- 10 million new jobs
- $1 trillion of new investment in American companies
- 1 million affluent new legal immigrants
We can all agree these three components would provide the kind of jump start our economy desperately needs – and you, Mr. President, can help us get there by focusing attention to a little-known existing federal government program that brings together entrepreneurial investment with legal immigration.
Perhaps most importantly, you can do it easily, quickly, and with no tax increase – in fact, with little, if any, cost.
If all this sounds too simplistic and too good to be true, permit me to explain why these objectives are actually very realistic and very achievable.
Despite our country’s various challenges, people from around the world continue to come to the United States for many reasons – to live in freedom, to practice their religion openly, to pursue education or business opportunities, and to make a better life for themselves and their children, to name a few.
An important goal for many immigrants is gaining a “green card,” or Permanent Resident Card as it is known officially, so they can live in the country legally. One of the most attractive options for foreign entrepreneurs and wealthy individuals to acquire lawful permanent residence – and eventually naturalized U.S. citizenship, if desired – is the EB-5 program.
“EB” stands for “employment based” because the program is designed to stimulate investment in American business and to encourage growth of our economy, specifically through the creation of new jobs. EB-5 was started as part of the U.S. Immigration Act of 1990 and grants about 10,000 special category visas each year.
However, due to cumbersome eligibility requirements and more importantly, a lack of proper marketing, the program has not been very successful. To put it candidly, we are leaving money on the table – a lot of money.
For example, last year, an estimated $1.25 billion was invested in U.S. companies by EB-5 participants. This is a miniscule amount of the potential we could – and should – attract from affluent individuals and business owners around the world who want to live in our country, experience its benefits, and participate in our $15 trillion economy.
That’s because too few of these wealthy people know about EB-5, such as its two basic requirements:
- Invest $1 million – or $500,000 in a high unemployment or a rural area
- Create at least 10 new full-time jobs per investor within two years
Certainly EB-5 is a complex area of American immigration law and like any government program, it has many nuances – some of which should be streamlined. However, my purpose here is not to examine the subtleties or the reform of EB-5, rather it is to ask a bigger question – and to issue a challenge to you, Mr. President, and to our country.
Let us set a goal of attracting one million wealthy foreigners to each invest $1 million in American business through the EB-5 program. The result would be an infusion of $1 trillion in new funds for American business and the creation of 10 million new jobs – people who would be paying taxes and who would be stimulating our economy with their purchase of homes, cars, and other goods.
That would be dramatic – and that would make an economic difference!
But is it realistic and achievable? The short answer is “yes.”
The longer answer is that the goal is reasonable because there are literally millions of affluent individuals in countries around the world who are looking to America as a safe haven to live their lives, to educate their children, and to invest their money.
As a banker and a hotel owner of Asian Indian heritage, I am especially aware of this feeling among people in India. During eight weeks recently spent in India, I repeatedly heard from Indians about why they want to invest in America – reasons that are valid for all wealthy foreigners:
- Ours is a safe, secure economy and a functioning democracy
- It diversifies a person’s investment portfolio
- It enables expansion of their home country businesses into the world’s largest consumer market
- It earns a reasonable return
- It preserves principal outside the investor’s native country
- It provides a foundation for their children’s education
- Our legal system protects an investor’s rights
- It makes U.S. or dual citizenship possible
The desire and willingness of wealthy foreigners to invest in America often verges on urgency and single-minded obsession – especially in developing or oil-rich countries such as India, China, Brazil, and Russia, for example.
Above all, the goal is achievable simply by expanding the global attention for this relatively obscure program. With the combined power of the presidency and the media, visibility of EB-5 will increase – and as more people around the world learn about the program and its benefits, there will be increased participation in it.
Questions about economic stimulus and legal immigration can be difficult – but sometimes the answers don’t have to be. EB-5 is one such example – it provides us with a unique opportunity to put common sense into common practice for the common good.
I, along with many other American business people, stand ready – under your leadership, Mr. President – to help implement an initiative regarding EB-5, a program that can help lead America back to prosperity with minimal effort and dramatic impact.
Nitin Shah is chairman and CEO of Embassy National Bank, which is a community bank located in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville and is one of the leading SBA lenders in the southeast. He also owns hotels and commercial real estate as president of Imperial Investments Group. He is a former chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, a group with almost 11,000 members who together own almost 21,000 hotels. He can be reached at email@example.com.