By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor
Washington, D.C.—Tucked away in the mass of policy that the federal government devotes to immigration, and administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services—a successor agency to U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service—is a program called EB-5, also known as the Immigrant Investor Program. Its goal is to inspire foreign capital to invest in such U.S. economic activities as commercial real estate projects, potentially including some forms of multi-housing properties.
In providing a minimun investment of $500,000 to $1 million, non-U.S. investors can invest in projects that cover a broad range of industries but which must employ U.S. workers and meet the guidelines of the EB-5 program. Besides the standard financial returns from the investment, in return investors receive a two-year residence card (green card). If, at the end of two years, an investor can demonstrate to the USCIS’ satisfaction that the investment has helped create at least 10 full-time jobs, directly or indirectly, the green card becomes permanent.
Thus a standard apartment development may or may not help an investor stay in the United States, if only a few jobs are created. On the other hand, more labor-intensive multi-housing properties, such some kinds of seniors housing, could more easily meet the 10-job threshold.
“When used to its full extent, the EB-5 program can be used to build schools, hospitals, and assisted living centers,” says Taher Kameli, executive director of the Chicagoland Foreign Investment Group, which is part of the Chicago area’s USCIS regional center. “The EB-5 program presents an opportunity to build infrastructure and promote job growth within Chicago, but many aren’t taking advantage of it because they’re simply not familiar with the program.”
Indeed, the USCIS notes that in the 20 years since the EB-5 program was created, it has never met its annual cap of 10,000 visas. The annual average is about 4,000 visas.