Will US EB-5 program be shut down this December?

In September 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Continuing Appropriation Act that extended the US EB-5 investment immigration program till December 8, 2017. It isn’t the first time that this program was extended, so should we wait for it to change its status from renewable to permanent? Congress is expected to decide the fate of the three-decade-old federal program by this year’s end.

The EB-5 visa program was established in 1990 to stimulate the country’s economy through job creation and foreign investment. In exchange, foreign donors are granted the US permanent residency status (a Green Card) within the span of 18 months. Although there were several calls for the EB-5 program to undergo major changes, it has remained unchanged, as has the status quo of continuous temporary extensions.

To qualify for the program, wealthy individuals are required to invest half a million dollars in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA), or one million dollars in a general area of business. More simply put, investors have an opportunity to recoup their money with low interest and become eligible for permanent residency once the authorities confirm the money has created at least 10 jobs for American citizens.​ The investor’s spouse and up to two unmarried children under the age of 21 may also be admitted to the US during the two-year conditional term of the visa.

According to John Linn, the director of Asia-Pacific Operations department of the US Immigration Fund, in case the program is extended once again, the minimal cost of obtaining an EB-5 visa post-December 2017 might go up by 60%, reaching $800,000.

A slight possibility still exists that the program will not be extended, as Trump has tough stance on immigration, and several ongoing court cases are linked to potential EB-5 fraud. Notwithstanding, not only is the EB-5 program beneficial for foreign investors and their families, it has also had a positive impact on economically depressed neighborhoods. One example is of the long-neglected Northeast neighborhood, D.C., that underwent a rapid transformation with the help of foreign investments. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says the 12-story apartment and retail complex project was funded through the EB-5 visa, with Chinese investors contributing $27 million.

Speaking of Chinese nationals, in 2016, over 7,000 Chinese applicants received the visa, and there is years-long waiting list for applicants from this country. Vietnamese candidates are in the second place with over 300 visas. Citizens of India have also started to show interest in the program, believing it is a better alternative to the H1-B visa for specialty workers.

According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services report, at least $8.7bn was received through the program between October 2012 and February 2016, and over 35,000 jobs created.

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