Business immigration to the US in 2017

Business immigration to the US in 2017

Business immigration to the US in 2017

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

Regardless of the potential changes to US immigration law as a result of the Trump presidency, the United States is still 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 has continued to grow. This may be due in part to the fact that Trump’s immigration rhetoric does not cover these visa categories. However, after the election, Trump even backed down on his hard-line stance on the H1B Specialty Occupation visa category.

While the fate of undocumented aliens in the country remains uncertain, business immigration to the U.S. is likely to continue to be popular and contribute to the booming U.S. economy. In addition, any significant changes to US immigration policy would have to be approved by Congress. A sitting president can only do so much using 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 of the parties to the E2 Treaty have maintained a corresponding treaty with the United States for decades. Some, as in the case of the United Kingdom, number in the 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. In addition, Trump’s unilateral withdrawal would be extremely unpopular with E2 countries, the American public, and US citizens who enjoy the same benefits of doing business abroad in a reciprocal E2 country.

Immigrant entrepreneurs and investors were rarely mentioned during the campaign (if at all), and it was even revealed that President-elect Trump’s son-in-law used EB5 investor financing 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 looking to immigrate permanently to the United States.

The EB5 Regional Center investment was set to expire on December 9, 2016. As in the past, the program was temporarily funded and extended until April 28, 2017 – with no changes to the minimum investment amount or requirements. What makes this expansion unique is that it will likely be the last before Congress raises the minimum capital contribution, something that has been debated for the past few years. This temporary “as is” extension allows investors to file their EB5 petitions during the first four months of 2017 at the reduced investment amount of $500,000 USD for projects located in Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs). This is certainly a welcome relief to all investors who may not have been able to organize their petitions before the December 9, 2016 deadline.

Along 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 beginning December 23, 2016. Currently, the EB5 filing fee is $1,500 USD. As of December 23rd, this fee rises to $3,675 USD – an increase of $2,175 USD. Perhaps the most significant increase in EB5 fees is for businesses seeking to establish a USCIS-approved regional center. That fee, currently $6,230 USD, jumps to $17,795 USD – an increase of 186%.

Regional centers are also required to 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 implemented along with other USCIS fee changes. The large increase in filing fees for regional center designation is aimed at preventing EB5 fraud by limiting applications to serious businesses with the means to support large EB5 projects. 2017 is likely to see a decrease in I-924 applications given the large fee.

The upcoming USCIS fee increases will affect other US business immigration categories along with the EB5 visa. Form I-129, used to file for L and H1B visas, among others, will increase to $460 USD. Sponsoring a foreign worker for a green card through Form I-140 will be increased to $700 USD. These fee increases, while significantly lower than the EB5 fee, may deter smaller U.S. companies from sponsoring nonimmigrant or immigrant foreign workers.

Despite fee increases and a new US president, the outlook for business immigration in 2017 looks good. Companies are still expanding in the States and the need for specialized foreign workers remains high. The expansion of the EB5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program will continue to make the United States a cost-effective option for immigrant investors seeking permanent resident status.

#Business #immigration

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