Even before President Obama announced his jobs plan this month, DHS was hard at work behind the scenes on a revamp of the EB-5 investor visa program. The investor visa program began with the idea that foreign investors would set up a business in the U.S. and hire employees here, and in exchange they would receive a green card.
Following DHS’s decision to “streamline” the EB-5 process, there has been a blizzard of activity by U.S. lawyers and other promoters of the visas organizing conferences and touting new ventures targeted especially at Chinese investors.
The mechanics of the EB-5 visa program have morphed into a very different approach to attract foreign investors than when the program was created. Instead of setting up an actual business, most EB-5 investors place their money with a DHS approved “regional center” – which could be a private investment firm but can also be the arm of a regional, state, or local economic development agency.
EB-5 money is being used not only for investing in new small businesses but is also now being pooled with other investors in large ones such as the new arena for the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise.
Foreign investors looking for a fast-track to residency should examine the track record of the program. An investigation by Reuters last December revealed that barely half of EB-5 applicants eventually got a green card.
The program also raises troubling questions about whether the U.S. is putting residency up for sale. And given the recent history of government directed investment, is it really wise to assume that taxpayer money isn’t involved in loan guarantees or other ways? Furthermore, As Michelle Malkin noted in her column last weekend, “If the feds can’t be trusted to invest government subsidies wisely in American companies, how can they possibly determine which overseas investors will be successful here?”