EB-5 visa program gets another lifeline until end of April

A new bill would likely raise investment to $800K and redefine targeted employment areas

Dec.December 13, 2016 11:15 AM

Rendering of Paramount Miami Worldcenter, a project that’s using EB-5 investment

Congress extended the EB-5 program until April 28, marking yet another short-term renewal of the controversial visa program.

The program, which grants foreign investors green cards after they invest at least $500,000 in job-producing ventures, was set to expire on Friday. EB-5 was included in the continuing resolution Congress passed.

Ronnie Fieldstone, an Arnstein & Lehr attorney who represents EB-5 regional centers and developers, said the extension will give more time to get a new bill passed. Fieldstone and others expect President-elect Donald Trump to support the program – his stance could have a major impact on his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s businesses. Kushner Companies used EB-5 funds for his Trump Bay Street rental tower in Jersey City.

“No one can argue we’re creating American jobs, bringing in wealthy, talented people to create jobs,” Fieldstone told The Real Deal.

At a panel hosted by TRD in Shanghai last month, advocates of the visa program said it was likely to thrive under Trump. “His strong stance [is] against illegal immigration,” former New York Gov. George Pataki said. “And EB-5 is a legal immigration program. He understands the need for capital, the need for investment.”

A new bill would likely raise the minimum investment requirement from $500,000 to $800,000 in high unemployment areas and from $1 million to $1.2 million in low unemployment areas. The minimum investment hasn’t changed since 1992. New legislation could also redefine targeted employment areas, or TEAs. Critics say the program’s current structure disproportionately benefits wealthy areas.

Noel Epelboim, a Venezuelan developer who’s working on EB-5 funded projects in Miami, said limiting the employment areas would “be a good thing.” He’s secured 16 investors out of 24 for the EB-5 component of a 190-room, seven-story EVEN Hotel near Miami International Airport, all from Latin America. In all, EB-5 investors have partially funded Epelboim’s office condo project in Doral, a Class A building in Miramar, and will be used for the development of a 240-room hotel in Orlando. He plans to launch one hotel a year for the next 10 years using EB-5 investment.

In South Florida, developments like SkyRise Miami, Panorama Tower, Paramount Miami Worldcenter, Metropica, the Highlands, and a number of restaurants and hotels are all tapping into EB-5 funding.

The program’s uncertain future has spooked some investors, though, with some agents putting new deals on hold until new legislation is passed, Fieldstone said. “It may not be done by April of next year,” he told TRD. “For all we know, immigration may be handled in one program and not just piecemeal.”

An earlier version of this story incorrectly included One Thousand Museum as an EB-5 funded project. It is not using EB-5 investment. 

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