July Visa Bulletin shows India EB-5 Visa Priority Date as “Current”

The State Department has published the July Visa Bulletin, which offers some insight into the waiting times for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program. The most notable change in this month’s Visa Bulletin is that EB-5 Visa Priority Date for India has become “Current”.

What this means is that India is no longer in retrogression and EB-5 applicants born in India can progress to the next stage and schedule their visa appointment once they are approved.

At first glance this is exciting news and would appear to spell the end of the waiting list for Indians seeking an EB-5 Green Card. However, as we have cautioned before, this is likely to be artificial.

The probable explanation is that the rate of I-526 adjudications at the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has slowed significantly. Only after an I-526 has been approved can an applicant progress to obtaining a visa. So with fewer adjudications there is likely to be less demand at the National Visa Center, causing India to appear as “Current”.

With Covid-19 compounding the slowdown at USCIS, we will be keeping a close eye on the priority dates for you over the next few months.


Insolvency & Bankruptcy in India during Covid-19

Neha Mehta analyses what the Indian government is doing to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on bankruptcy and insolvency.

COVID-19 & INITIAL MEASURES

Covid-19 has altered the fabric of the global economy. Worldwide lockdowns, travel restrictions, restraint on international trade and other stringent measures to curb the pandemic, has led to uncertainty around the future of many businesses.
With the objective of lending support to struggling businesses, most nations, including India, have introduced fiscal, monetary and protective measures to prevent multiple bankruptcies.
In its first measure to protect small and medium enterprises, already under severe financial stress, the Government of India, in March 2020, raised the threshold of the default amount for invoking the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) to Rupees One Crore (earlier Rupees One Lakh).
The Government, to support and provide relief to businesses across all sectors subsequently indicated that it may suspend, for an initial period of six months, the (key) sections 8, 9 and 10 of IBC which trigger the insolvency process, and perhaps further extend such shield to a year, if the pandemic continues.


THE UNCERTAINTY
The effective date of such amendments would be the date of promulgation of an ordinance. However, as one was not issued, till now, speculation was rife over what the Government will do, especially with respect to the cut-off date to invoke insolvency under sections 8, 9 or 10.
In the midst of this, there has been an overwhelming section of the public that has been disenchanted over the attempt to shield defaulters and provide them benefits that they may not deserve. There has also been concern over whether the protections would extend to prior defaults, existing pre Covid-19. This includes borrowers, banks, financial institutions, legal professionals and parties affected by breached contracts.

Ultimately, on 17th May 2020 the Union Finance Minister, in line with earlier announcements, announced that the Government will promulgate an ordinance suspending initiation of fresh insolvency cases for a year, and that the amended definition of ‘default’ under the IBC would exclude Covid-19 related debt.
Despite the announcement, it was unclear whether fresh insolvency filings would include a debt or default occuring prior to the onset of Covid-19.

CLARITY
The air was cleared with the promulgation of an Ordinance on 5th June 2020 (Ordinance), suspending the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) for all defaults arising on or after 25th March 2020 for a period of six months, with a possible extension upto one year that may be notified subsequently (Suspension Period)
In essence, by virtue of the Ordinance no CIRP proceedings, may be invoked at any time in future, for defaults that have arisen during the Suspension Period. However, defaults occurring before or after the Suspension Period are not protected.
In addition, the Suspension Period is excluded from the six-month default period for declaration of a debt as a non-performing asset (NPA).


LENDERS – A HAPLESS BUNCH?
To say that these are challenging times for lenders would be an understatement. The IBC has not only provided efficacious and speedy remedy for recovery, it has also proved a strong deterrent against borrowers defaulting.

In the absence of this formidable weapon and shield, lenders may turn to The Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI) for enforcement of security interests, including enforcing mortgages of real property, and assuming management and control of a debtor.

While the Government has not suspended SARFAESI (at least not as yet), the deferment of NPA classification for the six-month Suspension Period may render SARFAESI a toothless tiger. This may leave lenders with the sole option of invoking dispute resolution provisions, as a method of recovery, in respect of a default. 

As far as affected parties to a contract, as IBC is off the table for the time being, their only option would be to resort to dispute resolution, which, of course, is neither as economical or as speedy as the CIRP process. 

CONCLUSION 

With a flood of defaults looming, questions will arise over whether these protective measures shield those who don’t really deserve protection, with a view to save the few who are genuine and well-intentioned. The argument in favour will, of course, be that the Government, by taking the broader long-term view, and allowing distressed businesses to heal and recover, will help the economy recover and, in the long run, even recoveries. Certainly, that would be the ideal outcome, but until we see that happen, lenders and parties to contracts that are owned monies will have to hold their breath and hope for the best. 

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. For more advice on the topic, please contact the author. 


India Tax Changes on Remittances Delayed to October

Sukanya Raman, Associate in our Mumbai office, analyses changes to India’s taxation of remittances.

In February, 2020 the Union Budget had proposed the levy of Tax Collected at Source (TCS) on remittances made under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) of the Reserve Bank of India. Although, the Scheme was introduced in the year 2004 with a limit of USD 25,000. This is the first time TCS shall be levied at 5% on remittances over and above certain limit.

TCS was to be applicable for remittances on or after April 1, 2020, as per the budget 2020. However, the provision shall now be effective from October 1, 2020.

In a Financial Year (FY) April- March under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme a resident individual can remit USD 250,000, equivalent to INR 1,90,00,000 with an exchange rate of INR 76.00.

LRS is applicable to resident individuals which also allows minors to remit money to any permissible current or capital account transaction or a combination of both. If remitter is a minor, then their natural guardian must undertake a declaration form. The LRS cannot be availed by corporates, partnership firms, HUF, Trusts etc.

TCS shall be collected at the rate of 5% on remittances aggregating to INR 7,00,000 or more in a financial year. 

Per the RBI guidelines, LRS is permitted for private visits to any country (except Nepal and Bhutan), gift or donation, traveling abroad for employment, emigration, investment abroad, maintenance of close relative abroad, medical treatment abroad, overseas education and Any other current account transaction which is not covered under the definition of the current account in FEMA 1999.

Under the LRS, remittances can be consolidated in respect of close family members. However, it shall be subject to the individual family members complying with the terms and conditions of the LRS.

The remitter is eligible to claim credit for the tax collected (TCS) by the bank while filing their Income Tax returns, if it is remitted to the sender’s own account abroad.  

Based on the data released by RBI, remittance rose by 36% in  FY20 to USD 18.75 billion over the previous high of USD 13.78 billion in FY19.

This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant as legal advice. For advice on this matter, please contact our team.