If you are a foreign national interested in getting a US work visa, you could slog through the regular channels or–if you have a million bucks lying around–you could simply invest it here. In fact, a mere $500K will do, if you invest in a region particularly riddled by unemployment. The investment can’t just sit somewhere: it has to “create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers within two years.” (The “preserving” jobs provision is meant only for jobs in jeopardy. You can’t save, say, Mark Zuckerberg’s job.) Good idea, right? Encourage investment and in return, give the investor the right to work here. It’s called the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.
But why would a rich Chinese businessman, for instance, be interested in an American work visa? He’s not–like most green card aspirants–interested in moving here. He’s doing fine where he is. Are these investment opportunities too good to pass up? Hardly. The program is limited to investment in two types of businesses, specifically “new” and” troubled,” a couple of notoriously underperforming specimens. An American work visa does, however, allow for the friction-free matriculation of the investor’s children in American schools and universities–still the most desirable education in the world. It’s also a safety net, in case the restless mass of poor and suppressed Chinese ever get further than 1989’s Tiananmen Square or today’s Xinjiang. The EB-5 has been around since 1990. As many as 10,000 can be given each year, though that many have never been claimed. 2013 saw a record of 6,434 applications. If the little-watched number climbs, an observer may be right to suspect Chinese unrest.