U.S. Visas For Sale for $500,000

Saturday, July 26, 2014
(graphic Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Foreigners can jump straight to the front of the immigration line in the United States if they have half a million dollars to pay to the government.


This decades-old policy has been justified by Washington as a way to make everyone happy: immigrants seeking a new life in the U.S. as well as investors seeking funding for new projects.


Under the designation EB-5, the program grants visas to overseas residents who invest $500,000 in new U.S. ventures that establish 10 full-time jobs for Americans in rural areas or those with high unemployment. However, projects are often gerrymandered into high unemployment areas that are miles away.


Lawmakers as well as tycoons have praised EB-5 as a success story. But others say the program operates with little regulation and “has become a magnet for amateurs, pipe-dreamers, and charlatans, who see it as an easy way to score funding for ventures that banks would never touch,” Fortune’s Peter Elkind and Marty Jones reported.


Investors often target wealthy Chinese who want to live in the United States. In one case, a Chicago man attracted $156 million from about 250 people, most from China, for a hotel-convention complex that was to be built near O’Hare Airport, generating more than 8,000 jobs. Prosecutors from the Securities and Exchange Commission found the project to be a fraud and ordered that the investors’ money be returned.


The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general concluded last year in a report that the government “cannot demonstrate that the program is improving the U.S. economy and creating jobs for U.S. citizens.”


In February, the Brookings-Rockefeller Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation couldn’t determine the “true economic impact” of the program, said to be “elusive at best.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

The Dark, Disturbing World of the Visa-for-sale Program (by Peter Elkind and Marty Jones, Fortune)

Investor Visas Deliver Mixed Results for Chinese Rich, American Workers (by Massoud Hayoun, Al Jazeera America)

Issues of Corruption, Fraud in Investor-Visa Program Date Back Two Decades (by David Sherfinski, Washington Times)


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