Congress should extend the EB-5 visa program for foreign investors as a way to spur the economy, now that the country is facing the danger of another recession, experts consulted by Efe said Thursday.
"This program helps create jobs here and has had great bipartisan support in the past. It's like an economic stimulus plan without costing U.S. taxpayers anything.... It's something where everyone wins, both our country and the foreign investors," said Peter D. Joseph, executive director of the Association to Invest In the USA, or IIUSA, based in Chicago.
"We live in a hyperconnected world, where capital and human resources flow across borders, and this program responds to that macroeconomic reality. The United States is facing a slow economic recovery and Europe is already in crisis," he added.
Created in 1990, the EB-5 program expires on Sept. 30 and, to date, only the Senate has approved a new extension for another three years.
Although implementing the program would not entail any cost, it is not clear if the House of Representatives will approve it when lawmakers return to resume the legislative session next month.
According to IIUSA, the program will help to create about 40,000 jobs over the next two years. The consensus of economists is that, with an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, the United States needs to create around 300,000 jobs a month to establish a trend toward economic recovery.
"This program was not a magic pill for economic recovery, it's not going to solve all the economic problems we have, but it's essential (to have it) in our toolbox and must be on the table," Joseph argued.
Meanwhile, immigration attorney Randy Sidlosca, with the Arnstein and Lehr law firm, said that the program is very popular among investors in Latin America, above all in Venezuela and Mexico, who are seeking a safe haven for their investments.
"From Latin American, the majority of those who are requesting these visas are Venezuelans, although there are also Mexicans. In Fiscal Year 2012, the five main countries were China, South Korea, Taiwan, Iran and Venezuela," Sidlosca said.
"We have many investors from Mexico who are requesting these visas, unfortunately to leave the country because of the issue of public safety," he said. "In the case of Venezuela, the majority are asking (for the visas) because of the political issue, because they're seeking opportunities here in the U.S."
Sidlosca said he was confident that the approval of the extension will not run into any obstacles in Congress because, although it is an election year, "this is something that has to do with the creation of jobs."
The EB-5 program, which sets an annual limit of 10,000 permanent residence cards, requires a foreigner to invest a minimum of $500,000 and help to create at least 10 full-time jobs, among other requirements. EFE