The controversial "green card through investment" visas that helped fund Orlando City's Soccer Stadium, and many other projects in the United States, are catching fire to finance new restaurants in Central Florida.
Some developers are skipping banks and looking to China, Brazil and other countries for investors willing to plunk down $500,000 or more for new franchise locations in exchange for temporary residency for themselves, a spouse and children.
A new Twin Peaks restaurant near Walt Disney World Resorts is set to open in early October using the EB-5 visa program, while upstart chain Spoleto My Italian Kitchen is bringing in foreign investors to expand. Orlando-based Twistee Treat is using the program to find owners for its ice cream-cone shaped stands.
The EB-5 program, which started in 1990, allows foreigners get a quick green card by investing at least a half million dollars in a new American project that will produce at least 10 jobs per investor.
The program has critics in Congress, who say it was intended to help poor and rural areas but is mainly being used in places such as New York, California and Florida.
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