EB-5 Visa: Renewal (Permanence?) Needed by September 30
This week, the blog is covering the four immigration programs that are due to expire on September 30, 2015. When Congress returns from its summer recess on September 8, it will have three weeks to renew the programs or else they will sunset. The focus today is the EB-5 investor immigration visa.
The Immigration Act of 1990 created the EB-5 program, which was a new employment-based method of immigration. For a $1 million investment in a commercial enterprise, a foreign national can earn a Green Card (following a two year period of conditional residence and meeting all of the requirements). An alternative allows for a $500,000 investment in a targeted employment area (high unemployment or rural). The investment needs to create at least ten full time qualifying US jobs with the enterprise. A later designed pilot program incubated regional centers, which collect investors for large projects, such as apartment buildings. For the majority of the program’s existence, it was infrequently used. Following the Great Recession of 2008, the program took off and 2014 was the first year that the cap was hit with Chinese investors. In 2007, not even 800 applications were filed. By 2011, that hit 3,800. In 2014, the full 10,000 spots were satisfied.
Given the high financial stakes at play, the renewal of the program has been a priority for Congress, stakeholders, and cities. Between 2005 and 2013, the EB-5 program invested over 5.2 billion dollars in the United States and created an estimated 31,000 jobs. Various mayors and local leaders have advocated for the renewal of the EB-5 program. There are currently three bills (S.1501, HR 616, HR 3370) proposed in Congress. Click here for a summary of all three.
All three bills are intent on extending the program with the House bills proposing a permanency, rather than waiting till the deadline to authorize renewal. As it has recently become an issue, the two House bills address the cap. HR 616 eliminates spouses and children from the 10,000 cap, so that all 10,000 spots belong to investors. It would also eliminate per country quotas. HR 3370 leaves open the possibility for an additional 10,000 visas if the cap is reached. Notably, the Senate bill seeks to increase the minimum investment from $500,000 to $800,000 and $1 million to $1.2 million.
Advocates of the EB-5 program decry the current long processing times associated with the EB-5 process and subsequent Green Card issuance. The House bills propose mandatory processing times to expedite the processes. Despite recent fraud issues, the EB-5 program has risen in popularity in the past few years and spurred foreign investment in the United States. Congress will certainly devote its attention to fine tuning the program through the bills it is considering.
EB-5 is a pivotal part of current US immigration. The blog will provide updates throughout the month.