Buy a Condo, Get a Green Card!
"Investment" in a ski resort in Vermont. William Stenger is building a new resort town, using citizenship as a sweetener. Generally, I am skeptical of incentive programs for investments, but I am pretty strongly FOR letting rich people emigrate to the U.S.
The price tag for the entire project, which Mr. Stenger says will create 10,000 direct and indirect jobs over several years, is $865 million.
But even more unusual than the size of the undertaking is the method by which Mr. Stenger and his business partner, Ariel Quiros, are financing it. They have tapped into a federal program that gives green cards, or permanent residency, to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in an American business — the reward for the investment is a chance at United States citizenship.
Mr. Stenger has already attracted 550 foreign investors from 60 countries to put up $275 million for the first phase: a hotel at the Jay Peak ski complex, an indoor water park the size of a football field, an ice hockey arena, condominiums, restaurants and stores.
The second and third phases, now under way, require 1,000 additional foreign investors to put up $500 million to overhaul Newport and to develop the nearby Burke Mountain ski area.
Mr. Stenger and Mr. Quiros are putting up $90 million themselves. But even at $785 million, this is one of the single biggest projects in the country financed under the investor program.
Congress created the visa program in 1990 to help stimulate the economy. Because of a cumbersome process and complaints of fraud and corruption, it was long underused.
But a confluence of events in recent years has led to its rather sudden revival: the program was improved; the financial crisis of 2008 made it hard for developers to get loans from commercial banks; and foreign nationals, especially in China, were accumulating vast wealth and were eager for their children to study and live in the United States.
In 2006, the government issued just 802 of these EB-5 visas to investors and their families; this year, it granted 7,818.
The program is now growing so rapidly that in the next year or two the number issued will probably reach the annual limit of 10,000. For the first time in the program’s history, applicants may be turned away.
Good program, bad program?
Nod to JR