Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Investor Visa Proves Popular with Lawmakers, but Outside Control

Tom Banse

Legislators in Washington state are showing enthusiasm for a federal immigration program that gives green cards to wealthy foreign investors. But state officials discovered during a workshop on Friday that the options for expanding foreign investment in this way are largely outside their control. 

There's a little known back door into the United States, available only to the affluent. It's called the immigrant investor visa, or EB-5. Foreigners can get green cards for themselves and immediate family by sinking at least half a million dollars into a business here. Each investment has to create or save at least 10 jobs. 

Policymakers like the idea of creating jobs at no cost to the public. One of the immigration middlemen at a field workshop in Everett was Greg Steinhauer, president of American Life, Inc. A legislator asked him what can the state do to boost this kind of investment.

"Put pressure on Congress to (renew) the program and streamline it, and stop being so capricious in the way they issue rulings and interpretation of the laws," Steinhauer said.

Steinhauer and other property developers say controversy around immigration is creating uncertainty, and uncertainty is bad for business. 

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.