For Indian nationals in the EB-2 visa queue, waiting for their Green Card approval can take decades. With the current backlog, it can be a daunting and uncertain process that could leave many in limbo for years. This is why Indian EB-2 visa applicants should consider switching to the EB-5 visa program, which offers a faster and more reliable path to obtaining a Green Card.
EB-5 applicants can also quickly obtain an employment authorization document (EAD) and continue to live and work in the United States while they wait for their Green Card.
What is more, Indian EB-5 investors can avoid EB-5 visa delays by investing in a rural TEA project.
EB5AN invites you to watch our recent interview with Ram, an investor in our Twin Lakes Georgia EB-5 project. A former EB-2 applicant, Ram analyzed how long the EB-2 immigration process would take and determined that EB-5 was a much faster and safer option. His experience can provide helpful guidance for Indians considering either the EB-2 or EB-5 pathways.
In this article, we summarize many of the points discussed in the interview and provide EB-2 applicants with an approximate timeframe for their immigration process.
Understanding the Supply and Demand of EB-2 Visas
The long wait for EB-2 visa applicants can be attributed to the imbalance between supply and demand. The supply refers to the number of visas issued for EB-2 Indian nationals, and the demand refers to the number of people applying for EB-2 visas from India.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS approved around 7,000 EB-2 visa applications for Indian nationals in 2015. However, this number has been on a decline, with only about 2,500 applicants approved in 2020. The lower numbers in 2020 and 2021 can be attributed to the pandemic, as there was a spillover of family-based visa applicants into the employment visa category.
In the best-case scenario, USCIS will return to processing about 7,000 applicants per year, but in the worst case, this number could be as low as 2,000.
And on the demand side, the number of applicants waiting for their priority date to become current is quite high.
(A priority date is the date on which an EB-2 applicant submitted their application. Indian EB-2 applicants can move on in the immigration process only when the USCIS-imposed “cutoff date” falls later than their priority date. USCIS moves forward the cutoff date for EB-2 applicants gradually. See this article for more information on how cutoff dates work.)
Each applicant in the EB-2 category must have an I-140 petition approved before they can proceed with their Green Card application. There are around 30,000 I-140 approvals for Indian nationals each year. The running sum of these approvals indicates that there are about 200,000 I-140 applicants approved with a priority date of December 31, 2021, or earlier. When accounting for dependents and removing duplicates and abandoned applications, this number rises to approximately 440,000.
This means that EB-2 applicants who applied on December 31, 2021, or earlier, may have about 440,000 waiting in line in front of them. This number will be even larger for EB-2 immigrants who applied after this date.
The Long Wait: Analyzing the Approval Rate
To better understand the waiting times, we can analyze the approval rate for different priority dates, assuming three different processing levels for EB-2 visas: 5,000, 7,000, and 10,000 per year.
For example, someone with a priority date of December 31, 2018, could expect to wait anywhere from 29 years (best case, processing 10,000 per year) to 59 years (worst case, processing 5,000 per year).
If an EB-2 applicant applied somewhat earlier—in 2017, for instance—their wait time will not be much shorter. Applicants who filed their petitions in May 2017 have an approximate wait time of 20-35 years.
This wide range of waiting times presents significant challenges for applicants who must maintain their employment status, career level, and legal status in the United States throughout the waiting period.
The EB-5 Visa: A Faster Alternative
Considering the lengthy waiting times for Indian EB-2 visa applicants, the EB-5 visa program offers a more appealing option. The EB-5 visa program is designed for foreign investors who invest a minimum of $800,000 in a qualifying U.S. business venture that creates at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.
This investment-based visa category provides a quicker path to obtaining a Green Card, with processing times typically taking around 2 to 5 years.
Here’s what Ram, an Indian national, did when he chose an EB-5 visa as the fastest way to get a Green Card.
Why Choose the EB-5 Visa Over the EB-2 Visa
Faster Processing Times: The most significant advantage of the EB-5 visa is the relatively quicker processing time compared to the EB-2 visa. Applicants can obtain their Green Card in a matter of years rather than decades.
Flexibility in Career Path: Unlike the EB-2 visa, which requires applicants to maintain their specific work level and employment status, the EB-5 visa offers more freedom to pursue different career paths and business opportunities in the United States.
Greater Stability for Families: The EB-5 visa allows applicants and their immediate family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21) to obtain their Green Cards simultaneously. This provides greater stability and peace of mind for families, as they can establish their lives in the U.S. without worrying about long waiting times and maintaining legal status for decades.
No Visa Re-Stamping: With the EB-5 visa, holders can travel in and out of the United States without the need for visa re-stamping. This eliminates the hassle and uncertainty associated with maintaining legal status while waiting for the EB-2 visa to be approved.
In addition, the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (the “RIA”) offers Indian EB-5 investors an opportunity to bypass processing delays by investing in rural projects.
USCIS sets aside 20% of the total EB-5 visa supply for rural TEA projects.
Foreign nationals who invest in these types of projects qualify for reserved EB-5 visas, allowing them to avoid cutoff dates and effectively skip the line over investors who do not qualify for reserved visas. Rural projects also offer unique benefits, such as lower demand relative to the number of reserved visas available and priority processing, making them an attractive option for foreign investors.
Making the Switch to the EB-5 Visa
Given the extensive waiting times and challenges associated with the EB-2 visa, Indian EB-2 visa applicants should seriously consider switching to the EB-5 visa program. The faster processing times, flexibility in career paths, stability for families, and elimination of visa re-stamping make the EB-5 visa a more attractive and viable option for those looking to establish a life in the United States.
By investing in a qualifying U.S. business venture, Indian nationals can significantly expedite their journey to a Green Card and enjoy the benefits of permanent residency without the uncertainty and limitations of the EB-2 visa. For more information, schedule a free consultation with EB5AN or watch our recent investor interview.