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EB-5 Money Is Almost Exclusively Fueling Large Projects In Major Cities, New Data Shows

When the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services released three years worth of EB-5 data this week, it confirmed what the industry already knew: the foreign money is being unevenly allocated toward large developers' projects in core markets.

Rendering of Hudson Yards in Manhattan

The disputed visa program grants green cards to foreigners who invest a minimum of $500K in U.S. developments in high-unemployment areas. But the legislation has been widely accused of being misused as a financing vehicle by developers seeking funding for major projects in core markets, instead of targeting high unemployment or rural areas — and the data agrees. 

Large regional centers maintained by developers are getting a huge chunk of EB-5 investment. Upward of 26,000 petitions for visas nationwide were approved by USCIS between 2014 and 2017, The Real Deal reports, and while most of the country's regional centers processed fewer than 100 petitions during that time period, major city regional centers thrived.

U.S. Immigration Fund, a regional center based in Florida with New York and New Jersey branches, accounted for more than 3,100 of the approved petitions — which is 17% of the EB-5 funds allocated during that three-year period. 

Related Cos.' regional center in New York also received a large portion of investment through the visa program, with 1,400 petitions approved since 2014, USCIS data reveals. There is also Gotham Regional Center, operated by Silverstein Properties, which saw 477 approvals during the period. USCIS also approved 269 petitions for Extell Development's regional center, TRD reports.

EB-5 funding is behind some of the country’s biggest projects in gateway markets, such as Related Cos.’ Hudson Yards and Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park in New York, The Wharf in Washington, D.C., and Paramount Miami Worldcenter in Miami.

Kushner Cos. is also seeking EB-5 funding for two residential projects — Trump Bay Street and One Journal Square — which came under fire recently for name-dropping the companies’ ties to the president and White House adviser Jared Kushner.