Immigration experts in Washington, D.C. are making strong suggestions to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service that the agency should get help from the Department of Commerce in implementing the federal EB-5 immigration program. EB-5 was launched in 1990 and is intended to give foreign entrepreneurs an opportunity to obtain permanent residence in the U.S. in exchange for investing in American businesses. The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security and the Brookings Institution, a Washington-area think tank, determined that this investment-for-residency program exceeds the original intent of the Immigration Service’s mission. As such, the program needs to make better and more efficient use of the business counsel available through other federal agencies.
The visa program was originally intended to get wealthy foreign national to take interest and eventually invest in American businesses in order to create jobs. The nationals are required to make an investment of between $500,000 and $1 million depending on the location of the business and that investment must create a minimum of 10 new full-time jobs within two years. If those jobs are not created then the investor is sent back to his or her home country. However, there have been a number of failed projects that have been launched by the EB-5 program and which have subsequently drawn criticism from its opponents. One of the problems that the program faces is efficiency. Authors of the Brookings Institution report have suggested that certain of the program’s elements such as those related to vetting business plans or the determination of satisfactory job creation should be shifted to the Department of Commerce.
Other critics of the Institution’s report as well as of the EB-5 program itself say that the problems therein go much deeper than that. They indicate an issue of ethical integrity in the sense that the program’s bottom line looks a lot like the United States essentially selling visas to foreign nationals. They also have pointed out that the majority of the investments have been for marginal businesses that could not be approved for financing through more traditional stateside means. These businesses have thus used the EB-5 program as a last resort which it is said diminishes the integrity of the investment itself as well as the business being invested in.
There is a mandated cap of 10,000 visas that can be issued to foreign nationals and their family members through the federal EB-5 program and thus far in the 24 years that the program has been in place, that cap has not been reached. There has been a significant increase in the number of EB-5 visas that have been issued over the last several years, however, with 800 being issued in 2007 and 6,600 being issued in 2012. Still this is seen more as a reflection of the troubled economy and the difficulty that businesses are having securing financing through local banks. Many critics also don’t believe that the program is doing enough to support the U.S. economy and that the only people really benefitting from it are the foreign investors and their family members and the recruiters who find them and earn a healthy commission once the investment is made.
If you or anyone you know would like more information on the EB-5 program or any other immigration issue, please visit the Austin immigration attorney at Lyttle Law Firm on their website or call their offices at 512-215-5225.