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Immigration opportunities with an EB-5 investor visa

Immigrants who may be interested in settling in Florida might not be familiar with a little-known program that issues visas to investors who start businesses in economically depressed areas. The EB-5 investor program carries the potential to boost economic growth in cities and rural areas as well as providing an excellent opportunity to foreign investors, but its potential has yet to be fully tapped.

The program began in 1990, and it requires an investment of at least $500,000 and the creation of 10 jobs or more in areas that have an employment rate of 150 percent of the national average or higher. Investors and their immediate family members qualify for conditional permanent resident status for two years, after which the conditional status is set aside. Immigrants from China have made up the bulk of the investors so far, followed by individuals from the United Kingdom and South Korea.

The program finally began to show some significant growth around 2012 when approximately 4,000 visas were issued. This represented almost a quarter of the total approved since 1990.

There are a few obstacles to investors besides the obscurity of the program. The process of approval can take almost two years. Regional centers may promote the visa, but they can also charge fees to investors, and those fees are unregulated. This may drive up costs for potential investors.

Despite these drawbacks, the visa can be an excellent opportunity for potential immigrants and their families. Applying for the EB-5 or other types of employment visas can be complex, so an attorney could be helpful in ensuring that all required documentation is in order. The attorney might also make suggestions regarding other types of visas for which an individual might be eligible.

Source: Citylab, "America's Booming Pay-to-Stay Visa Program Still Has Tons of Room to Grow", Kriston Capps, July 28, 2014

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