Leahy Renews Effort To Permanently Charter Successful Job-Creating Foreign Investment Program

BURLINGTON, Vt. (FRIDAY, March 18) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced Friday that he is renewing his effort to make permanent the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center pilot program.  Vermont’s Regional Center program, established in 1997, has been a highly successful private-public partnership between the State of Vermont and several Vermont businesses.

“Vermont’s regional center program is an economic engine for the state,” said Leahy at a news conference in Burlington.  “In a small state like ours, economic success in one area is inevitably felt in other parts of the state.  Making the EB-5 program permanent is just the start.  We are working to modernize the program to handle the growth it has seen across the country in recent years.  Vermont’s use of the program is a model of success, and other states have taken note.”

Leahy has successfully steered short-term extensions of the pilot program through Congress.  The current authorization will expire in September 2012.  On Thursday, Leahy introduced legislation in the Senate to permanently authorize the program.  Leahy chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the program. 

Vermont’s Regional Center was rechartered in 2007.  Two Vermont ski resorts, Jay Peak and Sugarbush, are active participants in the Regional Center pilot program and have been engaged in ambitious development projects.  Vermont’s Regional Center projects have drawn business and tourism to the state, fueling local economies and creating jobs.  Leahy said several other businesses, including manufacturers in Windsor and Newport, are also working to use the program in Vermont.

At the news conference in Burlington, Leahy was joined by Lawrence Miller, Vermont’s Secretary of Commerce and Community Development; Bill Stenger, the President and owner for Jay Peak Resort; and Win Smith, the President of Sugarbush Resort. 

Since it was created in 1993, the regional center program has attracted more than a billion dollars in foreign investment to the United States, and created thousands of new domestic jobs – hundreds, in Vermont.  There are now approximately 135 Regional Centers across the country, with new applications pending. 

“Making the EB-5 program permanent should receive bipartisan support,” Leahy said.  “Most people will agree that creating jobs and capital investment is a good, bipartisan goal.  We faced some challenges in recent years as we tried to make the program permanent, but these were due to broader immigration politics, and a desire to fold all immigration reforms into a comprehensive package.  These are political challenges and not policy problems.”

The Regional Center program attracts foreign investors seeking legal permanent residency and a chance to invest in the American economy.  Investors must pledge a minimum of $500,000 to a project within an approved regional center and independently apply for an EB-5 visa.  If approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), foreign investors are granted a conditional two-year green card.  After two years, the investor must provide proof that they have created at least ten jobs as a result of the investment and have met additional investment requirements set by USCIS.  As a result of the program’s popularity, additional applications are pending with USCIS to establish new Regional Centers in several states. 

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