Youyou Zhou | Quartz | October 4, 2018 | 0 Comments

The Most Scandal-Plagued U.S. Visa Program Lives On Because Congress Is Too Busy To Fix It

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Rich foreigners must be relieved: Their fast track to U.S. residency is safe again.

The US EB-5 visa program, which offers permanent residency (also known as a green card) to foreigners who invest in job-creating projects, got its 19th extension last week. It had been set to expire on Sept. 30, but US president Donald Trump extended the program through Dec. 7 as part of a spending bill that funds many government programs.

The program requires a minimum investment of $500,000, to create at least 10 jobs. The visa has increasingly been criticized as a conduit for money-laundering, and derided as “citizenship for sale.” Congress has proposed a series of changes in the past couple years, including one to increase the minimum investment requirement to $1.35 million and another to terminate it entirely. Members of both political parties have threatened to end the program if reforms aren’t made. At least until Dec. 7, those threats remain empty.

While the EB-5 program has always had expiring funding—it started with a five-year pilot program—extensions have gone from years-long approvals to short-term authorizations tied to Congress’s funding of government operations.

The shortest extension lasted only a week (April 28-May 5, 2017). At the time, it was called ”good news” by Invest in the USA, a pro-EB-5 advocacy group, who said the short-term extension would give Congress more time to reach a longer-term reform deal and avoid axing the program altogether. No reform has been made since then.

The extension this time, while short, pushes the next deadline until after this year’s Congressional elections—kicking the can just a little farther down the road.

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