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Demand from China Soaks Up EB-5 Visa Quota

August 27, 2014 (1 min read)

"Due to a surge in Chinese participation, the U.S. for the first time is on course this fiscal year to run out of immigrant-investor visas that offer a fast track to permanent residency.  Started 24 years ago, the EB-5 program allots 10,000 visas annually to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in U.S. development projects, from dairy farms and ski resorts to hotels and bridges. In return, the investor and family members become eligible for green cards, or permanent residency, typically within two years.  As of this week, the visas—which have come under fire from critics who question their economic impact—are "unavailable" to Chinese individuals until the 2015 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, according to a State Department official.  Investors from China have accounted for about 85% of the visas this year, so the State Department action brings the program to a near standstill for the time being, experts said. They predict that next fiscal year the visas will be claimed even more quickly.  "This reflects the increasing popularity of the EB-5 program," said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration attorney who specializes in the visas.  Another 10,375 investor petitions, an unprecedented number, are awaiting adjudication by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that approves the first step in the process. The State Department, through its embassies and consulates, issues the visas.  At an EB-5 conference in Chicago last Saturday, a senior government official estimated a two-year wait for EB-5 applicants to obtain a visa, starting next spring, people in attendance said. "Such a long backlog will cause problems both for investors and U.S. companies that want EB-5 money to start or finish their projects," said Mr. Yale-Loehr, who was at the meeting." - Miriam Jordan, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 27, 2014.