Citizenship For Sale with EB-5 Visa

The American visa system is a complex beast, built seemingly to confuse American and immigrant alike. It is also crafted in ways to make them easily exploitable by those who would “help stimulate our economy,” a phrase which is synonymous with corporations lining their pockets. We’ve discussed at length the abuses of the H1-B Visa, a program with a noble goal, twisted to exploit low-skill and low-wage workers. But now we’d like to talk about the EB-5, a program which at its heart is essentially American citizenship for sale.

The EB-5 Visa program was created by Congress in 1990 as a so called means of job creation and investment for foreign investors. What it does is grants foreign investors with $1 million who wish to invest in a American corporation a guaranteed green card. The mandatory amount is lowered to $500,000 if they decide to invest in a “low employment region,” though the parameters of this are easily exploitable. In a scathing report on the visa, Forbes writer Kelly Phillips Erb discovered that Jersey City was considered a “rural area” in regards to the EB-5.

There are complaints on the transparency of the visa program as well; while rules on the initial investment are quite strict, there are loopholes that allow the investor and the American company to move said initial investment to other projects, side skirting vital regulation. Others have criticized the program for allowing creeping foreign control of our economy. Over 82% of EB-5 Visas were from Chinese applicants.

However, the EB-5 is seeing a decline in applicants as of late, to the tune of 17 percent from last year. This may be due to the intense scrutiny our immigration system is currently undergoing, but it could also be due to the program’s rather close expiration date. The EB-5 requires frequent re-authorization by Congress to continue, and the deadline of December 9th is fast approaching. The Republican immigration overhaul plan, the RAISE Act, makes the EB-5 obsolete by assigning points in their proposed merit system to investors, while also keeping them under a tight leash.

While it remains a mystery whether Congress will in fact re-approve the visa, but we suggest our readers take to their local representatives and voice their concern over the EB-5.

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