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U.S. will sell green cards to rich Indian families
Kirti Pandey  New Delhi | 15th Feb 2014

atcat Indians are being actively wooed by the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) with the offer of Green Cards for the entire family if they invest a minimum of $500,000 in the United States. This comes to around Rs 3.1 crore at Rs 62 a dollar. The Immigrant Investor Program, also known as EB-5, which was launched on Saturday in Delhi, came under criticism as a "citizenship for sale" offer. Its aim is to attract potential immigrants who can invest US $1 million or US $500,000 in "targeted employment areas" and create ten full time jobs within two years. The money will be put in various escrow accounts in the US for investment purposes. The investor gets the money back in five years.

The USCIS has roped in NYSA, a financial management company with offices in India, US and Singapore, to identify these individuals who can invest this amount in their country.

"The purpose of the EB-5 program is to stimulate the US economy through job creation and capital investment by offering immigrant investors the benefits of permanent residency in the United States," Pankaj Joshi, managing director of NYSA EB-5, India, told The Sunday Guardian. He said the scheme when launched in China witnessed 7,000 families migrating to the US, which prompted Washington, DC to tap India.

Uttarakhand-based Glocal University president, Amir Ullah Khan, who was formerly a part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said that the programme showed how the tanking of the US economy had changed its thinking. "Initially, there were several people in India, Malaysia and China who were eager to migrate to the US, but now with these nations emerging with strong economies, they have robbed the US of aspiring immigrants, whether it is workers or students. This is a desperate move by a desperate nation to seek money from emerging nations," he said.

Rahul Magan, corporate treasury manager, EXL Services, a BPO services firm with a large back-office presence in India, said that under the Reserve Bank of India's Liberalized Remittance Scheme (LRS), such a transfer would be legal only if the amount is $75,000 per person, per year. "All foreign exchange money transfers will be governed under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) rules. India is a dollar-scarce economy and this would lead to more dollar outflow from India," Magan said.

Reports say India Inc's hiring outlook has become the weakest in the past eight years in the Asia-Pacific region, even as job losses have emerged as a critical concern. Schemes such as the EB-5 may work to the contrary as India is actually hoping to gain some foreign investments to strengthen its economy and job outlook.

Pankaj Joshi of NYSA EB-5, India, rubbished these concerns by saying NRIs had always sent money to bail out the Indian economy and the families that would migrate to the US would send back dollars to India. "When the Indian economy was fluctuating, it was the NRIs who sent in dollars to bail it out. And those who will use the EB-5 visa will most likely not shut down businesses. They will hand over the businesses they are running to another family member perhaps. Or they will sell it to another Indian entity, so where is the question of dollar loss or job losses in India?" Joshi asked.

Joshi claimed that the scheme would save people from exercising perilous options to migrate. "All we are doing is offering a mechanism for interested parties to migrate. The aspirants would otherwise pay touts and nefarious trafficking agents who cause more harm than good. Now the US government steps in and creates a smooth passage for them. They get back their money in five years' time and will also earn interest till such time as their money is locked in with the US Treasury."

But economists like Khan are not too worried by the US government's EB-5 offer affecting the Indian economy. "Most Indians will not pull out Rs 3 crore plus as the Finance Minister had said during the budget speech that only about 42,000 Indians earn more than Rs 1 crore per annum. So those who will avail of this scheme will have to show the legitimacy of the money and most likely it will be black money which will come into the flow. Money stashed away in the real estate market will emerge," said Amir Ullah Khan.

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