Chinese applications deplete investor visas

Updated: 2015-04-21 07:01

By ZHENG XIN in New York(China Daily USA)

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It's the most popular way for wealthy Chinese to get a green card and US citizenship: buy it.

But the annual allotment of EB-5 visas has been depleted, and the waiting line is expected to stretch for years, according to a US-based immigration lawyer.

The waiting line for the visa might frustrate those in pursuit of green cards in exchange for cash, said Murray Hilts, an immigration lawyer with the Law Offices of Murray Hilts in San Diego, California.

"Many people who want to do this are wealthy and they are doing it for the next generation," he said.

Fueled mostly by demand from wealthy Chinese, this is the second year that the United States has run out of its allotment of EB-5 visas, which give green cards to foreigners who invest $500,000 to $1 million in a US business and create 10 jobs in the country.

The program limits the number of EB5 visas to 10,000 each year, and there are already 13,000 pending applications. The visa allotment was exhausted for the first time last August, and the depletion was even earlier this year, with the US State Department announcing that no more EB-5 visas will be awarded for the rest of US fiscal year starting in May.

A child of an EB5 investor can only get a dependent visa under the program if he is 21 or younger at the time of approval. If it takes up to three years to process an application, many of the offspring could be older than 21 and are not eligible for green cards, Hilts said.

A Beijing-based immigration consultant, who requested anonymity, said the increasing number of Chinese applicants is partly due to the suspension of Canada's similar investor program last February, which canceled a backlog of tens of thousands of Chinese applicants.

"North America is the priority of many Chinese rich immigrants, who want to get rid of the heavy pollution and opt for more advanced education system and social welfare," she said. "It's like a ticket out of China for the wealthy."