Regional Center Aspect of EB-5 Visa Program May End
The regional center aspect of the EB-5 visa program is set to end September 30, 2015, generating some controversy due to the large numbers of Chinese nationals obtaining green cards through this category. According to the US Department of State, 9,128 Chinese nationals received an EB-5 immigrant visa in 2014, a number that drastically exceeds the only 96 Indian nationals who obtained their green cards in the same category.
The EB-5 program, also known as the immigrant investor program, allows foreign nationals to apply for a green card by investing a large sum of money to create jobs in the US. Applicants must invest a minimum of $1 million in an investment project, but only $500,000 minimum in a Targeted Employment Area (rural areas or areas with high unemployment).
After its launch in 1990, the EB-5 program received little interest, so in 1992 Congress approved changes to the program allowing regional centers to count the number of indirect jobs to be created through the investment project instead of only direct jobs.
Currently, 95% of EB-5 green cards are allotted through regional center programs. It is alleged that the regional centers have breached a number of laws, possibly both in the United States and in China to encourage investment through the EB-5 Program.
Although the expiration of the regional center aspect is approaching, it is anticipated that a 6-month renewal may be given in order to decide how the program should be handled.
Proposed changes to the regional center aspect of the EB-5 program may include:
- Redefining the requirements for Targeted Employment Areas
- Raising minimum investment for targeted employment areas to $800,000
- Raising minimum investment for non-targeted employment areas to $1.2 million
These changes are anticipated to make it easier for the government to identify fraud and track the progress of the regional centers.
10,000 green cards are allotted to foreign investors through the EB-5 program each year, and it is argued that there are plenty of direct-job programs to fill this quota, instead of relying on indirect-job programs. The changes made to the regional center aspect of the EB-5 program are hoped to increase the number of direct-job projects created by investors.