The EB-5 visa has become an essential immigration tool that is a win-win for both the intending immigrant and the United States. Under terms of the program, an intending immigrant may make a qualifying investment, typically of $500,000 or $1 million, that creates or preserves at least 10 full-time jobs for Americans. This immigrant receives conditional permanent residence and if he or she is successful in the investment and job creation requirements, he or she may petition to remove the conditions on the green card. The EB-5 visa also provides a pathway to citizenship. At the same time, the United States gains needed investment, job creation, and a dedicated hard-working individual.
While the program has seen incredible success over the past few years, this success has also brought some scrutiny and political wrangling. In recent weeks, attacks have been launched against the program relating to fraud, waste, and other problems. Furthermore, a reauthorization deadline looms for the EB-5. However, EB-5 reform legislation currently pending in Congress may introduce measures that will improve and streamline the process while addressing other concerns.
ABC News Runs Stories on Fraud and Abuse in Program
Over the summer ABC News ran a serious of pieces critical of some aspects of the EB-5 green card program alleging that the program allowed fraudsters and criminals access to the United States. Another piece emphasized the unfairness of offering wealthy individuals a short-cut to citizenship. One piece emphasized security risks possibly presented by the program should a state actor attempt to exploit it.
An August 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report did find that fraud was a concern for the program. The GAO report revealed that from the beginning of 2013 to the beginning of 2015, the SEC received more than 100 complaints or tips related to possible securities fraud. However, GAO also found that USCIS has taken steps to detect and root out fraud and to verify job creation numbers. However, GAO did note that USCIS efforts to build out a comprehensive real-time fraud detection apparatus has lagged behind schedule.
While ABC News seems to have seized on this study as proof of its earlier claims, reality appears to be more nuanced. Senator Chuck Grassley stated, “The GAO has confirmed that there are fraud risks associated with the EB-5 program, and it shows the need for reform legislation if this program is to be effective for legitimate job creation.
Senators Pushback Against Program Criticisms With Reform Bill
Senator Grassley is but one among a group of supporters who believe the enormous benefits of the bill should not be cast aside due to correctable concerns over fraud. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is co-sponsoring a bill with Senator Grassley that would, “strengthen oversight, ensure greater accountability and transparency, discourage fraud, and provide a higher priority for national security.”
The Senators say that they pushed forward with reforming the EB-5 program due to the immense economic benefit it brings to the country. Leahy stated, “I have seen over the last two decades how the EB-5 program creates jobs and provides access to capital in communities in Vermont and throughout the country, all at no cost to American taxpayers.” According to supporters, the 10,000 visas issued for 2014 were used to finance popular projects like a California winery, a Vermont ski lodge, and a Brooklyn basketball arena. These projects and others supported an estimated 42,000 full-time jobs for Americans. The reform bill would include a number of provisions including:
- Measures to limit credit for indirect job creation.
- An increased focus on rural and high-unemployment area job creation.
- Increase of the minimum investment from $500,000 to $800,000.
- Reduction in application processing time.
- Requirement for regional center to comply with securities laws in the U.S. and offshore.
However, the EB-5 program faces a September 30, 2015 re-authorization deadline. While other competing bills from the House may still be introduced, the realities of the Congressional calendar means it is more likely a temporary re-authorization under the current or substantially similar terms will be passed prior to any reform measures. It is still to be seen what changes, if any, may come to affect the next round of EB-5 visas, but intending immigrants who would like to preserve at least a chance of entering under the current terms must take action quickly.
Rely on Our Orlando Investor Visa Lawyer Experience
The unprecedented demand for the EB-5 visa has created intense competition for the visa. Furthermore, the popularity of the program has attracted additional concern and scrutiny. The experienced Orlando immigration attorneys of Colombo & Hurd can strategically guide your EB-5 petition and handle the entire process for you. To schedule a private immigration consultation call our firm at 800-659-7142 or contact us online.