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What Is an EB-5 Investment Visa?

Before he was a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, also Ivanka Trump's husband, ran Kushner Companies, his father's real estate development and lending company. Earlier this month, his sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, invoked Jared's name when imploring Chinese investors to "invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States."

But can investors really buy their way into a visa? And should your business be targeting such investors?

Immigration Investment

The program Kushner Meyer was referencing is called an EB-5 or Investor Visa. Under U.S. immigration law, there are 10,000 such visas available each year for individuals seeking permanent resident status on the basis of their investment in a U.S.-based commercial enterprise.

Foreign nationals seeking permanent residency under an investor visa must:

  • Make a "qualified investment" (either $500,000 or $1 million) in a new commercial enterprise located within an approved Regional Center; and
  • Demonstrate that the new commercial enterprise will create 10 or more permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers, via revenues generated from increased exports, improved regional productivity, job creation, or increased domestic capital investment resulting from the pilot program.

Investor Intent

The EB-5 sounds like an enticing lure for foreign investment, and it has been used, most famously by the Kushners, to fuel a recent "high-end US residential boom." But the investor visa program's success has led to further scrutiny. Senator Chuck Grassley, who earlier this year introduced a bill to eliminate the EB-5 visa program, described it as "rife with fraud and national security weaknesses." As Texas attorney Shae Armstrong told the Guardian:

"This is a program intended to benefit immigrants, developers that can't find financing any other way, and economically distressed and rural areas, yet the Chinese government is the most significant beneficiary. It's not the intent of the program, so why is a Chinese state-owned developer receiving the benefits?"

Given the legal concerns swirling around the program, business owners looking at EB-5 visas as a way to hook large investments from foreign nationals might do well to reconsider that plan. Or at least call an experienced attorney first.

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