Congress granted a short-term reprieve this week to a visa program that benefits immigrants who invest in U.S. businesses, but that extension came without any reforms critics say are necessary to prevent fraud, abuse and security risks.
The EB-5 program was set to expire Saturday, but lawmakers Wednesday included it in the short-term budget bill that will keep the federal government running until Dec. 9.
All that did was extend the program, however – it did not address the visa program’s regional centers that critics said as recently as last week are “deeply flawed” leaving the program “mired in fraud and abuse.”
But even as they call for reform, lawmakers say the EB-5 program is a “critical financing tool” that has helped establish businesses and create jobs – including in Arizona where much of the investment has gone to establish charter schools among other businesses.
“I believe that the EB-5 program should be strengthened when it comes to its oversight and integrity,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, said Friday in a statement released by his office. “We need to amend it, not end it.”
The EB-5 program, created in 1990, grants a green card to investors and their families who put at least $500,000 into a business that creates 10 full-time jobs in high-unemployment or rural areas. Two years later, the Regional Center Program was added to let investors pool their money and make it easier to obtain a green card.
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