As the first quarter of 2017 draws to a close, it is clear that 2017 continues to offer opportunities for businesses to enter the US market, transfer foreign employees to US branches, and foreign investors to obtain green cards through immigration. Qualified capital investment. However, many are wondering what upcoming changes to US business immigration law and whether the new presidential administration will affect their ability to travel to the US for work or leisure.
Regardless of the potential impact of the Trump presidency on U.S. immigration law, the U.S. remains a safe place to invest and grow your business. Interest in visa programs such as the E2 Treaty Investor Visa and the EB5 Immigrant Investor Visa has continued to rise since the election. That may be partly due to Trump’s immigration rhetoric not extending to those visa categories. Since the election, however, Trump has even reversed his tough stance on the H1B special occupation visa category.
While the fate of undocumented aliens in the country remains uncertain, U.S. business immigration is likely to remain popular and contribute to a thriving U.S. economy. In addition, any major changes to U.S. immigration policy require congressional approval. A sitting president can only do so much with executive orders.
Some potential clients have expressed concern that a Trump presidency will lead to the dismantling of popular business immigration categories such as the E2 treaty investor visa. Fortunately, this is unlikely. Many E2 treaty countries have maintained related treaties with the United States for decades. Some, like Great Britain, have existed for hundreds of years. A treaty of commerce and navigation between Great Britain and the United States has been in force since the reign of George III in 1815. The United States can only withdraw from a ratified treaty under the terms of the agreement. Furthermore, Trump’s unilateral withdrawal would be extremely unpopular with the E2 treaty countries, the American public, and U.S. nationals, who enjoy the same advantages of doing business overseas in reciprocal E2 treaty countries.
Immigrant entrepreneurs and investors were seldom mentioned during the campaign (if at all), and it was even revealed that President-Elect Trump’s son-in-law used EB5 investor funding for one of his real estate development projects. Recent extensions to the visa program have made it more attractive to foreign investors looking to immigrate to the United States permanently.
The EB5 Regional Center investment was originally scheduled to expire on December 9, 2016. As in the past, the program is temporarily funded and extended until 28 April 2017 – there is no change to the minimum investment amount or requirements. What’s unique about this extension is that it’s likely to be the last before Congress raises the minimum contribution — something that’s been under discussion for the past few years. This “as is” temporary extension allows investors to file EB5 petitions for projects located in Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) during the first four months of 2017 with a reduced investment amount of $500,000. This will certainly be a welcome relief for any investors who may have failed to organize a petition by the December 9, 2016 deadline.
With the extension of the EB5 program, USCIS will significantly increase the filing fees for I-526 petitions and I-924 regional center designation petitions effective December 23, 2016. The current filing fee for filing an EB5 petition is $1,500. Effective December 23, the fee increases to $3,675 – an increase of $2,175. Perhaps the most notable increase in EB5 fees is for business persons wishing to establish a USCIS-approved Regional Center. The fee jumped from the current $6,230 to $17,795 — an increase of 186%.
Regional centers are also required to submit annual certifications to maintain their designation with USCIS. There is currently no fee for this process, but with other USCIS fee changes, there will be a fee of $3,035. The substantial increase in the regional center designation filing fee is intended to prevent EB5 fraud by limiting filings to serious businesses capable of supporting large EB5 projects. Given the high fees, the number of I-924 petitions may decrease in 2017.
Pending USCIS fee increases will affect other US business immigration categories as well as the EB5 visa. Form I-129 for L and H1B visas etc. will increase to $460. The fee to sponsor a foreign worker for a green card through Form I-140 will increase to $700. These fee increases, while significantly lower than EB5 fees, may deter smaller US companies from sponsoring foreign workers in nonimmigrant or immigrant status.
Despite rising fees and a new U.S. president, the outlook for business immigration looks bright in 2017. Companies are still expanding stateside, and demand for professional foreign workers remains high. The extension of the EB5 immigrant investor visa program will continue to make the United States a cost-effective option for immigrant investors looking to obtain permanent resident status.
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