05.16.13

Leahy’s EB-5 Amendment Added To Immigration Reform Bill

. . . Will Strengthen Investor Visa Program And Give It A Permanent Charter . . . Vermont The Nation’s Leader In Using EB-5, Drawing Hundreds Of Millions Of Investment Dollars To The State

WASHINGTON – Senator Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) amendment to make significant improvements to the job-creating EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center program was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday during the panel’s third day of debate and votes on the comprehensive immigration reform bill.  The amendment was filed to the bipartisan immigration reform bill by Leahy, who chairs the Judiciary Committee. The Leahy amendment was approved in a unanimous voice vote.

Leahy has long championed the successful job-creating immigrant visa program that has helped promote economic growth in Vermont and many other states.  His amendment ensures the program will be made permanent, and it provides additional improvements to make the program more efficient for investors and regional center operators.  The amendment also provides additional anti-fraud and oversight measures.

“This is a significant economic development breakthrough for Vermont,” said Leahy.  “The EB-5 program has been a powerful job and economic development engine in Vermont.  When fully subscribed, this program has the potential to contribute $5 billion to communities around the country each year, creating tens of thousands of American jobs.  And all of it is at no cost to American taxpayers.”

Vermont’s Regional Center – a national leader in using the federal program -- has been a successful private-public partnership between the State of Vermont and a growing number of Vermont businesses, bringing economic development and job growth to the state since 1997.  Two of Vermont's premier ski resorts, Jay Peak and Sugarbush, have successfully used the program to launch major development projects.  Other capital investment projects are in the works around the state.  Vermont’s projects have drawn business and tourism to the state, fueling local economies and creating jobs. 

Leahy’s amendment is one of several aimed to promote job creation and innovation offered to the nonimmigrant visa provisions in Title IV of the bill.  Other bipartisan proposals have also been adopted to boost investments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and training; to provide assistance for American workers to apply for jobs in the technology sector; and to establish employee reporting requirements to address potential abuse of the visa system.

Under unprecedented transparency steps launched by Leahy in organizing the markup sessions on the immigration reform bill, all amendments filed to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act can be viewed online.  Webcasts of all sessions are available on the Judiciary Committee’s website online.

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 NEWS BACKGROUNDER ON THE LEAHY EB-5 AMENDMENT:

Senator Leahy’s Amendment to Make Permanent
and to Strengthen the EB-5 Regional Center Program

Vermont secured a federal EB-5 Regional Center Designation in 1997.  Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the program’s leading champion in Congress, has partnered with the state to create Vermont jobs and has worked with Congress to make the Regional Center Program a vital part of the federal immigration system.  The program has already attracted billions of dollars in capital investments and has helped create hundreds of jobs in Vermont and thousands more across the country.  

Today, Leahy is chairing the continuation of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.  He is expected to offer an amendment during today’s markup of the comprehensive immigration reform bill to make further improvements to the Regional Center Program. Watch online.

The EB-5 Regional Center Program creates jobs and spurs capital investment in Vermont and across the nation in rural and high unemployment areas.

How the Program Works:  Similar to the highly successful investor visa programs in Canada and other countries, the EB-5 Regional Center Program permits a private entity or a state to apply for designation as an approved regional center.  This designation allows the entity or state to propose development projects for foreign nationals who seek to immigrate to the United States through substantial investments in projects within geographically defined locations.  Along with many other requirements that the investor must fulfill, the investor’s capital investment must result in the creation of 10 jobs

If the application is approved, the investor is granted conditional permanent resident status for approximately two years while the investor’s investment goes to work.  After this period, the investor may petition to become an unconditional lawful permanent resident of the United States. 

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency that administers the program, estimates that the EB-5 Regional Center Program has created tens of thousands of American jobs and attracted more than $1 billion in investment in communities across the United States since 2006.  Vermont has been a national leader in using the EB-5 program to create jobs, with hundreds of jobs created in projects at Jay Peak, Sugarbush and elsewhere.  Foreign investors have put their dollars to work in diverse projects from these ski resort expansions in Vermont, to dairy farms in Iowa, and to the redevelopment of decommissioned military bases in California. 

The Leahy amendment will strengthen oversight while reducing red tape in the EB-5 Regional Center Program.

The comprehensive immigration reform bill currently being debated in the Judiciary Committee would permanently authorize the EB-5 Regional Center Program.  Senator Leahy’s amendment will make further improvements to the program, increasing oversight while making the program more accessible for potential investors.  Among other things, the amendment will:

 

  • Codify the program in existing law;
  • Make the program easier for job-creating regional center operators to use, and make the process more predictable for foreign investors;
  • Provide additional oversight tools to make sure that those who would seek to abuse the program, or commit fraud, would be prevented from doing so;
  • Ensure that all users of the program are in full compliance with securities laws;
  • Permit the Secretary of Homeland Security to bar those who have been liable of financial or other crimes from using the program and to conduct background checks on potential regional center managers; 
  • Require detailed annual reporting from regional centers to track the progress of investment projects.  

Among those who have supported the EB-5 Regional Center Program in Vermont is Jay Peak President and CEO, Bill Stenger, who recently wrote in support of Senator Leahy’s amendment:

“I especially appreciate the EB-5 visa amendment that calls for the program to be made permanent.  This is vital for the health of the national program, but also for Vermont.  We have $700 million of investment underway or planned in Northern Vermont and this permanent authorization is vital to our ability to deliver on the creation of these projects.  Thousands of jobs are to be created and they would be at risk if the EB-5 Program were to be curtailed… There are many elements within the amendment that improve and strengthen the quality of the EB-5 Program nationally and I thank you for this balanced quality legislation.”

Senator Leahy was the driving force behind every reauthorization since enactment.

Authorization for the EB-5 Regional Center Pilot Program was first enacted in 1993, for a period of 10 years.  In 2003, Leahy won a five-year extension of the program in the Basic Pilot Program Extension and Expansion Act of 2003. 

In the final days before the Regional Center Program’s subsequent sunset date of September 30, 2008, Leahy secured a five-month extension of the program.  He succeeded again in March 2009, winning another six-month extension to keep the program running without interruption. 

In October of 2009, Leahy succeeded in securing a three-year extension of the program in the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act.  The Program is currently authorized through September 30, 2012. 

And in September 2012, just days before the program was set to expire, Leahy won congressional approval for a three-year reauthorization of the program.

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