Relaxed Visa Laws See Boom of Investor Immigrants
Guest post by Carol Carter
Immigration has been a huge issue for Americans in recent years, but did you know that some immigration is designed to encourage job creation? Foreign investors, through special visa programs, are encouraged to invest along certain criteria in exchange for a green card. While job growth is virtually guaranteed there remain some obstacles for those caught in the crossfire of visa immigration law.
Some challenges for investors include the application process which, in past years, has been seen as being burdensome and taking a very long time to complete. (Some applicants had been waiting ten or more years for their applications to be approved.) Since a government report found the waiting time was discouraging applicants, the effort to simplify the investment process has caused the development of new opportunities for investors. The intent of the EB-5 Investor Visa is to encourage foreigners to invest in America in exchange for a green card.
Public Infrastructure Brought To You By The New Neighbors
The newest avenue of growth has been through investment with companies designated as Regional Centers, a provision created in 1992 and regularly renewed since. Regional Centers (RC) allow funds to be put into a company managed by a third party, such as a developer of commercial real estate. Some of the companies that fall under the RC designation have taken to purchasing state bonds. Of particular interest was a Seattle project to replace an important bridge whose funding was to come from the purchase of bonds. Millions poured in from Chinese investors who were already short-listed to be accepted pending some changes in legislation.
Asia‘s Investor Influence
The majority of investors who apply for the EB-5 visa come from Asiatic countries including China, South Korea, Taiwan, and others. At the time of the report 83 percent of investors came from Asia, predominantly China. Interestingly, the contribution of funds goes disproportionately towards enterprises in the State of California, the beneficiary of most investments.
California maintains its own list of RC projects available for prospective EB-5 visa applications. Other states that maintain lists include Washington and Florida, states who receive a substantial number of these types of visa applications.
Remaining In The States
Once a permanent visa has been granted, the investor and his or her family can also apply for resident status. Though official statistics aren’t maintained, it is thought that many of those who receive a green card go on to apply for citizenship. (Seeking citizenship is not a requirement of the visa.) While many jobs have no doubt been created by the program it is not possible to know exactly how many. This is because the USCIS only ensures that the minimum number of jobs has been created.
Room For Growth
Under current regulations, a maximum of 10,000 applications may be granted per year. This might appear to be a small number, but current utilization of the program is, on average, about 6,000 applicants per year. The opening of regulations to allow purchasing of bonds, a more secure form of investment, has been a boon to the ecosystem of foreign-investment visas.
A proposed law in the Senate, the Visit USA Act, allows the purchase of a residence costing a minimum of $500,000. As long as the owner lives in the home 180 days of the year or more, they and their families can live in the country. The assumption is that the home-owner will pay taxes on the property and run their businesses from the US, thus incurring more taxes on their income. This isn’t the same as having permanent resident status, but is indicative of different programs being implemented to encourage greater investment in the American economy.
Carol Carter is a writer and immigration policy analyst. She has covered various topics related to immigration following an experience helping a friend become a naturalized citizen. She has used EB5Investors platform to inform colleagues of visa requirements and changes.