As of Friday on April 28, 2017, the United States Congress granted the U.S. EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program a temporary extension—but only for one week.
The fate of the decades-old program, which allows foreign investors and entrepreneurs to obtain a U.S. Green Card (permanent residency) in exchange for investing a minimum of USD $500,000 into the American economy, still faces an uncertain future. What is known about the Congressional decision to provide a temporary lifeline to the EB-5 Program is that the federal funding needed to sustain it will effectively run out once again on May 5, 2017, unless the U.S. government issues another continuing resolution.
Spokesman for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Steve Blando, stated “We have another week of EB-5,” but commented no further regarding another extension. Still, the continuing resolution is good news for industry stakeholders and organizations affiliated with the EB-5 Program, as negotiations can resume with U.S. lawmakers on whether or not the program will be allowed to expire after the new deadline lapses, or possibly face new reforms to the current EB-5 regulations.
At present, the U.S. EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program allows foreign nationals to invest at USD $500,000 into a Regional Center (located in rural or high unemployment areas) or invest USD $1 million in a commercial enterprise. With either option, the investment must also create 10 full-time jobs for qualified American workers.
The most popular route for EB-5 applicants is, of course, investing USD $500,000 into a government-approved Regional Center. With this option, applicants can make a passive investment into various projects, such as Charter Schools, which does not require the investor to be involved the management or operations of the project itself. If the EB-5 Program faces reforms, however, the investment amount will more than likely increase to USD $1.35 million.
Without question, EB-5 Program investments have contributed billions of dollars to American communities and businesses since it was first established in 1990 as a means to stimulate the economy. Nearly 30 years later, the EB-5 remains a preferred immigration program not only for North America, but the wider world. Allowing the EB-5 Program to officially expire, then, would undoubtedly compromise economic contributions made by foreign investors. Advocates of the EB-5 are quick to point out that luxury development projects of the President of the United States, Donald Trump, have benefitted from foreign investments through the program (and would have undoubtedly come to a grinding halt had the EB-5 not been granted temporary extensions).
While it’s too early to say if an increased investment amount would deter potential EB-5 Program applicants in the future, it can certainly be argued that the United States risks losing more than foreign investors and their capital needed to stimulate the American economy. For other programs, such as the H1-B Visa, the possible end of the EB-5 has raised concern of whether or not alternative routes to obtain a U.S. immigration visa are also in jeopardy. In renowned locations such as Silicon Valley, immigration through U.S. visa programs has attracted a steady stream of foreign entrepreneurs and skilled workers for decades—until recently.
In the wake of the Trump administration’s travel bans, Canada has increased its attempts to attract foreign entrepreneurs, skilled workers, and business-minded men and women across the country’s borders. With immigration comes innovation, and Canadian provinces are more than eager to court the same demographic groups behind billion-dollar U.S. start-ups and corporations founded by immigrants, such as Google, Amazon, Apple, and dozens more.
With the clock still ticking, U.S. Congressional leaders will have only a week to make another decision about the fate of the EB-5 Program. Without its existence, the American economy risks losing billions of dollars that immigrants contribute in foreign capital each year, and even further, America risks losing its entrepreneurial foothold over its northern neighbor. If one thing is certain, the end of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program will signal a new era for immigration to the U.S., and more than likely in Canada’s favor. Can America afford to lose its immigrants? Only time will tell.
For more information on the U.S. EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, please click here.
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