EB-5 Investor Visa Program Up for Review, Facing Challenges

The EB-5 program, which funds developments like Tacoma's pending Convention Center Hotel project in the works from Yareton Investments, was created to attract foreign investment dollars to projects that will create jobs in high unemployment areas.

The program has been really popular with foreign, especially Chinese, investors, who get visas for themselves and their families in exchange for their investment in projects. Foreign investors have snapped up all of the available EB-5 visas, and there's a long and growing waiting list for the program, which was originally set to expire this week. That expiration date has been pushed back to December 11, and supporters are working to reauthorize the project, possibly with adjustments to how it functions. 

A story from NPR this week reports on some of the challenges being raised regarding the program, and suggested changes for addressing those issues. Changes being discussed could increase the investment minimum from $500,000 to $800,000, and require background checks and fraud prevention measures. There are also concerns being raised over where the projects funded by the program are getting built. Many are going up in downtown areas, where unemployment isn't particularly high, as current formulas allow investors to include unemployment statistics from nearby neighborhoods in their calculations. Some argue that this is detracting from the original job creation intent of the program. Others argue that jobs created within a mile or two of a high-unemployment neighborhood could still bolster the employment numbers in that neighborhood.

Last we heard Tacoma's Convention Center hotel project was moving forward, meeting deadlines, and on track to begin construction on schedule. We also heard rumors of EB-5 investors eyeing the City-owned vacant property just up the hill from the buildings of the Brewery District.

Are the economic development and job creation impacts of these projects diminished if they aren't constructed directly in high-unemployment neighborhoods?

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I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that downtown Tacoma qualifies as a high unemployment area, at least relative to other parts of the Puget Sound area.  Tacoma seems like the kind of city the EB-5 program was designed to assist (unlike some of the other places the program has been used/abused to finance projects).

October 1, 2015 at 4:41 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Wait a minute, you mean to tell me that we have not been conducting background checks on individuals that have been applying for these visas?

October 2, 2015 at 6:41 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tim Smith

Don’t worry Sid, we have our very own Private Prison on the tideflats which just won a new contract for the next 10 years worth $57,000,000 in annual revenue. We can hold’em if they fold’em.

October 3, 2015 at 5:06 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Yes, Sid… that is what you are reading.. NO background checks!!??  And so far as “employing Americans” - Really?
REALLY??!  .... How about this:
1. Invest $500k
2. Get Greencard for family
3. Bring over Uncles, Aunts, Mothers, Fathers, etc. on “work visas” and employ them… taking full benefit of tax loopholes.
4. Send money back to China, Japan, the Philippines, India.. Pakistan.. Oh wait!... Do you mean to tell me we’re in at war with terrorism?

Hmmmm… Let’s re-think our genius program here…

Quick! Get Kerry and Dukakis involved.. They ruined Massachusetts in the 90s.. they can help ruin Washington State too!

October 19, 2015 at 9:51 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jason H

Love this article. I think foreign investing is a hot topic in immigration law. It will be interesting to see what the final bill looks like. Thank you for the link to the NPR Story. I listen to NPR every day but missed that segment.

November 4, 2015 at 12:35 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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