AVG American Investments — founded by Shalabh ‘Shalli’ Kumar, President Donald Trump’s biggest Indian American donor during the 2016 election cycle — is luring Indian businessmen to invest in the U.S., with the promise of a green card via the EB-5 investor visa.
EB-5 visas are allotted to foreigners who invest $500,000 in a project that employs 10 or more people in an area designated as a high unemployment area, also known as a targeted employment area – TEA – which is defined as areas having unemployment more than 150 percent of the national average calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A current wave of legislation in Congress is seeking to increase the qualifying amount to $1 million.
EB-5 visas are also allotted to those who have currently invested $1 million in a project that employs 10 or more people, anywhere in the U.S. Until now, Chinese nationals have largely scooped up EB-5 visas, but AVG American Investments is hoping to create a pipeline of Indian investors attracted by the visa.
10,000 EB-5 visas are allotted each year. No country can initially get more than seven percent of the visas meted out that year, but when other countries do not use their allotted amount, they are given to other applicants waiting in line. India has never used all of the 700 EB-5 visas it is allotted each year; China annually gets about 7,500.
With an EB-5 visa, an investor can jump the queue of those waiting up to 70 years for an employment-based green card. Legal permanent residency based on an EB-5 visa can be obtained in roughly 18 to 24 months.
Recently, Vikram Kumar, Shalabh Kumar’s son and the current chairman and CEO of AVG American Investments, met a group of Indian investors at a plush hotel conference room. His presentation started with a video highlighting the Kumar family's Indian roots and political clout, as reported by CNBC. Accompanied by Bollywood music and religious Hindu chants, the video showed the Kumar family celebrating Diwali with Trump in the Oval Office. The video also showed footage of the Kumar family meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The video goes on to explain how and where businessmen can invest to get into the EB-5 visa program.
"The Indian market is quite hot right now. I travel to India every month. I see a five times increase in applications," Shalabh's son Vikram Kumar, who heads the venture, told CNBC. He had just returned from the northern India town of Chandigarh, where he said five people paid $5,000 to sign on the spot right after his presentation.