Wealthy Chinese citizens may soon have to pony up a lot more money to qualify for a U.S. investor visa, and they are rushing to move funds into stateside real estate projects before Congress raises the minimum contribution requirement.
Lawmakers are currently reviewing the investment standards of the EB-5 program, a special visa category that fast-tracks foreign investors for permanent resident status if they invest at least $1 million–or $500,000 for “targeted employment zones”–into job-creating businesses in the U.S.
The Department of Homeland Security has proposed increasing the standard minimum investment amount from $1 million to $1.8 million and the targeted employment area minimum from $500,000 to $1.35 million, which has some rich Chinese rushing to get their money into U.S. bank accounts, Bloomberg reported Sunday.
Many are resorting to borderline illegal tactics to get around capital controls imposed by the Chinese government. One favored method, Bloomberg reported, involves opening multiple overseas accounts or using friends’ accounts to make a series of smaller deposits below the $500,000 EB-5 minimum. Known as “smurfing,” the practice allows investors to skirt the Beijing-mandated exchange cap of $50,000 worth of Chinese yuan.
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