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EB-5 requirements could change

By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-01-17 13:40

Changes proposed in the waning days of the Obama administration would sharply increase the minimum amounts for a US immigrant investment program that is popular with Chinese investors.

Last week the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, published new proposed rules for the EB-5 immigrant visa. It calls for raising the minimum EB-5 investment amount from $500,000 to $1.35 million in a targeted employment area or high unemployment area. The rule would also increase the minimum investment amount to $1.8 million from $1 million in other areas.

In December the US House of Representatives and Senate passed a continuing resolution that funds the US government until April 28. It included a provision to continue EB-5 with the current minimums.

EB-5 was created to stimulate the US economy through job creation and capital investment. It targets foreign investors who invest at least $500,000 in a project that creates a minimum of 10 jobs in an economically-depressed region. In return the investors receive a two-year visa with a good chance of obtaining permanent residency for them and their families.

Since 2012, the program has brought more than $8.7 billion of foreign direct investment into the US and created 35,150 jobs, according to USCIS estimates.

In 2014, the US issued more than 10,000 of the visas and about 85 percent went to applicants from China.

The USCIS is also suggesting a new method to determine rural, high-unemployment areas in a bid to better target those zones rather than more affluent communities.

Notice of the proposed rule changes comes just days before President Obama leaves the White House and is replaced by President-elect Donald Trump. It's not clear yet how Trump, who often took a harsh tone on immigration in last fall's presidential campaign, will react to the rule changes.

"By providing a much-needed increase in investment levels and by reining in abusive gerrymandering practices, these changes will help restore the program so it creates meaningful jobs in distressed and rural areas as Congress always intended," Senator Pat Leahy, who has been critical of EB-5, said in a statement on Jan 12.

"It will now be up the new administration to see that these improvements are implemented and enforced. It has been reported that President-elect Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have profited from foreign investments made through this government program.

"I will be watching to ensure these tough new rules are not dismantled because they may impact the President-elect's and his son-in-law's business investments," Leahy added.

Kushner Companies, owned by Jared Kushner, has a rental apartment complex in Jersey City, New Jersey, that has taken in $50 million in EB-5 funds, mostly from Chinese investors, according to a Forbes report from last year.


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