U.S. Congress Extends EB-5 Program Until September 2016

After the uncertainty surrounding the future of the EB-5 Investment Visa, U.S. congress finally reauthorised the immigration program on Wednesday with no changes or reforms until September 30th 2016.

The program provides foreign nationals with an American green card for themselves and their families if they invest at least $500,000 in a Target Employment Area, while creating or preserving at least 10 jobs for U.S citizens.

Investors could breath a collective sigh of relief when negotiations broke down after a new provision was proposed at the final hour. With only 10,000 EB-5 Visas granted every year, the new proposal limited 6,000 of the total applications to specific targeted areas including impoverished areas, and projects with a minimum investment of $1,000,000. This ultimately left only 4,000 visas for the types of projects that the majority of investors were interested in.

The bill that many predicted would pass would have also raised the minimum investment required from the current $500,00 to $800,000, It also would have imposed a $10,000 filing fee per investor, potentially inhibiting the level of investment in U.S. based businesses.

The general consensus was that the intended reforms were too rushed and legislators were unable to predict the full ramifications of such radical changes. Detractors argued that the EB-5 program was subject to a legal loophole that allowed developers to expand the boundaries of the targeted employment areas (low-income communities) to building projects in more affluent areas.

Those in favour argued that the changes could potentially destroy an immigration program that has generated more than $13 billion in overseas investment, creating tens of thousands of jobs in the process and positively contributed to the United States economy.

The program has poured billions of dollars into businesses and real estate, often financing deals that might not have been funded otherwise with much of the investment coming from Chinese nationals. With over $9 billion of EB-5 capital currently pending federal government approval, existing and potential investors can continue to apply for an American green card until negotiations continue.

What is clear is that USCIS is likely to take steps that will continue to improve the overall integrity of the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program some time after September 2016. For now however, it’s business as usual until the debate over the new reforms resurfaces.

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