The number of applications for the controversial investments-for-visas program EB-5 visa climbed to just under 17,791 in 2015, up from just over 11,744 in 2014 and 6,554 in 2013, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The EB-5 program grants visas to investors who contribute at least $500,000 to projects in the U.S. that employ 10 workers or more, with a preference for areas with high unemployment, reported the Real Deal Magazine.
A total of 21,988 applications were pending at the end of 2015, at least a five year backlog for most investors, who usually seek several visas for family members, the Wall Street Journal reported. However, the backlog is for Chinese applicants only. Applicants from India are not affected, as yet.
The surge was fueled in part by concerns that key features of the program wouldn’t be renewed by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Immigration Fund’s Nicholas Mastroianni II told the paper.
Demand has slowed since the program was extended without changes in December, he told the paper.
The program has been criticized for funding major, high-profile projects such as Hudson Yards, Pacific Park, Michael Shvo’s 125 Greenwich Street through a provision that allows developers to draw special districts with high average unemployment to take advantage of extra benefits.
Senators have also questioned whether the jobs created by the program might have been created just the same without it. About 80 percent of the visas issued to date have gone to Chinese investors, Real Deal reported.
(The post has been updated with a clarification, on April 5, 2016).