Rather than give American citizens and small businesses incentives to take risk and create businesses and jobs, Michigan’s Republican governor is giving breaks to lure foreigners.
Michigan is also looking to tap investors in the Middle East and has already produced an Arabic brochure.
“One of our strongest selling points is we have one of the largest concentrations of Arabs outside of the Middle East,” Borgstrom [Director State of Michigan EB-5 Regional Center] said, referring to Dearborn. “That creates a lot of connections, and there’s a lot of interest there. One of the things we tend to lose sight of is that the United States is still the gold-standard for places to live.”
Snyder, calling himself the most pro-immigration governor in the country and earning national attention in the process, has promoted several strategies for attracting legal immigrants and foreign investors to Michigan.
He recently signed an executive order to create the Michigan Office for New Americans. He asked the Obama administration to earmark 50,000 EB-2 visas for Detroit over the next five years and led the push for the EB-5 Regional Center.
Michigan’s new status as a federally designated center for an increasingly popular investor visa program — just the second of its kind in the nation — will uniquely position the state to attract foreign capital and create local jobs, according to experts and stakeholders.
United States Customs and Immigration expedited and approved Michigan’s application to run its own EB-5 Regional Center, the Snyder administration announced this week, citing support from the governor, the state’s entire Congressional delegation and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
The federal EB-5 visa program is designed to attract “entrepreneur aliens” by offering them a green card in exchange for domestic investments that produce at least 10 new jobs in the U.S.
Immigrants can qualify by devoting $500,000 to a project in a high-unemployment or rural area, of which there are 433 in Michigan, or $1 million in a more affluent part of the state.
Civitas runs eight EB-5 Regional Centers, including one in partnership with Dallas, where Healy said foreign investment helped breathe new life into a former casket factory on the city’s south side, which has was redeveloped as a 76-room boutique hotel.
The project coupled $5.5 million from 11 foreign investors with municipal grants and federal tax credits, and it hints at similar possibilities for Detroit or other urban centers in Michigan.
The EB-5 visa program, streamlined in 2011, has seen significant growth in recent years. In fiscal year 2013, nearly 6,500 foreign investors applied for visas under the program, according to The Wall Street Journal. As of September, USCIS had approved 3,696 of those applications and denied 942.
Streamlined? Ripe for fraud?
Immigrants who win an EB-5 visa or green card are not required to live in the same state as they invest in, but Michigan officials are already promoting the state as a place to invest — and to raise a family.
“The pitch is that we don’t just want your money, we want you here,” Borgstrom told MLive, noting he has traveled to China, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to begin discussions and gauge interest from potential investors. “We find a lot of value in having a large immigrant population in the state.”
It would be challenging to pick four other countries more anathema to American values.
Chinese nationals are by far the most active participants in the foreign investor program, having obtained roughly 90 percent of all EB-5 visas issued last year, and Metro Detroit’s growing Asian population could make it an attractive landing spot for new entrepreneur immigrants.
Democrats ran Detroit into the ground, making themselves rich, now Republicans are selling it to foreigners.
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