Biden’s new immigration bill will benefit South Africans

The US administration under the Presidency of Donald Trump clamped down on immigration; with stringent and controversial laws implemented to stem the flow of immigrants, both legal and illegal, to the US.

After the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the new administration started implementing sweeping changes to undo many of the measures put in place by Donald Trump.

One of the changes significant to those interested in immigration to the US was the introduction of the US Citizenship Act of 2021 on 21 Jan, with the aim to overhaul the US immigration system. 

This new bill was one of the first changes to be made, and was intended to restore humanity to the immigration system, protect workers and stimulate the economy.

The EB-5 Programme

The new bill will significantly benefit those who will make use of EB-5.

Congress created the EB-5 programme in 1990, to stimulate the U.S. economy, through job creation and capital investment by immigrant investors. It allows foreign nationals, their spouses and unmarried children, under age 21, the ability to obtain a U.S. visa based on a minimum investment in a for-profit, at-risk enterprise, with the objective to create or retain a specified number of jobs in the U.S.

The minimum investment amount is $1,800,000. However, if the investment is made

in a designated area targeted for investment, referred to as Targeted Employment

Areas, the minimum amount is $900,000. These TEAs, as they are known, are

usually areas with high unemployment rates or situated in rural areas.

With an EB-5 investment, you and your qualifying family members are able to live and work anywhere in the US and can enjoy many of the benefits of residents, especially around education. The EB-5 investment programme offers a number of benefits that are specific to international students – so even if parents don’t want to move overseas, this may still be the best visa option for your children.

How the new bill will benefit South Africans.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 constitutes one of the biggest legislative overhauls the U.S. immigration system has seen in a long time. It revolutionises the way the US deals with immigration with the primary role of keeping families together. If you and your family are considering the EB-5 Programme you can look forward to these additional benefits offered by the new bill:

1. Shorter waiting periods

As it stands now, the typical international waiting period for an I-526 petition approval, which is the first step on the EB5 investment journey toward permanent U.S. resident status, is around two years. For investors subjected to the backlog, this extends the waiting period. 

The new bill however, promises shorter waiting times and for a relatively low-demand area such as South Africa, the waiting period will be even less. 

2. Easier naturalisation

On 2 February, 2021 President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order, which among other things, will review the naturalisation process to streamline it and make it more accessible. The comprehensive review of the process will include the N-400 application, fingerprinting, background and security checks, interviews, civics and English language tests, as well as the oath of allegiance, and aims to eliminate barriers. If these barriers are eliminated, it will substantially reduce current naturalisation processing times, while making the naturalisation process more accessible to all eligible individuals. It also includes a potential reduction of the naturalisation fee.

So, in essence, the EB-5 investor will find it easier to become a citizen – the final, and most important step of the EB-5 programme – because of the winds of changes sweeping through Washington.

3. Exemption of family members

The new bill promises exemption for the spouses and children of visa holders. Currently, EB-5 visas for spouses and dependent children are cutting into the overall number of visas available for EB-5 investment participants themselves. With roughly 10,000 EB-5 visas available per year, only around 3,000 go to investors. With spouses and dependent children exempted from this pool, thousands more EB-5 investors will become eligible for visas, allowing the USCIS to grant more families a brighter future in the United States.

4. Recapturing Unused Visas

At the beginning of every fiscal year, the USCIS designates a certain number of visas to each immigration program. If unclaimed visas remain at the end of the fiscal year, they are generally recycled into other programs more heavily favoured by the U.S. government. The new bill will change this practice and allow for the recapturing of unused visas into the same programme.

Recapturing unused visas will generally ensure that the EB-5 programme doesn’t lose visas it was previously allocated and could save thousands of unused visas from rolling over into other programs, benefitting South Africans who apply for a visa.

In conclusion

There are some encouraging changes taking place in the U.S. and individuals and their families, who are considering emigrating from South Africa, should consider the EB-5 programme. American Dream led the way in introducing EB-5 in South Africa. We distinguish ourselves by having a full-time presence in South Africa and are able to support our South African clients with a capable team of legal and financial experts, who will assist investors through every aspect of their emigration journey.

Something to keep in mind is the sunset date for EB-5, of June 30, 2021.  The programme is usually extended by Congress everytime it nears its sunset date and it is not something to be too concerned about. However, with all the surprises that we all have experienced over the last year, it would be prudent to speak to us sooner than later. 

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