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EB-5 Expiration Raises Big Questions for Developers


The wildly popular EB-5 program, which grants green cards to foreign investors, is set to expire today, raising big questions for both developers and investors.

With the mass influx of foreign capital, EB-5 has been a winner among Chinese investors, with 90% of EB-5 visas granted going to Chinapouring in nearly $4B since 2009 along the way.

Developers, big and small, are bullish on EB-5, too, with a number using such funds to finance big projects. Related Cos, the developer of New York City's Hudson Yards, raised a record $600Musing a "cash-for-visa" deal structure. Most recently, Macklowe Properties revealed plans to raise $100M in EB-5 funds for 1 Wall St, a $1.5B condo conversion in Lower Manhattan.

If left to expire, it could have a big impact on new developments. "If the EB-5 program were to expire," RCA senior vice president Jim Costello tells Bisnow, "close consideration of the opportunity costs of this program vs. the benefits of new jobs should be looked at closely by policy makers."

Congress originally wanted to stay close to the 10,000 immigrant investor visa limit allocated to the EB-5 immigration category. But according to estimates, another 15,000 investors sit in the queue (45,000 individuals, total, including family members), with close to 90% of those also coming from China.

“Most of them are doing it because they want the green card and it’s the fastest or best way to get a green card," professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School Steve Yale-Loehr says.

With expiration coming up, Congress is struggling to determine what the future of the EB-5 program will be. EB-5 insiders believe special interest groups will make an 11th hour push to extend the EB-5, though some question the effectiveness of such an extension.

With a three-month EB-5 extension, for example, there would be at least 6,000 EB-5 visa petitions sitting over the next 90 days, creating a seven-year EB-5 backlog that would directly benefit the largest real estate developments in affluent areas. These projects have appeal to Chinese immigrant investors but are also more susceptible to fraud.

A short-term extension would discourage any attempts at EB-5 reforms. Any future legislation wouldn't take effect for years, considering the backlog of petitions on file at the USCIS. [The Hill]