The Kushner family’s recent promise of immigration visas in return for major investments is linked to a U.S. visa program that is extremely desirable for wealthy Chinese investors.
Over the past decade, over 40,000 Chinese businessmen and investors have invested $7.7 billion in U.S. projects to obtain “golden” immigration visas. Worldwide, more than 100,000 Chinese have invested $24 billion in similar programs in multiple countries, reports the Associated Press.
The program is known as the EB-5 visa program, an investor visa program launched in the 1990s.
Speaking in Beijing a little over a week ago, Nicole Kushner Meyer, sister of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, encouraged wealthy Chinese investors to invest at least $500,000 in a luxury apartment complex in New Jersey, a Kushner family project, in exchange for immigration visas, according to the Washington Post.
The advertisement for the event read: “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.” The minimum investment for an EB-5 visa is a $500,000 investment that creates at least 10 jobs.
The EB-5 visa program, as well as similar programs in other countries, is very popular in China. The rising middle class is reportedly pursuing a better life abroad with its newfound wealth. As China’s wealth grows, millions are gaining the ability to buy a better life elsewhere. Roughly two-thirds of the 10,000 investors visas issued in 2016 were given to Chinese investors.
The program is so popular that there are around 20,000 backlogged applications, resulting in delays of up to five years, yet eager Chinese are willing to wait, reports the New York Times.
Some have criticized the visa program, accusing the U.S. of selling American citizenship.
“It is wrong to have a special pathway to citizenship for the wealthy while millions wait in line for visas,” explained Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Others point to cases of fraud surrounding investments totaling over $1 billion. Some claim that the program promotes the development of major projects instead of supporting struggling communities.
While some lawmakers believe the EB-5 program should be scrapped, others are calling for reform, noting that programs that create jobs and encourage investment in the U.S. should not be dismissed easily.
While there are similar programs in a number of other countries, the EB-5 visa program is by far the market leader. Canada’s visa program is the next most popular.
In the wake of the Kushner family’s presentation in Beijing, the company took a step back, withdrawing from certain investment activities. Congress announced that “all the various visa programs” will be reviewed in due time.
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