The EB-5 program was created by the Immigration Act of 1990 and most recently revised by Congress in March 2022. The act provides for the issuance of Green Cards in exchange for investment and hiring – simply stated, for a one-million dollar investment and hiring of 10 American citizens. The program’s rules incent persons to invest in geographic areas with under-investment.
The funds have normally been applied to real estate projects such as hotels, hospitals and senior living centers. The 2022 revisions might spur investments in retail buildings. As a rough rule of thumb, the 10,000 visas supposed to be issued annually could bring in $10 billion a year into real estate. The National Association of Realtors estimated that in 2020 $235 billion was poured into commercial real estate investment. Thus, EB-5 is a niche business. It is next to impossible to find how EB-5 really makes a difference.
The great majority of EB-5 applicants and awardees come from Asian countries. One sociological study of recent awardees suggested that EB-5 applicants are primarily wealthy households who want a foothold in the United States as part of strategy to gain some independence from their own country’s regimes. Notwithstanding applicant motivation, the EB-5 program is in large measure a dense thicket of real estate developers, consultants, and politicians operating out of public view. One person who has a deep understanding of the program in Suzanne Lasicki, who manages a blog on the subject almost like a public service,
The EB-5 visa falls within the broad category of employment-based green cards, of which there is a cap of 140,000 a year. The EB-5 program is allocated about 10,000 visa slots annually. The actual number of filings for these visas within a single has ranged in the past ten years from about 16,000 to 4,000, suggesting that politics and bureaucracy, plus the Trump Administration’s attempt to suppress immigration, played a large role. This is not a program with a steady, transparent and abuse free character. The number of visas actually issued before FT 2020 was about 10,000, with half or more going to Chinese. There is a relatively small Indian involvement. The total number of outstanding applications is around 40,000. (Go here).
The number of visas issued collapsed during the pandemic years. Here is Suzanne’s breakdown by country for FY 2021. A relatively recent development is that the Chinese government has reportedly shut down marketing of the program within the country,