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Lawmakers consider changes to EB-5 visa, propose new EB-6 visa

Pennsylvania readers may be interested to learn that federal lawmakers from both parties are proposing immigration reform ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline for the renewal of the EB-5 program for immigrant investors. The EB-5 visa allows immigrants who invest at least $500,000 in a job-creating project in an area with high unemployment to obtain permanent residency. It also allows for the pooling of these investments into "regional centers," which can be used to fund larger projects.

In June, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced legislation to renew the regional center portion of the EB-5 visa for five more years. However, the cash-for-visa portion of the program has drawn criticism that it encourages favoritism and could be a national security risk. Grassley and Leahy have proposed background checks for investors, disclosures that would uncover conflicts of interest, better oversight and raising the minimum investment to $800,000.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D.-Ill., have proposed a bill called the Entrepreneurial Business Creating Jobs Act, which would also reform EB-5 and create a new visa called the EB-6. The EB-6 visa has provisions for entrepreneurs who obtain at least $500,000 in backing from an established venture capitalist, super angel investor or qualified employer toward a new commercial enterprise. Another provision allows for self-funded investments that provide employment. The EB-6 would only be granted to those involved with proven business ventures that meet certain job thresholds or revenue projections.

The application process for an employment-based visa is complex, time-consuming and deadline sensitive. Anyone wishing to obtain an investor visa may benefit by working with an attorney who is familiar with the process.

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