By Anayat Durrani
For international students planning to study at a U.S. university, investing through the EB-5 program could get them a green card and a pathway to U.S. citizenship. Many foreign investors choose the EB-5 program for precisely that reason—to send their kids to a prestigious U.S. college or university.
“International students should consider the EB-5 visa as soon as they enter the U.S. with their F-1 visa,” says Bruna Canto, managing director, Latin America for First Pathway Partners.
The EB-5 program allows investors to gain permanent U.S. residence by investing $900,000 into a development project in targeted investment areas, or TEA. An investor can get green cards not only for themself but also their spouse and single children under age 21. Students over the age of 21 can apply independently as a principal applicant.
Why international students should consider the EB-5 visa
EB-5 investor Ishaan Khanna came to the U.S. from India on an F-1 student visa to pursue a degree in applied-information systems management at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. During his senior year he came across the EB-5 program as a way to stay and work in the U.S. He ended up investing in a Four Seasons hotel in Puerto Rico through a regional center named EB5 United in Santa Monica.
“My investment was $500,000 and I received my I-526 approval within 10 months. I applied in September of 2016,” Khanna told EB5 Investors Magazine.
China and India are two countries that send the most international students to the U.S. for education—382,600 and 207,500 international students respectively last year, according to a Student and Exchange Visitor Program report. For international students, getting a green card has many benefits, such as higher university admission rates, reduced in-state tuition and access to financial aid and scholarships.
“The number of scholarships and financial aid is higher for U.S. residents, compared to international students,” says Canto.
Another appealing aspect is the ability to stay and work in the U.S. without restrictions. For example, international students can only apply for 12 months of Optional Practical Training after graduating with their bachelor's degree, and for another 12 months once they finish their master's degree.
“The EB-5 visa, upon approval, allows the applicant to work legally anywhere in the U.S., something that few international students would otherwise be able to do,” says Canto.
How a green card from EB-5 can help students’ careers
With a green card, international students will not have to worry about sponsorship for jobs or about renewing their visa. They can apply for U.S. citizenship after five years of receiving conditional permanent residency, assuming EB-5 program requirements are met.
“The EB-5 visa, upon approval, provides the applicant with permanent residency, which, in the case of students, allows them to pay in-state tuition, on average three times lower than international tuition, at public universities. These savings can amount to $35,000 per year, depending on the university,” says Canto.
Funds for investment in the EB-5 program can come from inheritance, sale of property, income, loans or gifts.
“International students interested in applying for the EB-5 visa should contact a trusted and established regional center and/or an immigration attorney. Requirements and processing times may vary depending on the applicant,” says Canto.