H-1B vs EB-5: Which Visa is Ideal to Study or Work in the US?


Subhashri Roy
Updated on May 23, 2023 07:30 PM IST

Here is all about both H-1B and EB-5 visas, which is better for Indians aspiring to study, work and further reside in the US. With a lot of factors at play, here is a detailed comparison between the two to help you with your vital decisions when moving to the US for higher education. 

H-1B vs EB-5: Which Visa is Ideal to Study or Work in the US?

International students who want to fulfil their American dreams often wonder which visa path will be most suitable for them to study, work and live in the USA. Each visa route is different from each other and each has its requirements, benefits and limitations. H-1B visa and E-B 5 visa are two common routes to gain entry into the USA. 

That said, an H-1B visa is a temporary employment-based visa that is granted to employees after a US employer files a petition on their behalf. While this is among the most preferred visas for Indian students, gradually a tendency to shift to E-B 5 visa can be seen in this evolving immigration landscape. Both visas are conducive for those willing to live and work in the country but E-B 5 visa is an easier way to gain permanent residency in the USA. This article intends to walk you through both the immigration routes: the H1-B visa and E-B 5 visa and will attach all the details related to duration, permanent residency, visa requirements, annual quotas, etc. 

What is an H-1B Visa?

The H-1B visa is a work permit in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, letting foreign workers work at American companies. The worker should be employed in a speciality occupation, for which the employer was not successful in finding a US native. The highly specialized field should include but not be limited to biotechnology, architecture, engineering, chemistry, computing, statistics, medicine and health, physical sciences, journalism, and more. It has been further projected that the US is likely to require highly skilled professionals in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields in the coming years.

Apart from speciality knowledge, an H-1B applicant must also have held a bachelors degree or prior work experience. The visa allows the visa holder to stay in the US for three years, which can be further extended to six years.

Find Out More About USA Student Visa!

What is an EB-5 Visa?

Created in 1990, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program permits eligible foreign investors to become permanent residents of the US. This permanent residency would be evidenced by a Green Card, for which the immigrant must invest at least $900,000 in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) and employ no less than 10 American citizens. More wealthy individuals are opting for this visa to obtain permanent residency and green cards in place of the fact that all other visa options are getting difficult to obtain. This visa is preferred by people who wish their children to settle in the USA and have better access to job opportunities instead of relying upon H-1B visas. 

This visa program was introduced in order to boost the country's economic growth along with foreign investments. 1,381 Indians have applied for the EB-5 visa in 2022. An applicant, if found eligible, would receive an EB-5 Green Card for 18 to 20 months. 

Note: TEA is defined as rural areas or areas with unemployment 1.5x of the national average.

H1B vs EB5: A Quick Comparison

Given below are the highlights of both H-1B and EB-5 visas to have a quick understanding of the basic differences between the two:




Entry Requirements

Hired by a company that is willing to sponsor your visa process.

Must have invested USD 800,000 USD in a targeted employment area in a new business and created 10 US jobs.

Processing Time

No guarantee of approval

6 months to 2.5 years

Permanent Residence

H-1B visas do not guarantee permanent residence. It further requires sponsorship from an American employer, approvals for which are based on a lottery system

Can reside in the US permanently; easy to qualify

Visa Ownership

Owned by the sponsoring company

Owned by the investor alone

Professional Opportunities

Restricted opportunities, cannot set-up business

Unlimited opportunities and ease of movement

Future Viability

Been a decline due to immense political presence

More are inclining towards EB-5 visas


Unable to indulge in salary negotiation, lower pay

Can negotiate and get higher remuneration

Immediate Family Members

Allowed; must have an H4 visa

Allowed; no further step

H-1B or EB-5 Visa: Which One Should You Choose?

