The chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary committees are urging President Donald Trump to keep intact Obama’s proposal aimed at tightening regulations on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) EB-5 visa program that fast-tracks green card applications for foreign investors. Congressional lawmakers are urging the President to follow through on sweeping changes to the program that could begin to fix a program that’s strayed from congressional intent and become susceptible to foreign influence.
The EB-5 Program was enacted as part of the Immigration Act of 1990, and established the EB-5 immigrant visa classification to incentivize employment creation in the United States. Under the EB-5 program, lawful permanent resident status is available to foreign nationals who invest at least $1 million in a new commercial enterprise that will create at least 10 full-time jobs in the United States.
Congressional critics of the EB-5 program see it as flawed and as the investment requirements are too low and should be adjusted for inflation and to curb waste, fraud and abuse. The changes proposed by Obama would increase minimum investment amounts from $500,000 to $1.35 million for projects in state-designated Targeted Employment Areas, and from $1 million to $1.8 million for standard projects. Proposed regulations would change which neighborhoods states may be designated as Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs). The TEA designation would also be decided by the DHS, instead of state economic development agencies.
The changes to the program, beginning with the proposal by Obama’s DHS, could turn EB-5 investments into “a turbo-charged engine for economic growth” in struggling urban neighborhoods and depressed rural areas. Congressional support for overhauling or ending the EB-5 program is bipartisan, but so is resistance by party leaders who oppose major legislative change. Some lawmakers argue that less flexibility on TEA designations would kill job creation in urban areas by imposing a rural model on cities where workers travels across census districts to work in profitable downtown areas. Others oppose the program in its current state and have proposed to terminate it (S 232) if changes aren’t made soon.
DHS is set to unveil the final set of new regulations after a comment period ends in April. The EB-5 program has been reauthorized without change in recent years through omnibus spending bills and continuing resolutions.