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EB-5: The ‘Golden Visa’ Gaining Popularity in Latin America

Originally published by El American on February 5, 2021.

The year 2021 is a key year for the “Golden Visa,” as the EB-5 visa is popularly known, which grants a U.S. green card to families who invest capital in projects that create jobs in the United States.

The long-awaited reform of the “Golden Visa,” which has gained popularity in Latin America in recent years, may be closer thanks to a bill that, in the words of an expert, “goes in the right direction,” i.e., facilitating the process and shortening deadlines, among other things.

Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela are among the Latin American countries that have applied the most for this visa under the EB-5 Regional Center Program, according to Invest In USA, or IIUSA, an organization that defends the interests of the EB-5 industry.

This program for families who invest $900,000 in a real estate development to obtain a green card and a direct path to citizenship was automatically approved each year when Congress approved the budget.

Changes to the visa approval process

That changed in 2020 and the current EB-5 expiration date is June 30th, 2021.

“Late last year, Congress extended the EB-5 Regional Center Program unchanged until June 30, 2021 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021,” explained Cyntia Gomez, an immigration attorney and EB-5 visa expert with the law firm of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr in Miami.

This time the extension separated the EB-5 Regional Center Program reauthorization from future appropriations bills by making its new deadline June 30th, 2021, instead of the end of the fiscal year on September 30th, 2021.

“This distinction could imply Congress’ intent to focus more on the EB-5 Regional Center Program as a single issue, which could ultimately result in the long-awaited reform of the program,” Gomez said in remarks provided by Top of Mind media.

Necessary reforms?

The good news is that two influential members of the Senate have proposed new legislation to reform the EB-5 visa program and extend it through 2025, said David Amaro, director of The Americas Capital Markets at Lightstone Private Wealth, later renamed LS NYRC.

Amaro works with investors in Latin America seeking to invest in Lightstone’s New York projects to obtain the EB-5 visa.

Legislation called the “EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2020” has been introduced in Congress by Senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy. The bill was welcomed with open arms by groups supporting the program, according to IIUSA.

“The new legislation is a step in the right direction,” said Amaro, whose company has helped more than 1,000 investors and their families apply for EB-5 visas.

“We support a new law that will provide even more protections for investors and shorten the waiting time for families looking to start a new life in the United States. At the same time, this bill will help expand a program that attracts foreign capital to our economy, creates jobs and spurs economic development in communities across the country,” he added.

Oxygen for the economy

Amaro said Congress “understands that our economy needs this program to help stabilize the country. It’s no coincidence that the EB-5 visa gained popularity during the Great Recession a decade ago.”

The “EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2020” has been well received by those who support the EB-5 visa, who will be pushing Congress to adopt the new law.

“It is difficult to predict whether this legislation, as originally proposed, will pass, as there is some degree of resistance from senators of both parties even though the EB-5 Program is generally considered non-partisan,” Gomez added.

“If passed, the bill would provide reasonable reform measures and oversight of the program, investors would enjoy fast processing times and more. In short, the EB-5 Regional Center Program would undergo significant changes that would ultimately make it more attractive to investors,” he continued.

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