So far in 2017, President Trump’s promises to build a wall along the southern U.S. border – and his other immigration-related promises – have not generated much support in Congress.
As senators and representatives adjourned for their spring recess, the future of U.S. immigration policy remains unclear.
While only Congress can make permanent, statutory changes to immigration law, even an executive order regarding immigration requires congressional funding, and Congress appears to be in no mood to provide the funds that the president’s plans require.
For example, President Trump has asked Congress for an additional $3 billion in fiscal 2017 (which ends September 30th) for the Department of Homeland Security to begin the border wall, expand detention centers, and hire 10,000 new ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents and 5,000 new CBP (Customs and Border Protection) agents.
Both Republicans and Democrats have criticized the funding request. Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, told Politico, “What I would like to see is a plan for how the money would be spent and a good faith discussion about what border security is really composed of. We haven’t had that.”
The White House also released a proposed budget for fiscal 2018 (which begins on October 1st) which requests another $2.6 billion for the southern border wall as well as an additional $1.5 billion above what is normally requested for immigration detention.
South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham proclaimed that the president’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal was “dead on arrival.”
HAS THIS CONGRESS APPROVED ANY IMMIGRATION PROPOSALS?
Although committees in both the House of Representatives and the Senate have conducted numerous hearings regarding the President’s executive orders, immigration enforcement, border security, the travel ban, and the need for additional CBP and ICE personnel, so far not a single committee has passed, directly addressed, or even formally considered any specific legislation regarding any of these matters.
The first immigration matter that Congress must face and cannot avoid is the EB-5 Investor Visa Program, which expires on April 28th.
Despite optimism in some quarters that comprehensive changes will be introduced this year, those changes have not emerged as April 28th approaches.
Since 2015, instead of reforming the EB-5 program, Congress has simply kept the existing program alive with temporary three- and six-month extensions.
Now, it appears that the EB-5 program – currently due to expire on April 28th – will again be extended for a few more weeks as Congress works to avoid a possible shutdown of the federal government.
EB-5 supporters, however, have not given up hope for a comprehensive new EB-5 bill this year, and they believe that Congress may approve new rules for the program – along with a five-year extension – this summer or fall.
WHAT MAKES THE EB-5 INVESTOR VISA PROGRAM UNIQUE?
In fact, international investors who are seeking lucrative investment opportunities in the United States should speak right away with an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney regarding the EB-5 Investor Visa Program.
EB-5 is the only immigration category that allows international investors to be admitted to the U.S. as lawful permanent residents. In 2014, EB-5 investments in the United States created more than 16,000 full-time jobs and totaled roughly $2.6 billion.
Under the current EB-5 rules, up to 10,000 EB-5 visas are offered each year to international investors who place $1 million or more into development projects or into other qualifying investments that create at least ten full-time jobs for U.S. workers.
(Only a $500,000 minimum investment is needed if the investment is in an economically-depressed region.)
The investor and his or her qualifying family members receive green cards after two years, provided that the ten or more full-time jobs have been created and that all other EB-5 requirements have been satisfied.
International investors have responded enthusiastically to the EB-5 program, and the approval rate for the EB-5 visa is about 90 percent.
While the program has faced a number of problems and critics, a Government Accountability Office report issued in September 2016 says that the Department of Homeland Security is now investigating and addressing the potential risks for abuse of the EB-5 program.
WHAT CHANGES TO THE EB-5 PROGRAM CAN BE EXPECTED?
Most of the proposals for reforming the EB-5 program are centered around raising the required minimum investment amounts and adding more oversight to the program to reduce the potential for fraud and for the misappropriation of funds.
The minimum investment amounts have not changed since the EB-5 program was first created by Congress as part of the Immigration Act of 1990.
The prolonged uncertainty regarding the future of the EB-5 program, however, has not dulled the enthusiasm of international investors, nor has it reduced developer demand for EB-5 money.
EB-5 funds continue to be attractive as a low-cost source of capital, and in fact, many of the largest ongoing real estate development projects in the United States are relying on EB-5 funding right now.
Despite President Trump’s overall stance on immigration, some believe that the EB-5 program will flourish under his administration.
For example, former New York Governor George Pataki told a recent investment conference in China, “He understands the need for capital, the need for investment.” Charles Gargano, the executive director of the U.S. Immigration Fund, agrees.
“Under President-elect Trump, a developer himself, he will magnify the need for a program like this,” Gargano told the same investment conference in China just prior to Mr. Trump’s inauguration.
In other words, in spite of the president’s overall stance on immigration, investors who meet the qualifications should have no trouble obtaining an EB-5 visa in the years to come.
For those who have the resources, the EB-5 investor visa may be the best path to lawful permanent residency and naturalized citizenship in the United States.
If you are seeking to become a lawful permanent U.S. resident, and if you are able to make the minimum investment in a U.S.-based business, the EB-5 Investor Visa Program may be right for you.
International investors with specific questions and concerns regarding the EB-5 Investor Visa Program should consult first with a good immigration attorney right here in the United States – especially since changes in the program are expected later this year.
From wherever you are, you can call today and speak to an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney, have your questions answered about the EB-5 program, and begin the visa application process.