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Immigrant Investor Visa Popular With State Legislators, But Outside Their Control

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network

There's a little known back door into the United States, available only to the affluent. It's called the immigrant investor visa -- or EB-5.

Foreigners can get green cards for themselves and immediate family by sinking at least $500,000 into a business here. Each investment has to create or save at least 10 jobs.

Legislators in Washington state are showing enthusiasm for the program and like the idea of creating jobs at no cost to the public. But state officials discovered during a workshop on Friday that the options for expanding foreign investment in this way are largely outside their control.

One of the immigration middlemen at a field workshop in Everett, Washington was Greg Steinhauer, president of American Life, Inc. A legislator asked him what can the state do to boost this kind of investment.

"Put pressure on Congress to (renew) the program and streamline it," Steinhauer said. "And stop being so capricious in the way they issue rulings and interpretation of the laws."

Steinhauer and other property developers say controversy around immigration is creating uncertainty, and uncertainty is bad for business.

On the Web:

Green Card through Investment - USCIS

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.