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Sonic restaurants in South Florida to be financed with EB-5 visas

The Sonic restaurant chain is expanding in Florida. A development firm has the rights to develop the franchise in South Florida. The developer hopes to open as many as 50 locations in Miami-Dade and Broward over the course of the next four years. The restaurants are expected to create roughly 65 new jobs each.

The developer is looking to finance the growth through a program offered under United States immigration law. Since 1990, U.S. employment immigration law allows foreign nationals a pathway to receiving a provisional green card for investing in a new U.S. business that will create at least ten new jobs. The program is the employment based visa program called EB-5, or an employment based fifth preference visa.

The Sonic expansion reportedly attracted eight of the 13 investors required for the first phase of the program in the first three-and-a-half weeks. The first phase does not implicate the 50 total restaurants envisioned through the project. The investors are providing a $500,000 investment that will allow the investor to receive a provisional green card.

An EB-5 green card is conditioned upon the idea that the investment will create at least ten new jobs over a two year time span. The two-year provisional visa can be converted into a green card, which provides permanent U.S. residency privileges to the investor, the investor's spouse and children if the conditions are met after the two year period.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service administers the EB-5 visa program. Investors are not guaranteed a return on the investment. USCIS must approve of EB-5 projects. Investors are also subject to certain background checks administered by USCIS.

Source: Miami Today, "Via $500,000 bites for green cards, Sonic funds first two South Florida drive-ins," Yudislaidy Fernandez 28 Apr 2011

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