Chinese in race to fund tower built by Trump son-in-law
As members of Congress in Washington debate raising the minimum required to obtain a US immigrant investor visa from $500,000 to $1.35m, concern about the hike has set off a scramble among wealthy would-be participants in China.
"Some clients are demanding that we make sure their applications are submitted before April 28," the date the programme expires unless extended or amended by Congress, said Judy Gao, director of the US programme at Can-Reach (Pacific), a Beijing-based agency that facilitates EB-5 Immigrant Investor visas. "We're working overtime to do that."
China's wealthy, using not-always-legal means to skirt capital controls to get their money out and at the same time gain residency in the US, are continuing to dwarf all others as the largest participants in the EB-5 programme, despite heightened measures by the Chinese government.
The initiative channels money to high-profile US real estate projects from New York to Miami to California - including those by the family of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser. A current plan by the Kushner family to refinance and reconstruct its New York office building at 666 Fifth Avenue is seeking $850m in EB-5 funding, as well as cash from Anbang Insurance Group and other investors, according to terms of the proposal reported by Bloomberg News. A spokesman for Kushner Cos declined to comment.
At stake if the EB-5 is curtailed is a programme estimated to have played a role in creating at least 200,000 US jobs and drawing as much as $14bn from Chinese investors alone, based on data provided by Rosen Consulting Group and the Asia Society. Past projects taking advantage of EB-5 include New York's Hudson Yards, Hunter's Point Shipyard in San Francisco, and a Trump-branded tower in Jersey City.
New projects recently doing the rounds in China's chat rooms, web forums and hotel-ballroom investor seminars include a five-star hotel complex in Palm Springs, California, and what's touted as "the world's tallest residential building," on New York's 57th Street, known as Billionaires' Row.
Because Chinese individuals are limited to exchanging $50,000 worth of yuan a year, a 10th of what the EB-5 programme requires, some agents are advising clients who don't already have assets offshore to use a means nicknamed 'smurfing' to move their money.
Chinese investors' use of EB-5 programme saw $3.8bn flow into the US in the fiscal year that ended September 30 last, according to data from the US State Department.