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Spending bill likely to extend EB-5 program again

By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-03-21 22:11

When Congress considers another stop-gap bill to fund the government, it almost always includes an extension for the EB-5 immigrant investment program. And that scenario is likely to occur again later this week, according to a leading immigration law attorney.

"It's expected that Congress will approve another clean extension (meaning no changes) to the current EB-5 program until September 30," Cornell University law professor Stephen Yale-Loehr said in an interview on Tuesday.

EB-5 is an alternative way for immigrant investors to obtain a US visa. It was created in 1990 to help stimulate the US economy through job creation and foreign investment. With a minimum of $1 million, or $500,000 in economically disadvantaged areas, an EB-5 investor must create a certain number of fulltime jobs through the project they are working toward completing. In return, the investor is eligible for permanent US residency.

Immigrants from China account for more than 80 percent of the EB-5 visas issued. EB-5 is not without controversy as critics contend the program's requirements are sometimes arranged in such a way that projects in New York City and Los Angeles qualify for funding.

There were serious attempts made at reforming the program this time according to Yale-Loehr. US Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, and the Invest in the USA (IIUSA) trade group, which represents EB-5 Regional Center participants, pushed legislative proposals that would have changed the program.

"The investment minimums for the program would have increased from $500,000 and $1 million to $925,000 and a little over $1 million," said Yale-Loehr. He added that a job creation requirement also would have increased to nine (for $925,000) and 12 (for more than $1 million).

To spur development in rural areas, Grassley proposed that 1,450 of the visas in the current EB-5 backlog be set aside for projects in rural communities. However, the reform proposals failed to garner the support of all industry groups and were not included in the omnibus appropriations legislation Yale-Loehr said.

He said the "prognosis for action (on EB-5) is slim to none. It's hard to get Congress to do anything that is controversial, especially with the mid-term elections approaching."

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