Diving deeper into the differences between the two, let us now have a close look at the bigger aspects of both H1B or EB5 visas:

Visa Pre-Requisites



  • There is no availability of American workers who can fill the job role at issue

  • The foreign worker must be paid more than the average wage for the job

  • The applicant must hold a bachelors or higher degree

  • Must be a highly specialised area

  • Must invest at least USD 900,000 (subject to change) in a Targeted Employment Area or a minimum of USD 1.8 million outside a TEA in a new commercial enterprise

  • Must create and sustain full-time jobs for at least ten American citizens.

Annual Cap

There is an annual cap for both EB-5 and H-1B visas. The current annual statutory cap for the H-1B visa program is 65,000 visas, with 20,000 more visas earmarked for foreign professionals who graduate from a designated US institute of higher learning with a master's degree or doctorate.

The EB5 programme has an annual cap of 10,000 visas, with 700 visas per country (7% per country cap). At least 3,000 of the total visas are set aside for I-526 visa applications based on investments in projects financed by a Regional Centre.

In India, there has been a growing demand for EB-5 visas, particularly from Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Mumbai, Punjab, and Delhi.

Duration and Permanent Residency

While H-1B visas are temporary visas valid for three years, EB-5 visas promise permanent residency in the US. After completion of three years, one can extend the validity of their H-1B visas for another three years and when the maximum duration of stay has expired, they would have to leave the country or apply for another status.

EB-5 visa applicants become permanent residents after their I-526 application has been approved by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). This gives them a two-year conditional permanent residency, allowing them to come to the States for two years.

After this period ends, the investor can apply for an I-829 application, which gives a full permanent residency to the investor, their unmarried children under the age of 21 and their spouse. Apart from letting them work and reside in the country, they may also apply for full US citizenship after five years.

Immediate Family Members

H1-B visas allow visa holder to bring their dependent family members to the US during their length of stay in the country. For this, they would have to apply for the H4 visa, which allows them to open bank accounts, go to school, and receive a social security number and a driver's license. Further, they can work in the US after applying for an EAD, short for Employment Authorisation Document.

Conversely, an EB-5 visa provides Green Cards for the entire family including the applicant, spouse and children under the age of 21.


An EB-5 visa allows the holder to do as he/she wishes - work, study, establish a business, or retire in the US. Contrary to that, the H1-B visa program limits one to a great extent in the case of employment. In case he/she loses his/her job in the States, he/she would be asked to leave the country or manage to get transferred to another qualified US employer.

How to Change from H-1B Visa to E-B 5 Visa?

If your H-1B visa is still in effect and good standing, you are permitted to submit multiple petitions to USCIS at once. As a result, you are not required to renounce your H-1B visa or any pending green card applications to participate in the EB-5 programme while working in the US. Here are the steps that you need to follow to change from H-1B visa to E-B 5 visa. 

  • You must first keep your H-1B status as long as it is still valid to apply for an EB-5 visa.

  •  The second step is to submit Form I-526, or an immigration petition by an alien investor, to the USCIS.

  • The following requirements must be met when filing Form I-526.:

    • For TEA firms, a capital investment of USD 800,000 is necessary, but non-TEA businesses must invest USD 1.05 million.

    • Your business plan must show that you can hire at least 10 Americans.

    • You must be able to establish that you obtained your investing cash legally.

You can obtain a green card if your application for an EB-5 visa to an H-1B visa is approved. To change your status and obtain a conditional green card:

  • Submit Form I-485 first.

  • Submit Form I-829 as a conditional after two years to become an unconditional bearer of a green card. 

  • After five years as an unrestricted permanent resident, submit an application for naturalisation as a US citizen. Your EB-5 visa application from your H1B visa can still be conducted concurrently with your other petitions for permanent residence.

Is the EB-5 Visa a Winner for International Students?

