The
Immigrant Investor Program, which is overseen by the United States Citizenship
and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency, has helped bring foreign capital to
domestic commercial enterprises for over twenty years. Congress enacted
legislation in the early 1990s - a period of slow economic growth - to stimulate
job creation and promote a positive business cycle by encouraging wealthy
immigrant to invest in commercial developments in the United States.* The Program, which is still around and more
popular than ever, contains a valuable bonus for foreign investors: the
possibility of obtaining a permanent residency visa, or green card.* This type of green card is classified as an EB-5 visa.


Foreigners
are eligible to receive an EB-5 visa by investing either $500,000 or $1,000,000
in a commercial enterprise in the United States that creates 10 permanent
full-time jobs within two years.* Most
foreign investors who take advantage of the Immigrant Investor Program choose
to place their money in USCIS-designated Regional Centers, which are
essentially development teams made up of project managers and fundraisers who
create and execute business plans for the EB-5 commercial ventures and attract
other investors.


The
requirements for each of the two investment options are slightly
different.* A foreign national who wishes
to invest $500,000 may only place his or her money in a commercial enterprise
that is located in a Targeted Employment Area - a rural area or an area
experiencing exceptionally high unemployment.*
The investment must directly or indirectly lead to the creation or
preservation of at least 10 full-time jobs.*
A foreign investor can also invest $1,000,000 in a commercial enterprise
anywhere in the U.S.; however, the investor must show USCIS that at least 10
jobs were created as a direct result of the investment.


There
are a number of different types of commercial projects that can be developed
through the EB-5 program, such as movie theaters, restaurants or shopping
centers.* But over the last few years,
hotels have become a popular destination for foreign money from investors
seeking permanent visas.* There are some good
reasons for this.* First, hotel companies
and developers are finding it difficult in today's economic environment to
raise sufficient funds privately, through loans, or other means to finance
hotel construction.* That has created an
opening that could be filled by wealthy foreign investors looking to score a
green card through the EB-5 program. Moreover, the hospitality industry is a
relatively safe bet for foreign investors: hotels employ hundreds of people in
various positions and can generate a reasonably strong rate of return.* But for wealthy immigrants seeking a
permanent visa, the most important point is the former - the job creation
requirement will almost certainly be met when a hotel is built.


Some of
the largest hotel chains, including Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton, have turned to
EB-5 financing to develop projects in Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York City,
and other cities around the country.* The
trend is likely to hold up even after the economy recovers, since it is an
inexpensive source of financing for hotel developers, and a sound investment
for wealthy foreigners who are seeking a permanent visa.


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