A great many South Africans have taken advantage of the relatively flexible requirements of the EB-5 investment visa to emigrate to the United States with their families. However, those who are still keen to apply should do so before 21 November 2019, when stringent new rules come into effect – most notably a change to the minimum investment amount required.
These rules, published in the Federal Register on 24 July, intend to return the programme to its Congressional intent – to provide an incentive for foreign capital investment in the US, particularly in rural areas or those experiencing high unemployment.
The threshold is currently $500 000 to qualify for the EB-5 visa in a designated Targeted Employment Area (TEA), but this will be increased to $900 000 in November. This is slightly less than the $1.35 million proposed in an earlier version of the regulation. For a person wishing to invest in a non-TEA, the minimum investment threshold is US$1-million – from 21 November onwards, this amount will increase to $1.8 million.
Other anticipated changes include revised standards for certain TEA designations and allowing previous EB-5 petitioners to retain their priority date under certain circumstances.
The ‘grace period’ of a little over three months is a window of opportunity for South Africans who would like to make a move to the United States. “We are seeing a global spike in applications as people take advantage of the old rules, so there could be a substantial backlog in the processing of applications, which already takes up to two years,” explains Stuart Ferguson, CEO of SA-based US residency consultants, American Dream. “Late applicants may miss the cut-off date completely and will have to comply with the new, more stringent, requirements in order to be accepted for residence in the United States – so investors are urged to act today.”
The EB-5 Investor Visa programme was first introduced way back in 1990 to encourage foreigners to invest in developments that benefit the US economy and create jobs. Those who invest qualify for US residency and ultimately, US citizenship for themselves and their immediate families.
Investors don’t have to live in the area where they have invested and will get their money back once the investment project is completed. Apart from having the necessary funds available, the only other requirement is that they don’t have a criminal record. Investors can be any age prior to entry.
What to do
“The EB-5 Visa has always been the easiest guaranteed way to get a Green Card or Plan B residency in the US,” Ferguson stresses. “There’s no time to lose if you want to take advantage of this fact. The longer you wait, the greater the processing backlog and the greater the likelihood that you will miss the cut-off.”
American Dream has operated in South Africa for 15 years and has offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Each office has a team of legal and financial experts to help your US immigration dream become a reality.
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