The EB-5 Visa has proven to be a blessing for international students from all over the world. Let us look at some of the reasons why the EB-5 visa could be a better choice than the H1-B Visa for international students:

  • Lower Tuition: Higher tuition fees in the US are not a new thing anymore. Most international students are required to pay a premium fee to get into a US university. However, the tuition fees for citizens and permanent residents are comparatively lower than it is for international students.
  • Access to More Scholarships and US Government Aid: Those on an EB-5 visa may apply for US government aid or scholarships that are otherwise unavailable to international students. This further helps with nudging the overall competitiveness of getting an international merit-based scholarship.
  • Higher Acceptance Rate: An international student on an EB-5 Visa has a higher chance of getting into one of US leading universities as an American resident. On the other hand, those with other visas are forced to face cut-throat competition to secure admission to top universities like Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Cornell University, to name a few.
  • Easier Path to Citizenship: An international holding an EB-5 visa gets a direct Green Card as opposed to other visa categories in the US. Also, after receiving a green card, one can apply for citizenship after five years and upon meeting certain criteria.
  • A Larger Pool of Internship and Post-Graduation Job Opportunities: A growing number of organisations in the US refrain from hiring international students who are on visas other than the EB-5 visa. This is because they want to invest their time on U.S. Citizens and Green Card Holders. This further contributes to higher salary, promotions and better job profiles.

What is even sad is the fact that very few H1-B visa applicants make the lottery and get to stay and work in the US after graduation. While an Indian H1B visa holder from India has to wait several years to get an employment-based green card, those on an EB-5 visa petition need to wait only for a few years.

One of the biggest benefits of both the H1-B and EB-5 visa programs is that they are both open to citizens of any country. What makes EB-5 a better choice for Indian study abroad aspirants are advantages such as a shorter wait time, higher university acceptance rates, an unrestricted work permit, no lottery, among other things. Overall, the distinctions between H-1B and EB-5 are substantial in terms of how they affect the life and future of the visa holder. While the H-1B visa can offer a temporary answer for legitimate employment status in the United States, it offers minimal chances for sustainability. If you already have an H-1B visa and want to take charge of your future, you might want to find out more about how to get a permanent EB-5 visa for you and your family. It is possible to apply for an EB-5 visa during the H-1B term, and permanent residency opens up a world of possibilities.

In case you have further questions about H1-B or EB-5, please write to us at abroad@collegedekho.com.

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What is the advantage of an E-B 5 visa over an H-1B visa?

With an H-1 B visa, an immigrant can stay in the US for a minimum period of 6 years before they are granted citizenship. On the other hand, the E-B 5 visa does not lay such requirements. Also, no sponsor is required for E-B 5 visa making it very flexible for investors to work and live in the US and they can be involved in the work more and more. 

What are the differences in eligibility criteria for an H-1 B visa and E-B 5 visa?

For an H-1 B visa, it is important to get sponsored by an employer for a job role for which no American is available. A graduate degree is required for it. In the case of an E-B 5 visa, an applicant must invest USD 800,000 has to be invested in the Targeted Employment Area (TEA) or USD 1.8 million in areas outside of TEA in a new commercial enterprise. 

How do the work opportunities vary for an H-1 B visa and E-B 5 visa?

As an H-1 B visa is an employer-sponsored visa, applicants need to be dependent on their employers. If they lose their job, they will have to find another sponsor within 60 days or have to leave the country. There are no such conditions under E-B 5 visas and it is easy to gain work opportunities in the country. 

Which is the easier path to get citizenship: an H-1B visa or E-B 5 visa?

The easier path to get citizenship is E-B 5 visa as compared to H-1B visa. They get Green Cards comparatively more easily than other paths. It is possible to get Green Card in two years after their I-526 visa application is approved. The waiting time however may vary as per country. 

Is it possible to apply for E-B 5 visa while holding an H-1 B visa?

Yes, it is possible to apply for E-B 5 visa while holding an H-1B visa. The processing time takes around 29.5 months to 61.1 months. For application, you need to concurrently file the EB-5 application I-526 and I-485 Adjustment of Status.


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