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EB-5 program growing more popular with developers

The tough economy in the United States has reduced the availability of capital for funding many new construction projects. New construction can lead to jobs-in the construction industry during the project-and afterword as new businesses can be created. Florida employment immigration attorneys know that one source of funding for construction projects arises in a 20-year-old program under immigration law.

Developers for large projects are turning to the U.S. employment immigration program known as EB-5. Last year the EB-5 program nearly doubled in applications over the previous. The number of applicants in fiscal year 2010, which ended last September jumped to 1,995 as compared with 1,031 in 2009, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Strikingly, in 2006-before the recession hit the U.S. economy in its full force, only 486 applications were made under the EB-5 program, according to the immigration agency.

Under the program, projects must submit a business plan to Citizenship and Immigration Services for approval based upon economic viability. Immigrant investors who provide an investment of $500,000 or more in a targeted employment area receive a temporary U.S. visa. After two years, if the development has created at least 10 jobs, the immigrant investor are granted a green-card, or full time residency status in the United States.

Some critics of the program fear that the increase in popularity may raise the risk of abuse. If the project proves unsuccessful at the end of the two-year period, the immigrant investor has to leave the country, without receiving a green card. The investor also stands to lose the initial investment.

Some members of Congress favor the program as a method to increase jobs in their district. The program has a limit of 10,000 visas available in each year. Similarly, developers generally like the program as it can provide a non-traditional source of funding for projects that can in many cases come at a lower cost than traditional funding.

Immigration officials generally do not quantify the number of EB-5 projects that are in the pipeline. However, a number of projects across the country that have been publicly announced, including projects in Florida reported on this blog, show that developments worth hundreds of millions of dollars are currently at various stages of the fund raising process through the EB-5 program.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Help Fund a Project, and Get a Green Card," Eliot Brown 2 Jan 2011

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