EB-5 Extended

Leahy’s extension of EB-5 investor visa program, used in Vermont to create hundreds of jobs, clears Congress

Washington, D.C., October 21, 2009

The US Senate late Tuesday approved and sent to the President’s desk a bill that includes Senator Patrick Leahy’s extension of the “investor visa” program that has attracted millions of dollars in economic development to Vermont, creating hundreds of jobs. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program, which is operated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has generated more than a billion dollars of investments, creating tens of thousands of jobs in states and communities across the country since it was established in 1993. Leahy has led in extending the Regional Center pilot program, and introduced legislation last year to permanently authorize the program. There now are 72 Regional Centers across the country, including Vermont’s, which is run within Vermont’s Department of Commerce and Community Development. On July 22, Leahy held a Judiciary Committee hearing to examine the economic impact of the EB-5 Program, with testimony from Jay Peak Resort’s Bill Stenger.

“This is a big win for our state,” said Leahy. “This program has become an economic engine in Vermont, and we have proven it with the creation of hundreds of jobs. I want Vermont to stay on the cutting edge in harnessing these investments for economic development throughout our state. The biggest impediment to this program is its lack of permanence. Business leaders like Bill Stenger have seen its potential, and extending this program will let him and other business leaders in Vermont move forward with new job-creating projects.”

Leahy, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, added a permanent extension of the EB-5 program to the Senate’s version of the annual Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill. Leahy also chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees USCIS. The House bill did not include a counterpart to the Leahy amendment, and Leahy pushed to include a three-year extension in the final compromise bill, which the House has passed and the Senate passed Tuesday, in a vote of 79 to 19. The President is expected to sign the bill.

Leahy has been instrumental in turning the program into a staple of job creation in Vermont. Jay Peak’s Bill Stenger is using the program to turn the ski area into a four-season resort, and some 200 workers have been on site this fall for construction work on that project. Governor James Douglas will be using the EB-5 program to encourage investments in Vermont in his trade mission to Asia.

Up to now, Vermont has been authorized to use the program especially for businesses related to tourism, such as the investments at Jay Peak and Sugarbush. Leahy said renewal of the program comes just as Vermont won permission, last week, to begin using the program for several additional business areas: manufacturing, information technology, education and professional services.

“In Vermont, people like Bill Stenger at Jay Peak Resort and Win Smith at Sugarbush Resort have used the EB-5 program to keep Vermont’s ski industry a vibrant part of the Vermont economy,” Leahy continued. “As a direct result of the EB-5 program, and even in a tough economic environment, dozens of subcontractors in Northeastern Vermont are hard at work on a project financed through these investments. The jobs at Jay Peak are filled by Vermonters and the vast majority of the furnishings used in the Jay Peak resorts are produced in Vermont, demonstrating the diverse economic benefits of the program. And now that permission has come to expand into other business fields, Vermont’s Regional Center will be actively matchmaking between investors and other economic development ventures in our states.”

Under the Regional Center program, foreign investors are required to pledge a minimum of $500,000 to a project within a Regional Center and can apply for an EB-5 visa. If approved by USCIS, foreign investors are granted a conditional two-year green card. After two years, the investor must provide proof that he or she has created at least ten jobs as a result of the investment and has met additional investment requirements set by USCIS. Asked about the impact of the ruling, Robert Mahdavi, COO of PPM, remarked that “this is good news for our clients and those who have been waiting for months to get moving. This is only good news and we are happy.”

Source: Leahy’s office. WASHINGTON