Gang of Eight Offers Two New Ways to Buy U.S. Visas

By David North on June 4, 2013

This blog has previously reported the existence of three different ways that aliens could legitimately buy legal status in the United States.

Now, the ever-generous Gang of Eight has proposed two additional ways to convert money into visas.

The previously reported cash-paved paths to legal presence are:

  • EB-5 (immigrant investor) visas, with which, for a half-million dollar investment, an alien and his entire family get green cards after a two-year wait.

  • E-1 and E-2 nonimmigrant visas, which are easily renewed, but not permanent visas for those funding and operating businesses in the United States; the value of the investments is not set by law, but they are usually above $50,000.

  • The STEM master's degree sequence, which can lead from student (F-1) status eventually to a green card.

The pluses and minuses of these three paths are described in the earlier blog. There are ceilings on the number of visas that can be issued through the first and the third paths, but none for the second.

The senators in the Gang of Eight, of course, regard these paths to legal status as too confining and too limited, so they are proposing two additional ways to let the moneyed through the ports of entry.

These are the X nonimmigrant visa for budding entrepreneurs and the INVEST immigrant visa for another class of aliens with, or connected to, money. INVEST is one of those acronyms so beloved on Capitol Hill; it stands for Investing in New Venture, Entrepreneurial Startups and Technologies.

Unlike the EB-5 scheme, which gives out visas for passive investments, both of these programs require that the alien in question actually must run a company. But instead of phasing out the EB-5 program to make way for X and INVEST, the Gang wants to add the new programs to the existing mix.

There seems to be no upper limit to the number of X nonimmigrant visas; the alien must find only $100,000 in someone's money to start a firm, not necessarily the alien's money. He can also qualify if he has started a firm, while in legal status in the United States, that generates $250,000 in revenue over two years and that has created "no fewer than three qualified jobs". Those are the requirements to get the initial visa. Renewal of an X visa requires the same job and revenue requirements.

My hunch is that the vast majority of the first round of X visas will be granted to aliens meeting the $100,000 requirement, not the start-up provision.

Given the Gang of Eight's permissive attitude, you will not be surprised to learn that the Secretary of Homeland Security can waive for a year, not once, but twice, the benchmarks of (modest) success outlined above for X visa holders wanting to extend those documents.

There are to be no more than 10,000 INVEST visas, which to some extent look like immigrant visas for those who have had X nonimmigrant visas. The required benchmarks are the creation of four or five jobs (depending on the scenario) and the investment of half a million dollars or the generation of half- or three-quarters of a million in revenue, again depending on the scenario in question. The array of options presumably is designed to make it easier to grant the visas.

It is both interesting and depressing to note that, while the current EB-5 program requires the creation of 10 jobs, these new programs speak of three, four, or five jobs.

At the moment the X and INVEST visas are incorporated in the broader S.744 bill that has been reported (favorably) by the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Senate Floor. What happens next in the Senate and in the House will be interesting.

The text of these provisions, in Sections 4801 and 4802 of S.744, can be seen here.