Unbeknownst to most laypersons in the United States, there is a federal program in place that allows investors from foreign countries to acquire a U.S. visa by making substantial monetary investments in businesses and projects within the country. Despite any benefits or advantages that there might be regarding this program there has been tremendous concern about it in recent months among certain political official who worry that the program could be utilized by potential terrorists. The program itself is not new. In fact it has been in place for the better part of the last twenty-three years. The concern over terrorist infiltration, however, is indeed relatively new and is picking up steam among politicians and lawmakers. And if these concerns are not addressed it would seem likely that immigration attorney around the country will have their hands full until they are addressed.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is largely responsible for generating the concern associated with the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program after two Iranian operatives were discovered attempting to participate in the program. According to officials, the two operatives were part of a system that was engaged in the exportation of specific items that were “for use by ‘secret’ Iranian government agencies”. It was also claimed by DHS officials that these two operatives “appeared to be involved in a series of international assassination and terrorism operations” which was the verbiage used to describe them and their activities in a memo circulated internally within the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The program’s Regional Centers initiative was what triggered the concerns in the first place as it offered suggestions for closing certain loopholes in the program that led to the conclusion being made that there was no way of ensuring the integrity of the Regional Centers project.
When the program was reauthorized in 2013, however, the suggestions for closing those loopholes were eradicated from relevant documentation altogether. These glaring omissions are what prompted one Senator to request detailed information from ICE officials about the program’s susceptibility to illegal activities such as money laundering and terrorism. The program was implemented in 1990 in an effort to boost the strength of the American economy by way of investments from foreign sources. Initially, applicants were required to make a $1 million investment which would allow them as well as their immediate family members to obtain temporary visas with the possibility of obtaining a permanent visa after two years. In 1992, however, the Regional Centers program amended the original $1 million investment and the program subsequently required only a $500,000 investment.
There have been accusations of political motivation among certain individuals who have expressed interest in the program, namely Alejandro Mayorkas who is the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and who is about to become the second in command in the Department of Homeland Security. Such allegations have led to an investigation of Mayorkas and whether or not he intervened for certain potential investors in a company associated with Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe after McAuliffe was elected to office in November.
If you or someone you know is in need of quality immigration counsel in Austin, please visit the Lyttle Law Firm’s website or call their offices in Austin, Texas at 512-215-5225.