Who runs the world? Tech.

Legal Law

US Business Immigration in 2017

As the first quarter of 2017 draws to a close, it is clear that 2017 continues to offer opportunities for companies to expand into the US market, transfer foreign employees to a US branch, and the opportunity for foreign investors to obtain green cards through through qualified capital investment. However, many people wonder what changes are coming to US business immigration law, and whether the new presidential administration will affect their ability to travel to the United States for work or pleasure.

Regardless of any potential changes to US immigration law as a result of the Trump presidency, the United States remains a safe place to invest and grow a business. Since the election, interest in visa programs such as the E2 Treaty Investor Visa and the EB5 Immigrant Investor Visa continues to increase. This may be due in part to the fact that Trump’s immigration rhetoric did not extend to these visa categories. However, since the election, Trump has even backtracked on his hawkish stance on the H1B skilled occupation visa category.

While the fate of undocumented aliens in the country remains uncertain, US business immigration is likely to continue to be popular and help boost the US economy. In addition, any significant changes in immigration policy of the US must be approved by Congress. A sitting president can only do so much using executive orders.

Some potential clients have raised concerns that a Trump presidency would lead to the dissolution of popular business immigration categories like the E2 Treaty investor visa. Fortunately, this is unlikely. Many of the E2 Treaty countries have maintained the relevant treaty with the United States for decades. Some, such as the UK, have been around for hundreds. The treaty of commerce and navigation between the United Kingdom 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 in accordance with the terms of the agreement. Furthermore, for Trump to withdraw unilaterally would be highly unpopular with E2 treaty countries, the US public, and US citizens who enjoy the same advantages of starting a business abroad in a reciprocal E2 treaty country.

Immigrant entrepreneurs and investors were rarely mentioned during the campaign (if at all), and President-elect Trump’s son-in-law was even revealed to have used funds from EB5 investors for one of his real estate development projects. In fact, the recent extension of the EB5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program has made it even more attractive to foreign investors seeking to immigrate permanently to the United States.

The EB5 Regional Center investment was due December 9, 2016. As in the past, the program was temporarily funded and ran through April 28, 2017, with no change to the minimum investment amount or requirements. What makes this extension unique is that it will likely be the last before Congress raises the minimum capital contribution, something that has been under discussion for the past several years. This temporary ‘as is’ extension allows investors to submit their EB5 applications during the first four months of 2017 with a reduced investment amount of $500,000 USD for projects located in Target Employment Areas (TEAs). This is certainly a welcome relief for any investors who have not been able to organize their requests before the December 9, 2016 deadline.

In conjunction with the extension of the EB5 Program, USCIS will significantly increase its filing fees for the I-526 Petition and the I-924 Application for Regional Center Designation, effective December 23, 2016. Currently, the filing fee to file an EB5 Petition is $1,500 USD. As of December 23, that fee increases to $3,675 USD, an increase of $2,175 USD. Perhaps the most significant EB5 fee increase is for business people seeking to establish a USCIS-approved Regional Center. That fee, which is currently $6,230, jumps to $17,795, an increase of 186%.

Regional Centers must also submit an annual certification to maintain their designation with USCIS. There is currently no fee for this process, but a fee of $3,035 USD will be introduced along with the other USCIS fee changes. The large increase in filing fees for the Regional Center Designation is intended to prevent EB5 fraud by limiting applications to reputable companies with the means to support large EB5 projects. 2017 is likely to see a decline in I-924 applications due to the large fee.

The pending USCIS fee increases will affect other US business immigration categories along with the EB5 visa. The I-129 form, used to process L and H1B visas, among others, will increase to $460 USD. Sponsoring a foreign worker to obtain a green card through the I-140 form will increase to $700 USD. These fee increases, while significantly less than the EB5 fee, may discourage smaller US businesses from sponsoring foreign workers in nonimmigrant or immigrant status.

Despite fee increases and a new US president, the outlook for business immigration in 2017 looks bright. Businesses are still expanding in the United States, and the need for specialized foreign employees remains high. The extension of the EB5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program will continue to make the United States a profitable option for immigrant investors seeking to obtain permanent resident status.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *