If Congress doesn’t intervene, our country will soon see an important visa program disappear.
The looming expiration is hardly just an immigration issue, though; with the loss of this particular program, investments for new and expanding businesses -- as well as funding for much-needed infrastructure projects across the country -- will vanish, too.
Nearing expiration is the EB-5 Regional Center Program, under which foreign investors can obtain permanent residency by investing at least $1 million (or $500,000 if the investment flows into a rural or high-unemployment area) that generates at least 10 new jobs for American workers.
The EB-5 Regional Center Program’s record for generating investment and job growth speaks for itself. A recent study commissioned by the EB-5 Investment Coalition found that between 2005 and 2013, the EB-5 program generated $5.2 billion dollars in foreign direct investment into the U.S.
In 2013 alone, $1.6 billion in foreign direct investment was brought into the American economy through the EB-5 program.
These investments have the potential to create more than 31,000 new jobs for Americans. To put that into perspective, 11 states have seen less job growth in the past year.
The list of projects that have been fueled by EB-5 investments include construction of numerous hotels, schools and technology centers, as well as a treatment facility for mental illness patients in the Chicago area and a new zero-emission transit system in Greenville, South Carolina. Meanwhile, current projects that hinge on EB-5 funding include the construction of a new highway interchange between the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 95, which will improve traffic in southeastern Pennsylvania, and a vast expansion of the Port of Baltimore, which will outfit the city’s seaport with cranes that can accommodate the today’s increasingly large international shipping vessels.
While the EB-5 program has been a useful tool for spurring foreign direct investment into the U.S., the program is not perfect. In recent years, some cases of fraud and abuse have surfaced, with bad actors duping investors into leveraging phony projects. That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many other industry groups have urged Congress to use this opportunity to not only reauthorize the EB-5 Regional Center Program, but to also institute meaningful reforms to the overall EB-5 program to prevent fraud and abuse in the future.
Several members of Congress have answered the call with multiple efforts -- some of which are bipartisan -- in both houses of Congress to reauthorize the EB-5 Regional Center Program and institute meaningful reforms to bolster the program’s integrity.
Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced the American Job Creation and Investment Promotion Reform Act of 2015 in the Senate, while Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced H.R. 616, the American Entrepreneurship and Investment Act of 2015 in the House of Representatives. In addition, Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) proposed H.R. 3370, the EB-JOBS Act of 2015, just last week.
While there is broad support for many of the reforms proposed in these bills, there are still crucial details that must be addressed moving forward. What the business community needs is for Congress to reach a consensus before the program expires – one that strengthens the program without unintentionally discouraging future EB-5 investments in the U.S.
The consequences of letting the EB-5 Regional Center Program expire at the end of the fiscal year (September 30) would be extremely unfortunate. The U.S. stands to lose an important economic development tool that helps put Americans to work all across the country. The clock is ticking.