World / China-US

Chinese investment bolsters EB-5 visa program

By Jack Freifelder in New York (China Daily USA) Updated: 2014-05-19 12:19

As opportunities for foreign direct investment (FDI) in the US continue to pop up, wealthy Chinese individuals are champing at the bit for a chance to get a piece of the pie.

And an increasingly popular phenomenon is the use of the EB-5 immigrant investor program.

Michael J. Wildes, a managing partner at New York-based immigration law firm Wildes & Weinberg PC, said he expects the EB-5 program to continue in its widespread application.

"The great risk takers we've seen historically in this nation have been entrepreneurs and immigrants, people who enfranchise employment and opportunities for others," Wildes told China Daily.

EB-5 is an alternative way for immigrant investors to obtain a visa. It was created in 1990 by Congress to help stimulate the economy through job creation and foreign investment.

With a minimum of $1 million - or $500,000 in low employment or rural areas - an EB-5 investor must create at least 10 full-time jobs through the project they are working toward completing. In return, the investor is eligible for permanent US residency.

In 2013, 6,895 Chinese nationals were issued visas through the EB-5 program; South Koreans, the next largest group, were issued 364, according to data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency within the Department of Homeland Security that oversees the program.

Though the program is limited to 10,000 visas per year, participants in EB-5 deals are not required to manage their investments on a day-to-day basis, according to Wildes. In addition, the added benefits afforded to immediate family members are numerous.

"All family members, including the spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21, can join the principal investor and enjoy the same benefits as other permanent US residents - including eligibility for health insurance and education benefits," Wildes said. "This makes the EB-5 visa program very attractive - particularly to the nationals of China."

Brian Su, president and CEO of the Illinois-based Artisan Business Group Inc, said the EB-5 program would see "continuous growing investment" in the future.

"I am not surprised that China so far is the largest source of EB-5 investors," Su said Friday in an email to China Daily. "Many Chinese families have made fortunes through real estate and other investments and the EB-5 program helps them achieve their goals."

The Wall Street Journal reported in January that according to USCIS estimates, the EB-5 program created more than 57,000 jobs and rose close to $9 billion since the program's inception.

Some of the projects in and around New York making use of EB-5 funding are the Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn and the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment plan in the Bronx.

In October 2013, the Greenland Group, a Chinese state-owned real estate developer, invested $4 billion to acquire the rights to co-develop the Atlantic Yards Project with New York-based real estate firm Forest City Ratner Co.

Chinese investment bolsters EB-5 visa program

The area under development includes the already completed Barclays Center - a sports arena, which is home to the National Basketball Association's Brooklyn Nets - and has plans in place that call for the construction of a number of high-rise apartment buildings.

The group that is managing the Atlantic Yards Project could not be reached for comment.

Karen McMahon, owner of McMahon's Public House, a sports bar in Brooklyn, said she was "slightly apprehensive" of the development of the Barclay's Center at first.

"All fears have been set aside, and I feel the Barclay's Center has been a wonderful addition to the neighborhood," McMahon said. "It has brought numerous jobs to a declining economy, not only within the confines of the Barclay's Center itself, but also to the surrounding neighborhoods."

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