EB-5 visa program for wealthy investors grows
Posted on November 3, 2011
The huge Solaris project under construction in Vail for four years isn’t simply going to produce new residences and commercial spaces in a Colorado resort. It also has the potential to yield green cards for as many as 160 wealthy foreigners and their families.
This fast track to legal status is possible because Solaris developers are seeking $80 million from foreign investors – mainly Chinese and South Koreans – under a little-known but rapidly growing visa program called the EB-5. The 21-year-old program is currently being rediscovered in the aftermath of America’s crippling recession.
To qualify for EB-5 visas, foreigners must invest at least $500,000 in a US project or business that will create at least 10 jobs. If that happens within two years, the foreign investor qualifies for legal-residence status that includes bringing a spouse and dependent children to America.
Detractors say it is nothing more than a way for the wealthy to buy their way into the country or another avenue for investment scams. But backers of the program call it a great alternative to going to a bank in this economy for loans: It’s a way to garner capital funding, create jobs, and attract educated and accomplished immigrants who will be valuable additions to the American melting pot.
“It’s like when you buy a season pass to Vail to ski. With EB-5, you buy a season pass to live in America and you pay $500,000 for it,” explained Jeff Edwards, who recently sold one of four government-approved centers in Colorado that serve as middlemen linking developers with foreign investors.
Edwards added that the goal of the EB-5 program is “sincere and genuine.”
“It’s desperately needed in this economy,” he said.
That need is reflected in the mushrooming of so-called EB-5 Regional Centers across the country as banks clamp down on domestic lending and unemployment rates stay high. The numbers of approved centers that make money by charging fees to hook up investors and projects climb weekly on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website. There are currently 191, compared with 11 in 2007.
There also is huge growth in the number of EB-5 marketers, attorneys and economists who do everything from drawing in foreign investors to writing financial reports for the regional centers. The Internet is rife with pitches for “free consultations” and promises of “Get your USA green cards.” EB-5 “boot camps” are being held in hotel ballrooms across the country.
1 Nov 2011