, and other Latin American countries with similar predicaments, have been much more likely to get EB-5 visas as well as E2 and L1 visas.”

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