U.S. visa program for wealthy immigrants set to expire

A controversial U.S. visa program that enables wealthy foreigners to receive U.S. citizenship in return for investing money in economic development projects is set to come to an end at the close of September unless Congress renews it. The EB-5 program allows overseas investors to get citizenship if they have invested a minimum of $500,000 in U.S. businesses that ultimately hire at least ten American workers in areas that suffer from economic depression.

The Department of Homeland Security runs the program, and its supporters in Congress claim it has seen billions of dollars brought into areas that had little chance of accessing such capital in any other manner.

However, instances of fraud that has enabled the use of some of the money to build massive projects in wealthy urban areas, such as the Las Vegas strip and Manhattan, rather than rural or high-unemployment areas, has clouded the program’s success. According to federal investigators, there have also been attempts to infiltrate the program by individuals linked to Iranian and Chinese intelligence agencies and that citizenship has sometimes been given to international criminals wanted for laundering money in their countries.

Critics of the program want to see it reauthorized to deal with the issues of how to use the investment money, as well as to address national security issues and to increase the level of oversight. If not, Senators Patrick J. Leahy and Charles Grassley would rather see the program expire on September 30.