For most Indian parents, like any other non-US citizens considering undergraduate collegiate programs for their children in the United States are confronted both by the challenge of gaining admission to the college of their choice as well as the daunting task of securing immigration rights for attending as well as pursuing their post graduate plans.
In the quest for a diverse student population, most American universities encourage international admissions. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is fairly cooperative in granting temporary student visas (F-1) that accommodate those interested to study in the US, but student's rights are quite limited.
First visitation of college campuses in advance of application is extremely precarious as one can never be sure of obtaining tourist visas to come to the US for this purpose. Second, the student visa requires evidence of financial support, but once obtained the student visa precludes the foreign student from working off campus to defray college expenses.
Finally, upon graduation most students are required to return to their country of origin losing out on the opportunity for post-graduate education in the United States as well as employment opportunities in "the land of opportunity". Unfortunately for most without some permanent resident status the American experience ends on graduation day.
But, there is a way that you can ensure the future for your children in the US by investing in time.
The US Congress has passed legislation allowing a limited number of foreigners the opportunity to gain green cards for themselves and their families by investing in US enterprises creating American jobs. The program is known as EB-5 which stands for Employment Based 5th Preference. It became popular with American business just a few years ago during the credit crunch.
By investing $500,000 in a US enterprise, applicants obtain green cards for their entire family including ALL unmarried children under 21 entitling permanent resident status in less than 12 months from application. Typically the investment is returned to the investor within 5 years. But the green cards are gained as soon as the money is invested.
Investors from across India have availed themselves for the Eb-5 program. Most investors pursue the program for the sole purpose of advancing their pre-college age children's opportunities for study and work in the US As children of investors must be under the age of 21 at application, planning for this program needs to start early.
The benefits are vast. Students with green cards can come to the US whenever they like while residing in their home country for college visits or any purpose. While in school, students can work off campus, accept internships, travel freely internationally, apply for all post graduate programs, and are much more valuable to American employers favoring foreigners eligible to stay in the US during their employment.
Green Cards apply as domestic students making admissions easier, pay domestic student fee, in-state tuition if applicable), have access to US student loans and to a much larger pool of financial aid.
To cite an example, at the University of California at Berkely, the published annual expenses to expect for non-resident's is around $57,000 while that for resident students is $32000. That's a $100,000 difference over a 4 year program!! So, if you have two children, that's a difference in cost of over $200,000.
Add to this the difference in earning opportunities for resident students, who can get jobs at market rates while international students can work in limited openings mostly on campus that pay minimum wage rates, thereby reducing the amounts required towards living expenses while studying.
The major boost comes upon graduation. Job opportunities are many more and pay packages are typically 25-30% higher at the first job level for residents. This later flows into higher increments, promotions and switching opportunities that at the end of 10 years, i.e. the minimum time between starting on an H1B to getting a Green Card for foreigners, can translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars in earning differences.
For students wanting to pursue highly specialized fields like medicine, dentistry, robotics etc, admissions for international students is very difficult as a majority of programs are open only for residents. These high income fields are much easier to get into for Green Cards.
And these are just the benefits of green card holders important to students. Green cards leading the way to American citizenship are the most sought after immigration rights in the world. By investing for their future, parents can help plan for their children to settle in the US bringing them at par with US residents and taking away any disadvantages to them of being foreigners.