By Salman Siddiqui
President Joe Biden's decision to lift COVID-related travel restrictions on key EB-5 countries has created a buzz in the EB-5 industry, with professionals predicting that the move could create a positive impact on the EB-5 program.
On Oct. 26, Biden signed an order that lifted severe travel restrictions on travelers from major EB-5 countries such as China, India and several EU states, allowing them to enter the U.S. from Nov. 8 provided they meet strict vaccine requirements.
‘Good news’ for the EB-5 industry
Bernard Wolfsdorf, who is the former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, termed Biden's move a big step in the right direction.
"The lifting of country specific bans and focus on vaccination will result in a surge of travel to the U.S. from key EB-5 countries, such as China, Vietnam, Taiwan, India, Korea, and Brazil,” he said.
"This big step will further promote an already strong interest in the EB-5 program.”
Wolfsdorf, managing partner of WR Immigration, also said the move comes as the industry expects an EB-5 surge once the reauthorization of the EB-5 regional center program takes place.
"There is so much pent up demand for travel and for EB-5, we expect to see a boom in demand as soon as the EB-5 regional center program is reauthorized for the 31st time," Wolfsdorf said.
He also pointed out the lowering of the green card investment threshold was another incentive that foreign travelers to the U.S. would have their eyes set on.
“The good news is it will be much easier for vaccinated people to be able to travel to the U.S. and this will certainly trigger another surge in EB-5, especially since the green card investment amount has been reduced to only $500,000,” Wolfsdorf said.
Welcoming EB-5 investors is key for economy
Edward Beshara, who is the managing partner of Beshara Global Migration Law Firm, said the ease in travel restrictions would give EB-5 investors the chance to see the projects themselves in person before taking the risk of putting their money into it.
“Basically, the lift of COVID travel restrictions will allow potential EB-5 investors from China, India and Europe to enter the U.S. and personally visit the Regional Center offices and projects that have already started or about to start,” he said.
“Usually, EB-5 investors from these countries like to plan ahead and visit the U.S. knowing that their Conditional Residency will be approved in a short period of time,” Beshara said.
He also said the EB-5 investment is vital not just for the U.S. economy, but could play a big role in the fight against COVID.
“U.S. Congress needs to be aware that EB-5 investors’ commitment of investment funds will engage new U.S. jobs and, therefore, the process of welcoming the EB-5 investors is essential not only for improving the economy but also in assisting those projects in the medical field to combat COVID,” Beshara said.
Need for accommodating travelers with non-U.S. vaccines
All foreigners traveling to the U.S. must be fully vaccinated by a vaccine that is authorized by the CDC and the World Health Organization, according to the details of the new international air travel policy released by the White House and the State Department. This leaves travelers who took unauthorized vaccines such as Russia's Sputnik vaccine at a disadvantage since they might not be allowed to travel to the U.S.
EB-5 industry professionals acknowledge that this would leave out many foreign travelers to the U.S., especially given the fact that many countries, including those in South America, have inoculated their populations using vaccines like Sputnik, but they're optimistic that solutions would be found in time to address the issue.
"There is a concern over non-World Health Organization approved vaccines but hopefully we will see compliant vaccines worldwide as soon as global production ramps up," Wolfsdorf said.
Meanwhile, such investors could make use of virtual platforms.
“These EB-5 investors, if they can't visit the U.S. in person, they can have Zoom calls with the project's principals as well as the service providers including U.S. immigration attorneys to make an informed decision,” Beshara added.
Fully vaccinated travelers to the U.S. are also expected to show a negative COVID-19 test before boarding the aircraft.