Thousands of wealthy foreigners are lining up for VISA’s, enabling them to invest in the USA while putting them on a path to citizenship in the process. The State Department expects to issue over 6,000 "investor visas" in the current fiscal year, which would be an all-time record.
Under the government's EB-5 Immigrant Investor program, foreign investors can get conditional visas that allow them and their families to live, work and attend school in the U.S. To qualify for the visa, they must invest at least $1 million in a new or recently created business, or $500,000 for businesses in rural or high-unemployment areas.
The investment must be demonstrated to have created or preserved at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers within two years. Assuming this condition is met, investors and their families graduate to permanent resident status, and can apply for full citizenship three years later.
While the EB-5 program has been around since 1990, demand has been surging as of late, fueled in large part by China's growing elite, who accounted for 70% of the roughly 3,500 investor visas issued last year. State Department officials expect the program's quota of 10,000 visas per year, which includes visas given to the spouses and children of investors, to be filled for the first time ever within the next year or two.
Some critics of the U.S. program question the fairness of letting wealthy immigrants pay for special treatment, while others say investments and job creation claims need stricter vetting. Immigrants who arrive via the program have no guarantee of recovering their investments, and may face deportation if they don't produce the required number of jobs.
Of the roughly 12,000 immigrants who've arrived on the EB-5 investor visa, just 39% have earned permanent residency, according to USCIS data. There's also the lengthy application and approval process. The program's reputation for red tape had dampened interest among foreigners in the preceding years.
Whatever the program's problems, interest has been growing in recent years, and meanwhile, the U.S. has faced increasing competition from other countries trying to woo well-heeled foreigners with the promise of residency or citizenship.
In the U.S., the immigrant investor program has been responsible for at least 46,810 jobs and more than $2.3 billion in investments since its inception in 1990, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. That's a small fraction of overall foreign investment in the U.S., but it comes at no cost to the government. Were the EB-5 program to meet its 10,000-visa quota, it would contribute more than $4.4 billion to GDP and create or preserve nearly 75,000 jobs annually, according to a 2010 report prepared for the government by consulting firm ICF International.
The EB-5 program is up for renewal in the fall, and while USCIS says it has "no indication" that the initiative will be allowed to expire, some supporters are more wary.
Source: yahoo news