Indian EB-5 investor enjoys successful career with EB-5 visa
By Moustafa Daly
Landing in New York City as a 13-year-old for the first time nearly a decade ago, Indian-born Nishka Dhawan was immediately enamored by the vibrant metropolis. So much so that when she turned 18, she left behind her comfortable life in India and took off to New York City on a student visa to pursue an acting degree at New York University.
“My life before coming to the US was pretty comfortable; I had great friends and went to a good school and lived in a nice neighborhood,” Dhawan said. “It was a nice really mapped-out life. I had a really loving family; it was not like there’s any particular need for me to want to leave India. But for me to carve out my own life, I really had to start somewhere new.”
Change of academic course
Soon after starting college, Dhawan realized that acting may not be the ideal career should she want to continue living in the U.S. after graduation. Quickly, she changed her major to pursue a more stable career path.
“I changed my major at NYU to psychology and journalism, and graduated with a double degree in both in 2019,” she said.
Upon graduation, Dhawan began a promising career that saw her work at prominent news organizations the likes of CNN, Bloomberg, USA Today, and Rolling Stone, where she currently occupies the position of e-commerce editor.
“I think my biggest milestone was when I worked at USA Today,” she said. “I started off as a writer and within 3 months I was one of the editors. I was one of the youngest editors on site.”
Work visa or EB-5 visa?
Dhawan’s journey in the US was made a whole lot more convenient after she told her dad, when she was still a student, of her desire to remain the US permanently after graduation, to which he responded: “You can't just bank on a work visa. If you want to live there comfortably, you need to figure out another plan,” according to Dhawan.
Her father started to explore EB-5 for his daughter and their whole family.
“My dad made that decision when I told him I didn’t want to move back to India after graduation. He said that if I want to stay in the States, I need to have a concrete plan,” she explains.
Shortly after, Dhawan’s family sought legal counsel and began their EB-5 applications.
“The initial process was okay; we knew what we were doing with the EB-5 visa. My dad basically handled all of it. We had good lawyers, and CanAm Enterprises was brilliant,” she recounts.
The road to EB-5 visa wasn’t paved with roses
“I think the one big challenge that we faced was that it’s a huge amount of money that you must commit in one go,” she says. “That was a little hard on us at the time just because, you know, NYU fees were so high and it is a lot of cash to put down. That was basically one of the hardest parts.”
Unlike other EB-5 investors, however, Dhawan’s family was fortunate enough to get their EB-5 visa plus their investment value back.
“There are families that don't get that investment back, and families that don't end up getting the EB-5. We were very lucky in that regard because we were able to get our investment back,” she said.
After successfully applying for the EB-5 visa, the next step was to get a green card, a process that proved more difficult than she initially thought.
“When we first received our temporary green cards; my parents received theirs but mine got lost in the mail,” she recounts. “It got lost in the mail and it was a very big hassle trying to get it back because they had they made us repay the amount for getting the green card and that was really frustrating.”
“I had to wait about six extra months just to have my green card back.”
Perks of having the EB-5 visa
Receiving her green card in 2018 has opened up a world of possibilities for Dhawan’s life and career in the US.
“Getting the EB-5 visa was a big deal because I could now work in the United States without having to say that I need visa sponsorship, which changes a lot,” she explains.
“It's one less hurdle to overcome. It's one less thing that the company needs to look at before they hire you,” she adds. “So I would say it has had a big impact on that parameter because I could work at such amazing places like CNN and Rolling Stone.”
These achievements, Dhawan adds, would not have been possible without the EB-5, which afforded her the luxury and comfort to design her own life even in the most uncertain of times.
“Getting the EB-5 visa also meant that when in 2020 the pandemic hit and I wanted to take a little bit of a break, I could do that. I didn't have to keep working because again, I didn't have a sponsored visa. So I could just take time off work. If I wanted to focus on my mental health, I could do that. And that's the luxury that having that EB-5 visa provides to you,” she explains.
The USCIS could do better for EB-5 investors
One thing that remains frustrating to Dhawan and her family is the fact that they’re yet to get their permanent green card, which she says is due to mismanagement by the USCIS.
“We're still obviously waiting on our permanent green card which the USCIS has severely delayed,” she explains. “We have been waiting for years now but they kept sending multiple extension letters. We had to go to the embassy and get our passport stamped just so we could travel because they're so backlogged right now.”
Up until today, nearly five years after receiving her temporary green card, Dhawan and her family are still waiting on the USCIS to issue their permanent ones.
“They haven't even given us a date on when we're going to get our permanent green cards – it’s very frustrating,” she says. “We're not really happy with how USCIS has worked towards this – we’ve done everything right, had no offenses against us, and I’m a high-paying individual in the US. You would expect the green card would be here already […] but we’re still waiting.”
The future is full of options
Despite the delays, Dhawan says she is grateful for her EB-5 visa which afforded her great opportunities and, above all, security in knowing that the US could be her forever home.
“The EB-5 is a wonderful way for anybody to kind of enter the United States on their own merit and have a comfortable life and not have to worry about things like sponsorship or being kicked out of the country because your visa is expiring,” she said. “I am very grateful that my father could do that for us and take that decision for our family at the time because I was 18 years old and not thinking about the future.”
For now and the foreseeable future, Dhawan plans on continuing to live in the US while pursuing her career goals. She may opt to do a master’s in Europe before returning to the US once again.
For her parents, the EB-5 visa has afforded them the luxury of choosing the retirement lifestyle they wish.
“I think I will be living in the United States for a long time. My parents are planning on retiring soon and will decide whether they want to retire in the United States or they want to retire more permanently somewhere in India and then just come and spend a few months in the United States,” she said.