Republican Senators to DHS: Whoa, please don’t make EB-5 more expensive!

The lawmakers believe a $1.35M minimum investment would "jeopardize" program's viability

From left: Dean Heller, Thom Tillis and Rand Paul
From left: Dean Heller, Thom Tillis and Rand Paul

A group of Republican senators want the Department of Homeland Security to roll back an Obama-era proposal that would drastically make it more expensive for foreign investors to participate in the EB-5 visa program.

In late January, the department proposed a series of reforms to the program, which grants green cards to foreigners who invest in U.S. real estate projects and has been a popular financing mechanism for New York City developers. A key element of the proposal, which has been debated for years, would require foreigners to invest $1.35 million instead of $500,000.

Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada, John Cornyn of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Thom Tillis of North Carolina asked DHS to withdraw the rule, saying $1.35 million is “far higher” than what’s been discussed, and the rule doesn’t allow for any transition period for stakeholders. “This type of shock will be detrimental to the EB-5 program’s future viability and will be detrimental to employment in our states,” they wrote in a letter to DHS Secretary John Kelly. If enacted, the rule would “jeopardize the ability of the program to continue to draw foreign direct investment to the U.S.,” the senators wrote.

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While the EB-5 program is imperfect, reform should be achieved through a legislative process, they said. The current program is up for renewal on Sept. 30, 2017.

A top regional center chief in February told The Real Deal that a plan to raise the minimum investment to $1.35 million would likely result in a 90 percent dropoff in demand.

The Trump administration and presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner [TRDataCustom] faced backlash in May after Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, invoked her family’s ties to the White House during a pitch to Chinese investors. Kushner Companies has been seeking $150 million from EB-5 investors for One Journal Square, a 1,467-apartment tower in Jersey City that has a $1 billion price tag.