The US accepts immigrants from a wide range of economic backgrounds. Some arrive in the US with very little and are granted refugee or asylum status. Some are middle class and arrive because they have skills that employers need – or family who are US citizens. However, there are also people who arrive in the US and are granted immigration status quickly because they have money.
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program allows up to 10 000 people each year to get immigration status for themselves (and their immediate families) by investing one million dollars. Participants in the program can also get a green card by investing $500 000 towards a targeted employment area (TEA), or an area where the employment rate exceeds 150% of the US average.
According to experts, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is intended to create jobs and bolster the economy. The program also encourages immigration of wealthy people, who then pay significant taxes and spend money in the US, which further helps the economy. Some experts, including professor Vernon M. Briggs, Jr. of Cornell University, however, feel that the program is poorly designed and essentially allows people to buy their way to a green card, which runs counter to the values of the US. According to Briggs and others, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program encourages greed and is a problem because it is not enforced. He notes that while investors are made to promise that they will create up to ten jobs for US workers after paying their $500 000 there is little in place to ensure that they jobs are actually created.
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program has been in place for more than two decades. So far, a number of enterprises have been funded with EB-5 money. Among them, meat packing plants, renovations to the Watergate Hotels, bio-fuel refineries, and other business ventures.
Some legal firms are also benefiting from the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program by helping pair overseas investors with TEAs and with investment options while guiding them through the process. In many cases, investors are more interested in the green card than in the investment, so the law firm takes care of many of the details. Some firms even advertise that investors can get a green card with one simple investment. Others try to create a TEA in an area which does not technically qualify.
The system is good for local businesses, as well, since in many cases investors do not demand a high rate of return for their investment since their key concern is the green card. According to experts, in some cases investments only yield a 1% return. This means that businesses who qualify for EB-5 money get a very cheap source of financing.