Wealthy Chinese Investors/Tourists Still Dominate EB-5 Visa Projects: Taking a cue from other parts of the country that have benefited from it, Maine officials moving forward with development of a regional center to connect foreign investors to projects in Maine, such as a $40 million Chinese medical tourism facility proposed for Auburn, Maine.
Under the EB-5 program, foreign entrepreneurs can get visas for investing in projects such as a proposed $40 million Chinese medical tourism facility in Auburn that create jobs for U.S. workers. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program, created in 1990, provides a method for eligible immigrant investors to become permanent (or “green card”) U.S. residents by investing at least $1,000,000 to finance a business in the United States that will employ at least 10 American workers.” Most immigrant investors who use the EB-5 program invest in a targeted employment area (TEA) — a rural area or area with high unemployment — which lowers the investment threshold to $500,000. The EB-5 program is intended to encourage both foreign investments and economic growth.
One unintended byproduct of the program is the large number of Chinese investors looking to become long-term residents—or eventually, citizens—of the United States. The number of resident-investors under the program is limited to 10,000. Since the program became more popular a decade ago, investors from China have ranked at the top of the list. The table below shows the breakdown of the numbers of investors and their country of origin for 2016—the most recent year for which complete numbers are available.
Under terms of the program, states can set up regional centers to attract investors (rather than seek investors for single projects). The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development first considered becoming a regional center two years ago. It took another year to secure federal government approval.
He said the state’s new regional center already has some project leaders “that are very interested” in participating in the program. One of them is Miracle Enterprise, a China-based group that plans to turn the former Lunn & Sweet Shoe Co. factory on Minot Avenue into a five-star resort catering to rich Chinese patients seeking American medical treatments
George Gervais, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, told the Portland Press Herald that the new entity would not be the first regional center in Maine. Over the years, private groups – including the owners and executives of Saddleback ski resort in Rangeley – have started regional centers, but none has attracted any money to Maine
According to the Press Herald, Auburn Economic and Community Development Director Michael Chammings said he spoke to Miracle Enterprise’s project manager less than two months ago and the group was then working its business plan around the lack of a regional center.
He added, “I’m sure they’re happy the program has been put into place.”