Thousands of wealthy Chinese nationals are trying to get their feet in the door of the “land of opportunity” through the United States’ EB-5 program. There’s just one problem: There’s no more room left.
EB-5 is an immigration program that launched in 1990 and has been offering foreigners worldwide the opportunity to apply for a green card, in exchange for a minimum $500,000 investment that would create at least 10 jobs for Americans. Ten years ago, only 16 visas were granted to Chinese applicants. Looking back over the last two years, however, that number has increased exponentially and to the point of exhaustion.
Charles Oppenheimer, the State Department’s chief of visa control, said at an industry conference earlier this week that all 10,000 available spots (and then some) have been accounted for this fiscal year (ending Sept. 30). Currently pending are 10,300 applications. Notably, last year, Chinese nationals made up more than 80 percent (6,900) of all EB-5 visas issued.
“It’s like the movie house is sold out — there are no spare tickets left,” said Bernard Wolfsdorf, founder of immigration law firm Wolfsdorf Rosenthal. “Pretty much all the visas for this year are accounted for.”
That’s not something that late applicants want to hear — especially the ones whose children are in their final teenage years and have only but so much time left to get a free pass under their parents’ name. Only children under the age of 21 at the time of the application’s approval are allowed to get a green card.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm now to file as soon as possible,” Wolfsdorf said. “If you don’t get your ticket now, you’re going to wait longer.”
Like many migrants, incentive for the Chinese lies in more potential and opportunities in America than at home or elsewhere. Australia, for example, has a similar program is in place, but instead of investing $500,000 — as they’re required to do in the States — foreign nationals would have to dish out no less than $4.5 million.
This makes the issue no less polarizing, though. While supporters of the program say it’s valuable to the American economy — providing at least $5 billion in new jobs and projects like Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards real estate development, buying houses, cars, etc. — critics argue that the visas are virtually an alternative for the foreign elite to buy their citizenship. Opponents also claim that too much red tape and fraud is involved in the whole process.
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