Thousands of people from all over the world seek entry into the United States each year.  For those who wish to come to the United States for a short time, there are various temporary visas that can be obtained depending on the purpose of an individual's visit.  Generally, these types of visas are available to foreign nationals who want to come to the U.S. for work, study, business or pleasure.


Permanent visas, or green cards, allow a foreign national to stay in the United States for an indefinite period of time, or permanently.  Like temporary visas, permanent visas are set aside for individuals who meet certain requirements.  For example, U.S. citizens can petition for green cards on behalf of parents, spouses, siblings or children.  Researchers, artists and others who possess "exceptional abilities or talents" can also apply for and receive a permanent visa.


The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is a permanent visa program that is available to foreign nationals who invest financially in the United States through new commercial developments, and in the process, create jobs here.  There are two routes to an EB-5 visa: a foreign national can invest $1,000,000 anywhere in the United States, or $500,000 in "targeted employment areas." This second path to a permanent visa involves investing at least $500,000 in communities that are experiencing 150% of the national unemployment rate.  Ten jobs must also be created as a result of this commercial investment.


This specific path to securing a green card has grown in popularity, especially since foreign investors are allowed to pool their resources to meet the $500,000 threshold.  Moreover, once a project is underway, the foreign underwriters are granted temporary visas.


Regional centers are set up to manage the EB-5 projects and shepherd them to completion.  A regional center is similar to a commercial developer - one or more individuals are given the responsibility by foreign investors to ensure the successful execution of a development plan.  Regional centers work with the government to streamline the approval process for a commercial project.


Although the EB-5 scheme benefits both foreign investors and the U.S. economy and enjoys substantial support from both parties in Washington, the program may not be renewed when it comes up for a vote later this year because of the political sensitivity surrounding immigration issues.  With the Supreme Court ruling against certain elements of an Arizona immigration law and President Obama issuing an executive order allowing some immigrants under the age of 30 who came to the country illegally to remain here without fear of deportation, neither party is keen on moving forward with any legislation even remotely tied to immigration, especially in a presidential election year.   


Unfortunately, that means many projects that are currently in the works will have to be shut down, and the temporary visas of their investors will be cancelled.  In New York, for example, several high-profile developments may be affected if the EB-5 program is not renewed.  A plan to redevelop the Battery Maritime Building, a $200 million mixed-use development plan in Brooklyn called City Point, and a $70 million plan to refurbish the George Washington Bridge Bus Station are all in danger of being scrapped or put on indefinite hold because of the impasse over the EB-5 program renewal.  Even if these projects are able to secure alternative sources of funding or are restarted at a later date, jobs and economic growth may be stunted in already hard-hit communities in New York and elsewhere.


Despite the current challenges, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is expected to be renewed some time after the election.