The details remain in flux, but she said business owners like Hollo would pay a fee for using the city's EB-5 "regional center," which is the entity that can forward projects to Washington for approval. Developers also will bear the expense of finding investors overseas and getting the project approved by immigration officials.
Hollo will initially pay about $25,000 to be the debut EB-5 project for Miami, with the city kicking in about $40,000. Future participants would likely pay more, Canton said.
In an interview, Hollo said he would not have trouble obtaining financing without the city's EB-5 program and at a lower interest rate. He said his participation is tied mainly to Miami wanting a big venture to win approval for its EB-5 certification in Washington. Once certified as a "regional center," Miami's EB-5 organization can then raise money overseas for multiple ventures and submit them for approval to Washington.
"This is the poster child for the program," Hollo said.
Critics see the national EB-5 program as more about wealthy foreigners jumping to the front of the green-card line, ahead of immigrants chasing visas tied to obtaining and securing employment in the United States. Each visa category has its own cap, so the popularity of one doesn't affect limits on the other. But EB-5 visa holders have much more flexibility when they come to the United States than do traditional green-card holders.
Most immigrants with green cards must maintain employment or risk deportation. But EB-5 visa holders can hold a green card indefinitely without the need for work, provided the jobs tied to their projects get certified by Washington. A successful EB-5 applicant can obtain a green card, plus visas for a spouse and their children under 21.
The system has no requirements for creating well-paying jobs, though high salaries help developers claim more economic impact. Attorneys like Hart who sell the investment slots can take credit not just for jobs on a business's payroll, but also for "indirect" job creation from the money a business generates. And the investment dollars that pour in can mean healthy profits for developers, without the normal restrictions and costs associated with traditional financing from a bank or domestic backers.
"Frankly, it's cheap capital," said David Schubauer, a securities lawyer with Bilzin Sumberg who has worked on Miami-area EB-5 projects. While most investors expect at least 8 percent back on their initial investment each year, Schubauer said he finds the typical EB-5 applicant is happy with earning a return of only 1 or 2 percent.
"It's cheap because the foreigners who invest in these deals are primarily interested in getting their green cards and becoming permanent residents," he said. "They're not so interested in the return they're going to get from their investments."
Supporters see the EB-5 program as another option for bringing overseas cash into the domestic economy, and then target the money to increasing employment for U.S. citizens. While most green-card programs are tied to a foreign resident obtaining employment -- and competing with U.S. job seekers -- the EB-5 program only asks that a foreign resident invest in creating jobs for existing residents.
Federal law allows up to 10,000 EB-5 visas to be issued each year. The more popular visa categories, such as the H-1B (skilled foreign workers) and H-2B (seasonal foreign workers), regularly hit their annual caps mid-year. But the EB-5 has never reached the 10,000 mark.
Most Popular Stories
- Facebook, Twitter Announce Apps for Google Glass
- Will Yahoo Splurge on $1-Billion acquisition of Tumblr?
- European Car Sales up First Time in 20 Months
- 'Star Trek Into Darkness': The Return of Khan?
- Google Fiber Making an Impact
- Entrepreneurs Chase Social Media
- Exciting Night for UFC Fans
- Teen Drivers Should Be Prepared for Any Car-Related Situation
- Summer Movies Aimed at Young Men, Teen Boys
- RFD-TV launches on Charter Cable