U.S. immigration officials are proposing a new program that would allow some foreign investors to receive temporary residency in this country.
In an announcement Friday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said the proposed program would benefit foreign nationals who have already invested in a U.S. startup. They would need to hold at least a 15 percent ownership stake in the business.
The investors would also need to prove the business has the potential for rapid growth, and the potential to create U.S. jobs.
The proposal comes as another foreign-investor program called EB-5 is up for renewal in Congress at the end of September.
Immigration officials said their latest proposal would not replace EB-5, a visa program for foreigners who invest at least half a million dollars in a U.S. business. In exchange, they can receive conditional legal residency status and, if their investment succeeds, an eventual path to citizenship.
The EB-5 program, which allows up to 10,000 immigrant visas annually, has been under heavy scrutiny in recent years following several cases of misuse and fraud. Officials said there is now an eight-month backlog of applications for the program.
Unlike EB-5, the proposed program would not have a direct path to citizenship; it only offers two years’ temporary parole, which is an immigration term used to describe a type of relief that's typically granted for humanitarian purposes. The temporary stay could be extended to five years.
Critics of the EB-5 program are also skeptical of the latest proposal.
David North with the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C. think tank, favors tighter immigration rules. He likes that the proposed program would be more restrictive than the EB-5 visa, but he questions the need for another foreign investor program.
“I would like to see it as a substitute to EB-5, rather than an addition to EB-5," North said. "We take in a million people a year already, legal immigrants. We really don’t need to expand our flow of immigrants.”
The public can weigh in on the proposal during a 45-day comment period. After that, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials will address the comments, according to the agency. The proposal would not take effect until after a final rule is published in the Federal Register.