A group of business and city leaders in Austin, Texas are
coming together in an effort to help bring foreign investment to their
community.  The private-public
partnership, dubbed the Citizen Panel on Sustainable Development, will focus
specifically on reaching out to entrepreneurs from other countries who will
invest in green projects in the city.  The
Immigrant Investor Program will play a major role in this effort. 

The Immigrant Investor Program was established by Congress
in the 1990s, and it is designed to help attract foreign investment to
commercial enterprises in the United States. 
The government will grant permanent residency visas, or green cards, to
immigrant entrepreneurs (and their families) who invest either $500,000 or
$1,000,000 in commercial enterprises that create or preserve 10 permanent full-time
jobs within two years.  The location of
the commercial enterprise depends on the level of the foreign investor's
commitment.  For example, a $500,000
investment must be made in a development that is located in a Targeted
Employment Area (a rural area or an area experiencing 150% of the national
unemployment rate), while a $1,000,000 investment can be made in an enterprise
that is located anywhere in the U.S.  The
visa that is granted to a foreign investor who fulfills the requirements of the
Program is called an EB-5 visa.  There
are four other categories of employment-based visas with their own requirements,
numbered EB-1 through EB-4.  However, the
EB-5 visa has become increasingly popular in recent years, as wealthy foreign
nationals see it as a reasonably affordable path to a green card.

Many foreign entrepreneurs prefer the Regional Center
approach to EB-5 investments.  EB-5 Regional
Centers are entities or organizations that help develop and manage commercial
projects under the Immigrant Investor Program option.  Some EB-5 Regional Centers are led by private
individuals, while others are agencies of the city or community where the EB-5
enterprise is located.  Still others,
such as the one envisioned by the Citizen Panel on Sustainable Development in
Austin, are partnerships between government officials and local business
leaders.  Whatever the nature or composition
of the proposed EB-5
Regional Center
, however, it must receive official approval and designation
from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.

Austin, like many cities around the country, sees the
potential for economic development in their community through the Immigrant
Investor Program.  The Citizen Panel on
Sustainable Development is looking to attract foreign investment in sustainable
green projects in the areas of housing and energy.  The Panel hopes the money that comes into the
city through the EB-5 program will create jobs and stimulate the local economy
while helping to develop and build environmentally responsible commercial
enterprises.  The mayor of Austin, a
member of Congress, and a number of Austin business leaders are on the Panel,
and they are hoping to either establish a city-sponsored Regional Center, or join
up with a Regional Center that is already in business.