Despite the controversies hounding the investment-for-visa program, statistics show more foreign investors than ever applied to the program rather than be put off by the questions involved during the application process. Data from the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) shows there was a significant jump in the number of foreign investors who applied for visas through the EB-5 program in 2015.
USCIS figures show the number of application for the s for the EB-5 investments-for-visas program increased to approximately 17,791 applications in 2015, a significant jump from the 11,744 applicants in 2014, and an increase of more than 200 percent from the 6,554 applications in 2013.
The surge in applications has led to a significant backlog of applications with the USCIS. Due to the staggering demand experienced in 2015, it’s estimated there are more than 21,000 applications awaiting processing by the end of the previous year.
It’s quite notable that a program that has seen its share of criticisms and questions from government officials continues to attract interested investors. As for the reason why applications have surged, an immigration official stated that investors might have fears over the program being discontinued by Congress because of the controversies.
In other words, investors from overseas are making applications while the program is still in its current form. Because applications were lodged long before any possible alternations to EB-5 will made, these investors are hoping to qualify for the benefits in store for them.
EB-5 attracted considerable interest from investors when it was first passed in 1990. The program was meant to spur employment in areas with high rates of unemployment, encouraging foreign investors to siphon cash into the economy. For a low investment floor of $500,000, investors can apply and be granted resident status, provided they create at least 10 jobs with their enterprises. Normally, a minimum investment of $1,000,000 is required outside of the EB-5’s provisions.
While the program was intended to fuel development in rural areas that could benefit from continued employment, EB-5 has inadvertently led to an increase of high-rise projects in major cities, instead small and fur-flung towns. Foreign investors seeking to gain resident status willingly funded such projects, even for very minimal returns, thus fostering a surge in high-profile real estate developments in areas that don’t actually need them.
This loophole in the program, as well as a provision that gives state governments flexibility in defining high-unemployment areas, has drawn the attention of the US Congress, with many representatives threatening to amend some key features of the program, hence the surge in EB-5 applications from foreign investors.
Fortunately, investor fears seem to have calmed down after Congress allowed the program to continue unchanged.
To learn more about how potential changes to the EB-5 Visa Program will affect you or someone you know, consult the legal team of Lyttle Law Firm today. We handle immigration cases nationwide and throughout the world. Call us today at (512) 215.5225.