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How Chinese millionaires buy U.S. citizenship

Millions each year apply for U.S. visas, hoping it will be the ticket to a better life. The process often takes years, and there are few guarantees of success.

But what if you could buy your way to the front of the line? One visa allows investors willing to dish out half a million dollars a fast pass to a green card.

To qualify for the so-called EB-5 visa, an investor must inject $500,000 into a project or business that will create 10 new jobs in a high unemployment or rural area. The visa has become so popular among Chinese millionaires looking for a ticket to citizenship that for the first time since it was introduced 24 years ago, the government has run out of available slots… until October.

But since the EB-5 visa was created in 1990, some have seen it as selling citizenship to the highest bidder. Supporters of the visa argue it is a painless way to employ U.S. workers, stimulate the economy and create funding for American businesses. In fact, the program has generated $8.6 billion in investment and created more than 57,000 jobs since 1990, according to the State department.

Still, critics say the government needs to keep a closer eye on investors applying for the visa to ensure they have met the employment requirements adequately. Investments built in high-end neighborhoods that employ workers from poorer areas often fulfill the visa’s rural and low-income job quota. With vthe isa up for renewal this September, some are urging Congress to reconsider.

For more, check out this week’s Shortwave Podcast with P.J. Tobia.

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