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Economy

America's Booming Pay-to-Stay Visa Program Still Has Tons of Room to Grow

A once-obscure program that provides permanent resident status in exchange for foreign investment in troubled places is starting to pay dividends in some U.S. cities.
A sculpture in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis, a new development completed in part with EB-5 funding.
A sculpture in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis, a new development completed in part with EB-5 funding.Tim Evanson/Flickr

Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. But remember: We also take plastic.

That's the message that Congress registered when it passed the Immigration Act of 1990, which added a brand new category of employment-based visas for permanent legal residents—specifically, a visa tailor-made for investors. Although applications are on the rise, the program remains somewhat under the radar. Which is a shame. The EB-5 investor visa program works like a sort of global Kickstarter, one whose promise for U.S. cities is both enormous and untapped.