The EB-5 immigrant investor visa program has been a catalyst for important regional economic investment, often in distressed areas, but continuing reforms could ensure the program’s integrity and functionality as its popularity increases, according to a new Bipartisan Policy Center report released today, ahead of expected congressional action on the program.
Congress must reauthorize the Regional Center Program, which has been the most-utilized part of the EB-5 visa program since its creation in 1993, by the end of September.
BPC’s report finds that:
- The program has attracted at least $4 billion in investment, often in distressed communities, according to a conservative estimate based on the number of investors who have been approved for permanent residency. Less conservative methodologies, such as those used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), put the total investment closer to $11 billion. The program has also supported creation of more than 77,000 jobs.
- Cities such as Philadelphia, New York City and Dallas have used regional centers to fund important development projects. In Philadelphia alone, public-private partnerships with regional centers have attracted more than $620 million in investments for critical civic works projects.
- The program’s focus and unique capital presents valuable opportunities for states and localities, particularly in highly-underinvested but critical public infrastructure and other civic development.
- However, a lack of data collected and made publicly available by USCIS has hampered government and external efforts to fully assess the economic impacts of the regional center program.
- As the program has grown, the potential for fraudulent schemes has also increased. Without proper knowledge of the legal intricacies or assistance in exercising due diligence before investing, foreign investors can fall prey to these schemes. Continuing reforms and safeguards could increase the program’s integrity and functionality moving forward.
“The EB-5 program is clearly not going to be the primary solution for the country’s most expensive and critical development needs,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, BPC’s director of immigration policy. “However, with the right reforms and safeguards, this program offers significant opportunities for regional economic development, especially in communities hard-hit by the Great Recession.”
The report will be officially released at a BPC event featuring former governors Mike Beebe (D-AR) and Jim Douglas (R-VT), members of BPC’s Governors’ Council.
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