More Developers Turning to EB-5 Visa Program for Construction Funding

With banks offering very little in the way of funding for construction projects, a number of developers across the country are looking to the federal EB-5 visa program to secure financial assistance from foreign investors, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

According to the news provider, the use of the program nearly doubled last year to 1,995 investors applying during the fiscal year that ended in September. Additionally, when the economy was booming in 2006, there were only 486 applicants, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Through the EB-5 visa program, foreign nationals have an opportunity to obtain U.S. green card eligibility by investing $1 million (or $500,000 in some areas) in an American project or company that either maintains or creates at least 10 full-time jobs.

Throughout its history, the program has attracted investors from a number of foreign countries including India and China, and has helped fund projects in a variety of industries from tourism to manufacturing, the news source said.

One of the most high-profile examples of projects utilizing EB-5 funding is the Nets basketball arena in Brooklyn, New York, which is currently under construction. Some people close to the project have said that the developers have secured financial commitments of approximately $249 million from nearly 500 foreign investors, according to the Journal. That kind of financial assistance may not have been possible from a local bank.

Evan Zeppos, a spokesman for developer Jackson Street Management, which plans to raise a significant amount of money for its recently approved Milwaukee Marriott Hotel, told the news source that the EB-5 visa program is particularly helpful in such difficult economic times.

“It’s an attractive alternative,” Zeppos said. “Any developer knows now that for financing, the faucet is still very tight.”

Some members of Congress and other legislators, including Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, have also decided to promote the program in order to stimulate the local economy and create jobs. In his recent inaugural address, Shumlin said that one of his top priorities was for Vermont to take more advantage of the EB-5 visa program, which would assist companies in the state, according to the Burlington Free Press.