Congress to extend EB-5 visa program

Updated: 2015-12-17 12:38

By Paul Welitzkin in New York and Lia Zhu in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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Congress is poised to extend the EB-5 visa program until Sept 30, 2016, without any changes as part of a $1.14 trillion spending bill scheduled for consideration by the US House of Representatives on Friday.

EB-5 is an alternative way for immigrant investors to obtain a US visa. It was created in 1990 to help stimulate the US economy through job creation and foreign investment. With a minimum of $1 million - or $500,000 in low employment or rural areas - an EB-5 investor must create at least 10 full-time jobs through the project they are working toward completing. In return, the investor is eligible for permanent US residency.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, a law professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, told China Daily in an e-mail Wednesday that the extension does not include any major changes.

"Congress was on the verge of enacting major changes to the EB-5 program, but deleted the EB-5 reform package from the omnibus spending bill at the last minute," he said.

The extension does not apply to the part of the EB5 program by which investors directly fund their own business projects in the US. However, it does apply to the regional-center program. There are more than 800 approved EB-5 regional centers in the US. About 90 percent of EB-5 investments are made through the centers, according to Yale-Loehr. The regional center part of EB-5 has funded such projects as the Hudson Yards real estate development in New York City and a ski resort in Vermont.

"The extension is a good news for Chinese applicants to the EB-5 program as the minimum threshold is still $500,000 for the next nine months," said Rei Teng, attorney at law with a San Jose, California-based law firm called "Immigration Law Group".

"But we expect the threshold to be raised next year to at least $800,000, considering factors like inflation. After all the current threshold was imposed over 20 years ago," said Teng, whose company has 90 percent of their clients from China.

"But the bigger challenge for Chinese investors than higher qualifying threshold is to provide source of funding, or tax returns," she said. "More strict rules are expected next year on that respect."

She also warned the perspective investors to be alert to possible fraud before the US authorities tighten controls over regional centers.

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(China Daily USA 12/17/2015 page2)