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The Senate yesterday adopted an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would provide permanent authorization for the EB-5 regional center program. The Senate will continue debate on the DHS Appropriations bill today and, possibly, tomorrow. Once passed, the Senate and House will meet in conference to iron out differences in their differing versions of the bill.

A bit of history: in 1990, Congress created the Employment Creation Immigrant Visa category ("EB-5"), allowing up to 10,000 foreign investors, their spouses and their unmarried minor children admission into the United States as lawful permanent residents on a two-year conditional basis.

To qualify under the EB-5 program, the new commercial enterprise must: (1) benefit the United States economy; and (2) create, directly or indirectly, full time employment for at least 10 United States citizens, lawful permanent residents, or certain other immigrants authorized to be employed. Generally, the amount of investment required to gain EB-5 status is a minimum of $1,000,000.

In 1993, Congress enacted the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Pilot Program which reserved 3,000 of the available 10,000 EB-5 visas for investors in businesses located in "targeted employment areas, otherwise known as Regional Centers. Regional Centers are usually regions of high unemployment or rural areas. If the investment is being made in a Regional Center, the threshold amount required to qualify for an EB-5 visa is reduced to $500,000.

This program was scheduled to expire on March 6, 2009, but was extended to September 30, 2009. According to the Fortune Small Business magazine, in 2008, 945 foreign investors used the Pilot Program and invested in the US economy over $400,000,000.

? Valery Milgrom, 1997 - 2012

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