Monday, February 13, 2012


In December 2011, the New York Times raised suspicions about the value of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, which grants permanent US residence to business creators with a capital of either $1 million dollars in general, or $500,000 in high unemployment or rural areas (so-called "targeted employment areas"), provided their investment creates or preserves, directly or indirectly, at least 10 full-time jobs (excluding non-immigrant workers) within two-years of their admission to the US. The paper reported that critics of the program describe it as a "cash-for-visas scheme," and that state officials sometimes "stretch the rules" (including by gerrymandering--i.e., redrawing census maps) to qualify projects for the lower $500,000 capital requirement.

What the paper did not report: the fact that, overall, the EB-5 program does have a measurable, positive impact on the US economy. Considering that the US economy is still crawling under the weight of the Great Recession, the NYT's conflating this fact with news of political corruption was unfortunate. For a more "fair and balanced" perspective on this issue, read this more recent article from the Wall Street Journal (owned by immigrant investor Rupert Murdoch, for full-disclosure).

Some statistics: in fiscal year 2010, only around 1,800 new EB-5 petitions were approved, 41% of which went to Chinese investors. This means between $900,000,000 and $1,800,000,000, and at least 18,000 jobs, injected into the economy over two years, in exchange for luring 1,800 productive, background-checked individuals (and their nuclear families) away from America's main competitors.

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