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IMMIGRANT ENTREPRENEURS

Record Number of Startup Visas Issued in 2013

The Immigration Service approved a record number of so-called startup visas in 2013, with the majority of them going to Chinese investors.
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The number of EB-5, or "startup" visas issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, hit record numbers last year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The EB-5 visa program allows foreigners and their families to live in the U.S. if they invest a minimum of $500,000 in a company that creates at least 10 jobs within two years. After two years, if both the jobs and the investment are still standing, the visas can be converted into green cards, which allow for permanent residency.

Last year, 6,434 individuals applied for EB-5 visas, according to data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. That's about a five percent increase from last year, but a much less dramatic uptick than the program has seen in the last two years. In 2012 the number of applications increased by 58 percent. In 2011 they nearly doubled.

While the EB-5 is commonly referred to as the startup visa, the Journal notes that money from the program is often used by larger companies, from Marriott International to Sony Pictures Entertainment, to tap funding for their projects.

Investors who want to come to the U.S. and create jobs, but aren't affiliated with a particular company themselves, can instead funnel the money to a government-run EB-5 Regional Center. The Centers determine whether or not an investment would benefit a "depressed area"--if not, the minimum is $1,000,000--and then facilitate the investment.

About 80 percent of all EB-5 applications come from Chinese investors. The State Department has said that in 2014 it may establish a cutoff date for applications from China.

In 2012, about $2.5 billion was invested through the EB-5 program, creating an estimated 33,000 jobs.

The EB-5 was known as the "immigrant investor" visa until 2012, when the immigration service began referring to it instead as the "alien entrepreneur" visa, leading to the current, much-catchier vernacular.

Last updated: Jan 21, 2014

KIMBERLY WEISUL | Staff Writer | Inc.com Editor-at-Large

Kimberly Weisul is editor-at-large at Inc. and co-founder of One Thing New, the digital media startup that is rebooting women's content. She was previously a senior editor at BusinessWeek.




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