Date
23 August 2017
Wealthy Chinese are flocking to Western countries to pursue a better quality of life or better education for their children. Photo: American Dreams in China
Wealthy Chinese are flocking to Western countries to pursue a better quality of life or better education for their children. Photo: American Dreams in China

US freezes visa program after surge in Chinese applications

Wealthy Chinese are flocking to Western countries to pursue a better quality of life or better education for their children.

Due to soaring applications, mostly from mainland China, the United States said its annual 10,000 quota for EB-5 visas had been used up. Applicants have to wait until the start of next fiscal year on Oct. 1.

The EB-5 visa program offers a fast and convenient way for foreigners to gain permanent residency in the US. Applicants must commit to invest at least US$500,000 and create a minimum of 10 jobs in the country. In return, investors and their family members are granted green cards, or permanent US residency, typically within two years.

The approval process for EB-5 visas has become faster after the 2008 financial crisis as the US desperately needed foreign investment to revitalize its economy.

American businesses have raised billions of dollars through the EB-5 visa program. The money has helped fund a Marriott hotel in Los Angeles and the Barclays Center sports and entertainment complex in New York, to cite just two examples.

For wealthy Chinese, this is probably the easiest way to “buy” a green card. Most of them regard a permanent US residency as a kind of insurance. Chinese investors have accounted for about 85 percent of the EB-5 visas this year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

EB-5 quotas easily run out because of the comparatively low threshold and limited annual allocation. 

Canada’s decision to stop its investor immigration program may also be a factor. The program allowed foreigners to apply for permanent residency in exchange for an C$800,000 (US$737,000) interest-free loan to the Canadian government, which decided to scrap the program because it said it didn’t provide enough economic benefits.

Not all EB-5 investment projects worked out as planned either. Some turned out to be fraudulent, some never materialized.

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CG

EJ Insight writer

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