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For the last several years the EB-5 Green Card program has been widely touted as a relatively quick and direct path to obtaining U.S. Permanent Residency. The program, which grants permanent residency based on a $500,000 minimum investment in USCIS approved regional center projects, has been especially popular in China. According to a CNBC article from April 2017, USCIS estimated that Chinese citizens represented 85% of all Applicants in the EB-5 Program. News interviews with Chinese EB-5 Applicants reveal that, for the vast majority, their prime motivation to invest in the program was based on a desire to permanently settle their children in the U.S. Aggressive efforts to attract Chinese EB-5 Investors gave rise to a cottage industry of EB-5 agents and financial advisors in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Every year the United States makes available the same number of green cards to every country in the world, regardless of the size of their population. When more green card applications from one country are submitted than there are visas made available for that year, a green card backlog results. For example, the State Department is processing EB-5 green cards only for Chinese Applicants who submitted their applications prior to July 1, 2014.
Based on mainstream media reports, the EB-5 backlog for China has resulted in diminished interest in the program among Chinese citizens. Due to the quota backlog, green card cases may not be processed before the children of Chinese Applicants turn 21. That is the key concern for Applicants, because under the Immigration and Nationality Act, once a child turns 21, they are no longer eligible to act as dependents on green card cases filed by their parents. Accordingly, Chinese Investors are beginning to turn their attention to immigrant investor programs in Canada and Australia as a backup option to permanently settle their children.
If Applications from Chinese citizens begin to dwindle then less investment capital will be available to fund new or ongoing EB-5 regional center projects, directly translating into reduced jobs for U.S. workers. Unless Congress is willing to pursue a legislative fix to this issue, it may be difficult if not impossible to replicate that same level of EB5 interest from other countries.
For additional information related to this topic and for advice regarding how to navigate U.S. immigration laws you may contact Kenneth S. Levine of the law firm of Freeman, Mathis & Gary, LLP at (770-551-2700) or [email protected].