Too Much Demand, Not Enough Supply for Chinese Seeking Immigrant Investor Visas

photo - eb5 visas by Bryan PociusWealthy Chinese investors must see the U.S. as a good place to put their money and their families. The annual supply of EB-5 immigrant investor visas has been exhausted for the first time in the program’s 24 year history. A surge of applicants from Chinese nationals has swamped the system.

Known as the EB-5, the immigration program offers a green card to any foreigner willing to invest at least $500,000 and generate ten jobs in America. Ten thousand visas are allowed every year. This is the first time the maximum has been reached since the program started in 1990.

For Chinese citizens willing and able to invest the money, this green card offers a way to send their children to American universities, escape heavy pollution and enjoy an improved quality of life. Adding to the program’s popularity is a similar Canadian program ended this year and the Australian version is far more expensive, requiring a $4.5 million investment.

There are 10,300 pending applications and it could take as long as three years for some to be processed. This can be a problem for those hoping to bring their children to the U.S. because they can only receive a green card if they’re younger than 21 when the application is approved.

The State Department’s chief of visa control, Charles Oppenheimer, told lawyers at an industry conference earlier this week that no more spots will be available to Chinese for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends September 30, according to CNN Money.

In 2013, Chinese nationals accounted for more than 80% of EB-5 visas issued, compared to just 13% a decade ago. That means nearly 6,900 EB-5 visas issued were for Chinese nationals last year, up from 16 in 2004.

Though critics see the program as a way for wealthy foreigners to “buy” citizenships, these immigrant investors provide an important alternative source of financing at a time when it can be difficult to obtain. These immigrants also contribute to the local economy by buying houses, cars and paying school tuition for their children.

Though the number of visas has been exhausted this year, as they say in baseball, there’s always next year. If this program is of interest to you, a family member or you have a business that needs this kind of investment, contact my office. Though I don’t practice immigration law, I can refer you to a well-qualified colleague who is. I know this program well and we can work out the legal issues that come with business investments from a Chinese national.