Becoming a US resident is not an easy matter; just ask any of the illegal aliens crossing the southern border every night. To get a green card from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), you need to be:
- Related to someone who is a US citizen or green card holder.
- Sponsored by a US employer or possess particularly desirable skills.
- A refugee or asylum seeker.
- A Green Card lottery winner.
There are a few other ways to get residency, but these are specialty programs designed to cover only a small minority of people.
Immigrant Investor Program
For those with money to invest in the US economy, there is a fast-track program called EB-5. Created by the 1990 Immigration Act, the EB-5 is a visa for foreign nationals who invest $1 million in the US that creates or saves 10 jobs (or $500 thousand in targeted areas). The visa is good for 2 years, at which time the investor must produce evidence of the full amount invested and requisite jobs created to be awarded permanent residency.
Abbas Hashmi is the founder and CEO of Green Card Capital, a New York-based company dedicated to matching global investors with US firms looking for outside investment as an alternative to bank loans. Green Card Capital determines client eligibility, presents qualifying investments for consideration, completes the necessary paperwork, and files it with the USCIS. Since 1996, they claim to have helped foreign investors obtain over 1,000 permanent green cards and over 2,000 conditional ones.
Future of the program
The EB-5 visa program allots 10,000 visas annually, although it has yet to be utilized to its full capacity. The recent recession gave the program a boost as firms sought alternative financing when access to bank lines of credit began drying up. According to the State Dept, the number of EB-5 visas issued jumped from 802 in 2006 to 7,641 in 2012. Of the visas awarded in 2012, 80% went to Chinese capitalists (WSJ).
In 1992, the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program was launched to encourage investment in particularly needy areas called Regional Centers. While similar to the parent program, investment in these economically depressed areas made allowances for direct and indirect job creation. The program expired in Sept 2012, but is being considered for resurrection as part of immigration reform.
The Senate is currently considering amendments to the Immigrant Investor Program, such as increasing the number of available visas and making the program permanent. Opposition groups call it the “millionaire’s visa” and accuse the government of selling green cards to affluent foreigners, but Hashmi says it is a boon to the economy. Amnesty for America’s 11 million illegal immigrants would cost the US over $6 trillion, while the EB-5 program brings in much-needed, job-creating capital at no taxpayer expense.
Opinions about immigration policy change across political groups, but it seems some programs bring in more economically useful applicants than others. Belief as to whether this is fair or not also changes across political groups.