Clintons and Bush Family Has Ties To Visa Program For Wealthy Foreign Investors

EB-5 Program a Primary Way Chinese are Investing

The EB-5 foreign investor program was created by the U.S. government in 1990 as a way to spur economic growth through the awarding of resident visas.

But it was seldom used for two decades. In 2004, just 247 foreign investors applied for visas under the program and there were still fewer than 2,000 applicants in 2010.

But with a flood of Chinese nationals now looking for ways to spend their accumulated wealth and take advantage of China’s recently relaxed foreign investment regulations, the program has exploded.

For the first time in the program’s 25 years, all 10,000 visas available annually were granted through the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2014 – and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was tapped out by August.

Though a number of countries have access to the program and each is allotted 7 percent of the available visas each year, other participating countries can scoop up a nation’s unused visas. That allowed investors from China to take about 85 percent of the visas awarded last year.

“It takes a long time and it’s risky and you could lose your money, so if there’s another way that’s what I try to do for my clients,” said Johanna Keamy-Tavares, a San Diego attorney who for the past 17 years has specialized in business immigration law with a focus on foreign investors. “With the Chinese there aren’t a lot of options so they usually go through the EB-5 program.”

There are at least four confirmed EB-5 projects either underway or being funded on the Grand Strand, including three involving the Myrtle Beach company America EB-5 Group.

“EB-5 is economic development,” said Tom Morrison, one of four partners and CEO of America EB-5 Group as well as owner and CEO of the Grand Strand Tee-Offs golf package company. “It’s better than most people’s perception of it. I think it means good things for the area. In our market it’s going to be great for us for long-term sustainability.”

The program’s name is derived from the visa category for which immigrant investors apply – the Employment-Based Fifth Visa. USCIS says from 1990 through 2013, the program was responsible for at least 57,300 jobs created and more than $8.6 billion invested.

To qualify as an EB-5 project, a foreign national must invest at least $1 million and create 10 jobs for a minimum period of two years. The reward is temporary U.S. resident visas for the investor, a spouse and their unmarried children under 21. The visas can be converted to permanent resident visas after two years and U.S. citizenship after five. Any child born in the U.S. to the visa holders is automatically a U.S. citizen.

Only a $500,000 investment is needed in what are deemed high-unemployment or rural areas known as Targeted Employment Areas, and the vast majority of projects qualify for the lesser requirement. Jobs created directly or indirectly can be counted among the 10 in TEAs.

If there are multiple partners in an EB-5 project, the family of another partner can gain visas for every $500,000 or $1 million invested and 10 jobs created.

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