Reuters Investigates

Insight and investigations from our expert reporters

Coming to America, for a price

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Jim Kelleher and Karin Matz teamed up with Reuters reporters in South Korea and China for a special report on what has become a cottage industry profiting from a program that allows foreigners who invest in certain small U.S. businesses to get on the fast track to U.S. residency and citizenship.

Chinese and South Koreans are the biggest customers. But a Reuters investigation indicates there are widespread problems in the way the program is promoted and the immigrants’ chances of winning permanent U.S. residency are more of a coin toss than a slam dunk

The U.S. EB-5 investor visa program, which allows foreign entrepreneurs to become U.S. residents if they invest money in businesses that create or save 10 jobs, is especially popular in Asia, where it is aggressively promoted by recruiters as a safe, surefire way to gain legal entry to the United States – and to make a potential profit in the bargain.

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The number of immigrants applying for the U.S. EB-5 visa program has jumped in recent years. But that may be because the number of U.S. businesses participating in the program – and aggressively recruiting investors overseas – has grown geometrically over the past three years.