The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Report: Immigration agency should seek Commerce's help for investment-for-green-cards program

  • Print

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should get help from the Department of Commerce to oversee projects funded by the federal EB-5 investment-for-green-cards immigration program, a Washington think-tank says in a report released Wednesday.

The Brookings Institution's study agreed with a December report by the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General that found that the visa program for foreign investors goes far beyond the immigration agency's mission and it should better tap the business expertise of other government entities.

The program has faced some criticism because it's been used to fund several failed projects, including the idled Northern Beef Packers plant in South Dakota and a planned hotel and conference centre in Chicago.

Audrey Singer, who co-authored the Brookings Institution report, said transferring the functions of the EB-5 program that have to do with vetting business plans and determining whether an economic development project created enough jobs to the Commerce Department or another agency could make the program more efficient.

"The shared responsibility would improve the program," said Singer, a senior fellow with the think-tank's metropolitan policy program.

The EB-5 visa program was created in 1990 to attract foreign investment and create jobs. An investor's primary goal is usually to obtain visas for themselves and their families, but each investment of either $500,000 or $1 million, depending on a project's location, must create at least 10 full-time jobs.

David North, a fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that examines immigration policies, said EB-5 is a more difficult and more troubled program than the report indicates. North, a longtime critic of EB-5, raised ethical questions about whether the United States should essentially sell visas for a half a million dollars each.

"I really would rather have it scrapped, but if it's going to continue, it should be revised drastically," he said.

Drawing on the Department of Commerce's expertise is a good idea, North said, but the immigration agency should also partner with the Securities Exchange Commission because it has more of an enforcement mentality.

North said the EB-5 program tends to draw marginal investments that can't get traditional financing from banks, and many of the projects funded with EB-5 money probably shouldn't be pursued.

But Singer said many EB-5 projects are viable and that the program has been drawing more attention because traditional financing has become so challenging.

"The banks have changed their practices so dramatically that this has become a viable option," she said. "Economic development folks are feeling the squeeze and they are looking around to improve the timing and sourcing of their funds."

The Brookings Institution report found that the EB-5 program seems to work well when the regional centres approved to recruit foreign investors collaborate with local and regional economic development entities. An increasing number of economic development leaders have been seeking information on the program, but they have a hard time understanding how it works, Singer said.

"It's a confusing web of intermediaries," she said. "We also talk about the fact that there is not a lot of data to evaluate the program."

Up to 10,000 EB-5 visas are available annually for investors and their family members. The cap has yet to be reached, but demand has been rising, with 6,600 visas issued in 2012 compared with 800 in 2007.

North said EB-5 investments make up a small part of the U.S. economy and do more to benefit the recruiters who earn commissions of $30,000 to $50,000 to find each foreign investor.

"It's significant to the middlemen, but I'm not sure it's terribly significant to anybody else," North said. "Those are the guys who are really interested in this program. The impact on the nation's economy isn't very much."

___

Follow Dirk Lammers on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ddlammers

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Kenney commends McDonald's on taking action on foreign worker controversy

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local/Standup- BABY BISON. Fort Whyte Centre's newest mother gently nudges her 50 pound, female bull calf awake. Calf born yesterday. 25 now in herd. Four more calfs are expected over the next four weeks. It is the bison's second calf. June 7, 2002.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you support a proposed ban on tanning beds for youth under 18?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google