The EB-5 Visa Program
Game-Changing Government Policies & Drivers
By William Hillis
Broker & Research Editor, Realogics Sotheby's International Realty
"Despite the emotional cliffhanging upon each extension [of regional center provisions] (when coincidentally, petitions tend to surge), those provisions have been regularly extended."
Popularity of the EB-5 investor visa program was boosted by the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. The program grants visas to investors at a threshold level: $500,000 for investors in a targeted employment area (TEA), either a rural or economically distressed area with high unemployment; or $1,000,000 outside of such areas. In either case, the investment must be into a new commercial enterprise that adds ten new jobs to the economy. Submission of petitions through “regional centers” authorized by the USCIS allow indirect as well as direct employment to be counted in the application. There are currently 63 authorized regional centers in Washington State.
Though it attracts qualified immigrants and their capital to the U.S., critics have branded the EB-5 program as a kind of citizenship for sale. This is inaccurate in respect of the U.S. program, which is centered on job creation and requires far more engagement from petitioners than investor visas in Canada or Australia, which only required commitment of funds. The program once again has been renewed until 8 December 2017, but support in Congress is not as vocal as for the high-profile DACA program benefiting undocumented immigrants. The hesitance is described by Suzanne Lazicki at her EB-5 blog:
EB-5 has an awkward position, politically. When the right likes investment but is queasy about immigrants, and the left is just the opposite, what's the future of immigrant investment?
Even implementation details are held hostage to this uncertainty. The applicability of indirect job creation through regional center filings depends on occasional extension of the sunset date for those provisions. Despite the emotional cliffhanging upon each extension (when coincidentally, petitions tend to surge), those provisions have been regularly extended. Against all these worries, the EB-5 program has prevailed year after year, and should continue to do so.
Impact: Not only will the EB-5 program survive, it will become increasingly relied upon for capital infusions into rural and distressed areas of the U.S., including areas of Washington state.