By Rep. Jared Polis
March 23, 2015, 4:58 p.m.
While it appears increasingly likely that congressional Republicans will punt on much-needed comprehensive immigration reform, it is important for us to look at smaller, yet still useful, steps forward to chip away at this growing, but manufactured crisis. As an entrepreneur and business owner, I have seen firsthand how hard it is to raise funds for worthy projects and companies.
Luckily, we have a program in place to help meet the needs of visionary entrepreneurs and developers: the EB-5 visa program. It’s one of the best ways we can attract foreign investments to support and grow our economy and create jobs for Americans. This innovative program was first created by Congress in 1990 to spur investments in the United States and it has been a critical tool since then to supplement our capital markets during the economic downturn.
Since 2005, the EB-5 program has been responsible for the direct investment of billions of dollars in U.S. businesses and projects, leading to the creation of hundreds of thousands of American jobs.
The program subjects investors to the same security requirements as any other visa applicant, and they must go through the same process to earn citizenship.
Foreign investors are eligible for EB-5 when they invest at least $1 million in qualified American businesses or $500,000 in Targeted Employment Areas — rural or high unemployment zones. These investors must also show they will create a minimum of 10 American jobs.
This is a bipartisan, common-sense program that brings much needed influxes of cash from savvy businesspeople to support American jobs and bolster our economy. Unfortunately, for too long it has been subject to temporary reauthorizations, creating a lack of certainty that can drive away potential investments.
That’s why in January, I introduced HR 616, the American Entrepreneurship and Investment Act of 2015, with Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev. This measure would make permanent the EB-5 investor visa program while modernizing and improving the program, reinforcing security standards and adding stronger fraud and abuse deterrence. Our legislation has broad support from the business community, most notably from the real estate, tourism and investment industries, key sectors as our nation continues its economic recovery.
Unfortunately, this program is currently at risk of expiring in a few months. If EB-5 is not reauthorized by Sept. 30, this economic driver and job creator will end. Regardless of the politics surrounding the larger immigration reform debate, we should all be able to put partisanship aside for this successful program that has broad support. Permanently authorizing EB-5, along with our common-sense bipartisan reforms, would give foreign investors the confidence that we are serious about the program and help keep valuable funds flowing to U.S. businesses.
The EB-5 visa program works. It is time for action to permanently authorize it and show the American people that even in the midst of partisan battles and rhetoric, people on both sides of the aisle can still spot and support a good idea.
Rep. Jared Polis is a Democrat from Colorado.