The combination of a weak dollar, tighter credit market, and an increase of wealthy foreigners looking to obtain permanent residency in the U.S. has led to an increased interest in the EB-5 regional center program as a way to obtain a green card for an investor and their family. Additionally, many EB-5 regional centers also offer attractive rate of returns. In 2007 there were only 11 approved regional centers, now there are 117 with 88 more applications pending.
With tight credit markets, the EB-5 program offers a way for many entrepreneurial projects to obtain funding, that could not otherwise obtain a loan. In many cases these projects offer potential for large returns, but as with any investment, especially one of this size, an investor must carefully study the project, the management team, and the track record.
Unfortunately, thousands of immigrants have been burned by misrepresentations about the EB-5 program. Not only do investors in failed projects lose their money, but also their green card, because a failed project cannot prove that the required number of permanent jobs were created.
This is not to say that there are not several regional centers with proven track records, especially the 11 in place before 2007. One regional center, is actually run by the state of Vermont, and has been operating since 1996 with a 100% approval rate. The Vermont regional center programs develop various aspects of the Jay Peak ski area as a way to drive investment dollars into the state and stimulate its economy. This regional center has been a win-win, where the investors have enjoyed healthy returns on their investments while obtaining a green card for themselves and their families. Meanwhile the state of Vermont benefited from increased jobs for residents as well as more tax dollars from the increased tourism.