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An Immigration ‘Golden Ticket’ Developers Love: QuickTake Q&A

The Statue of Liberty at sunset.

The Statue of Liberty at sunset.

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It’s known as a “golden ticket” -- the EB-5 visa that can give wealthy foreigners legal residence in the U.S. if they invest in a project that creates jobs. In recent years, these visas have become wildly popular with Chinese investors, and real estate developers have been the main beneficiaries of their cash. The Kushner family used EB-5 funds to build the Trump Bay Street apartment tower in New Jersey, which opened in November 2016 right before Jared Kushner’s father-in-law, Donald Trump, was elected president. Last May, Kushner’s sister was criticized for mentioning their Trump ties while pitching wealthy Chinese to get visas by investing in another Kushner apartment complex. Now there are reports that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and prosecutors for New York’s Eastern District issued subpoenas to Kushner Cos. in May seeking details about its use of the EB-5 program. Critics say this visa-for-sale system is pocked by corruption and questionable accounting.

The EB-5 special visa program allows foreign investors to reside legally in the U.S. if they pay $1 million into a new commercial enterprise that creates at least 10 jobs. If they make the investment in a “targeted employment area” -- either in a rural community or one with high unemployment -- the minimum investment is lowered to $500,000. These amounts haven’t been adjusted for inflation since the program was created as part of the Immigration Act of 1990. There’s a limit of about 10,000 EB-5s per year. Its name comes from it being the fifth preference of employment-based visas, with people having extraordinary abilities ranked as first preference, highly educated professionals ranked second, etc.