In the midst of an economic downturn, Americans are looking for long-term strategic solutions to our unemployment woes. One solution is to leverage our immigration system to attract investors to come to the United States and create jobs in exchange for a coveted green card.
This is happening right now in Vermont. Bill Stenger, president and co-owner of the Jay Peak Resort, has not had to borrow a penny for his $125 million project. It is almost entirely funded by about 250 foreign investors from 43 countries through the EB-5 visa program. The development is the second phase of a goal to make Jay Peak a four-season resort. The first phase included an indoor ice rink, golf course and clubhouse, and the Tram Haus Lodge -- a 57-suite hotel with a bar, restaurant and coffee shop.
The EB-5 program is based on making a substantial financial commitment to create additional employment in the US. The EB5 Visa is based on a qualifying US investment. It does not require management of the day-to-day affairs of a business, provides the flexibility to invest in an existing or a new business and allows more than one person to invest as well as minority ownership. You can also live anywhere in the United States regardless of where the investment is made.
One may qualify for an EB5 visa in three different ways:
- Invest $1,000,000 and hire ten employees anywhere in the USA, or
- Invest $500,000 and hire ten employees in an area where the unemployment rate exceeds the national average by 150% or the rural population is less than 20,000, or
- Invest in a Government designated Regional Center
In exchange, the investors obtain permanent green cards for themselves and their families, and a chance to gain full U.S. citizenship. The program began nationally in 1992 and became available to businesses in Vermont in 1997 except in the Burlington area, where the unemployment rate was too low to qualify.
Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was instrumental in bringing the EB-5 program to Vermont. "Were it not for the extensions to EB-5 that Senator Leahy has championed, we would not be here today," Stenger said. "We want to see Vermonters employed," Leahy said during his keynote speech. "Bill, you and your team have made that possible."
Leahy is committed to expand the role of EB-5 investments in Vermont. Stenger said the planning and construction has provided temporary jobs for about 800 people. He predicted that when the project is finished, the new facilities will bring 2,000 or more permanent jobs to Orleans County.
Job creation has crossed county lines. For example, DEW construction group, which is heavily involved with the project, is headquartered in Williston; the mechanical engineering firm for the project is located in Winooski; the landscape architect is from Burlington; and Engineered Solutions Inc., the civil engineering firm, is in Winooski.
Let's hope more Senators follow Leahy's lead. These programs offer our economy robust job creation and reaffirm that we’re the world’s best place to do business. Historically, responsible immigration policies plus free markets have yielded high levels of prosperity. That's exactly what this country needs in these uncertain economic times.