With long-awaited changes to the EB-5 US residency visa now imminent, South Africans planning to enter the United States under this popular Immigrant Investor Program are being advised to lodge their applications as soon as possible.
Leon Versfeld, a former South African High Court advocate and now an immigration attorney at specialist US law firm Versfeld & Hugo, will be in the country from March 24 – April 9 to conduct private consultations. He will advise potential investors on anticipated changes to the regulations and assist those wishing to lodge their applications before the new rules come into effect.
Versfeld’s visit to South Africa forms part of an international EB-5 visa roadshow that will include consultations with Brazilian investors from March 18 – 22.
Among the expected changes are an increase in the minimum investment from US$500,000 to US$1,35-million for ventures located within Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs). For investments located outside TEAs, the minimum capital contribution will likely rise from US$1-million to US$1,8-million. There may also be changes to the rules that define TEAs and where they are located. A TEA is typically a community or rural region with high unemployment.
“The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is one of the simplest ways to settle in the US and gain a Green Card and, ultimately, citizenship. It applies both to the investor and to his or her family,” says Versfeld. “While changes to the program have been talked about on and off for many years, it does seem that amendments are now imminent and those individuals who want to take advantage of it – whether under the old or new rules – need to plan accordingly.”
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which administers the program, lodged its proposed changes with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review in late February. This is the final step before the publication of new rules, which can then come into effect in as little as 60 days.
“We remain unclear as to the precise timeline,” explains Versfeld. “But it’s important to realise that these proposals do not need to pass through Congress before they come into effect. Many people think that, because Congress faces gridlock and dysfunction at the moment, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Modernization will be delayed. But this is not the case.”
He also emphasises that potential investors who file their application before the new rules come into force will still be governed by the current requirements. “They will not be required to invest the new, higher, amounts,” Versfeld says.
The EB-5 visa is the easiest guaranteed immigration mechanism for a person seeking a Green Card or an alternative residency in the US. Visa holders can be of any age and are not subject to health checks or minimum education requirements. They may live anywhere in the country and enjoy the benefits of a stable and strong economy, a good standard of living, exceptional medical care and high-quality tertiary education. Apart from being able to demonstrate access to the necessary funding, the only other requirement is that applicants must be of good standing and without a criminal record.
Versfeld & Hugo enjoys a 100% success rate with its EB5 visa applications and has assisted a large number of South Africans to relocate under this program.
This article was published in partnership with Versfeld & Hugo.