By: Henry T. Chou, Esq.

Even in the aftermath of the worst recession in American history and today’s uncertain economic climate, the U.S. remains a very desirable destination for immigrants.  Today, there is a new breed of immigrants who do not arrive penniless like the generations before them, but come flush with cash and a mission of invigorating the American economy.

The Chinese, in particular, have taken on this mission more than any other immigrant group.  According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), thousands of wealthy nationals of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have applied for the EB-5 visa, which comes with a green card and a path towards citizenship.

Under the EB-5 visa program, foreign investors must finance commercial projects in the U.S. by investing at least $1 million (or $500,00 in a targeted employment area) and create at least 10 full-time jobs. EB-5 investors must undergo a background check, identify the source of their wealth and create and sustain 10 full-time jobs. If all of the requirements are satisfied and sustained after five years, the investors and their families are eligible for citizenship.

While the EB-5 visa program attracts a diverse range of applicants, Chinese nationals comprised a dominant majority – three quarters – of the applicants in 2011.  According to USCIS, 2,969 Chinese nationals applied for the program and 934 of those applicants were approved in 2011.  These figures represent a huge increase from previous years.  For example, in 2007, only 270 Chinese nationals applied and only 161 were approved, accounting for only about a third of the totals.

The explosion of Chinese applicants is attributable to the rapid economic development of China, which has created an abundance of millionaires and billionaires.  Surveys indicate that a majority of these newly rich are either considering emigrating or have already implemented plans to do so.  Those surveyed cite education, advanced medical treatment, environmental issues and due process rights as their reasons for emigrating.

New Jersey, which is a highly populated state located strategically between the metropolitan areas of New York City and Philadelphia, is one of the top destinations of EB-5 investors.  USCIS has established a regional center in New Jersey, which presently facilitates investment in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Passaic and Union Counties.  Permitted investment options currently include hotels, restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, light industrial warehouses, civic buildings, apartments, condominiums and various types of mixed use development.

As one of the largest full-service firms in central New Jersey, Hill Wallack LLP is well-positioned to assist Chinese EB-5 investors with their immigration applications and business transactions and operations in New Jersey.  The firm has attorneys on staff who are both fluent in Chinese and experienced in the areas discussed above.