The Senate Judiciary Committee e held a hearing on December 7, 2011, on “Reauthorizing the EB-5 Regional Center Program: Promoting Job Creation and Economic Development in American Communities.” Witnesses included Bill Stenger, President and CEO, Jay Peak Resort; David North, Fellow, Center for Immigration Studies; and Robert C. Divine, Shareholder, Baker, Donelson, Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) issued related statements.

Sen. Leahy noted that current authorization for the EB-5 regional center pilot program, which has been in existence for 18 years, expires at the end of September 2012. He advocated enactment of permanent authorization legislation that he introduced in March 2011 (S. 642). Sen. Leahy noted that in 2011, the EB-5 program is expected to have created an estimated 25,000 jobs and provided direct investments in U.S. communities of $1.25 billion. He said that if the full number of visas allocated to the program are used, based on investment and job creation requirements, the program “has the potential to create or preserve 100,000 jobs per year, with contributions of $5 billion in foreign capital investment. And these benefits come at no cost to American taxpayers.”

Sen. Leahy noted that in addition to administrative efforts by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), he has been working for months with interested parties and USCIS “to put together a legislative framework to make significant improvements to the overall program.” He said the framework would “provide USCIS with additional authorities to ensure that this important program maintains the highest level of integrity and efficiency.” He added, “It is time for a permanent authorization to provide investors with the certainty and predictability they need to invest and conduct business with confidence.”

Sen. Schumer outlined several examples of USCIS-approved “job-creating” regional center projects in New York:

  • Steiner Studios, a film production studio in Brooklyn, which received $65 million in EB-5 funding to assist with expansion; 
  • Global Vascular Institute, on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, where EB-5 funding helped support development of the new institute, creating jobs and improving health care access for the people of Buffalo;
  • Acadia Realty Trust, which received $200 million in EB-5 funding to assist with the construction of the City Point project in downtown Brooklyn;
  • SJM Company, which received $72 million in EB-5 funding to assist with the redevelopment of the George Washington Bridge Bus Station; and
  • Dermot Company and Harry’s Restaurant, which received $96 million in EB-5 funding to assist with the redevelopment of the Battery Maritime Building and Pier A in Lower Manhattan.

Sen. Schumer said he was proud to co-sponsor S. 642 with Sen. Leahy to permanently authorize the program.

Mr. Stenger testified that the region where Jay Peak Resort is located has the most significant unemployment and economic challenge of any region in Vermont. He said that since 2005, Jay Peak has developed several EB-5 projects, creating over 2,000 jobs in the region, and that the EB-5 investments are expected to create that many jobs again over the next two years. “We are seeing this employment creation at Jay Peak and our surrounding communities in this terribly troubled economy solely because of the EB-5 foreign investor program,” he said. The statements of Sens. Leahy and Schumer, along with the witnesses’ written testimony, are available at http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/testimony.cfm?id=9b6937d5e931a0b792d258d9b365f21d&wit_id=9b6937d5e931a0b792d258d9b365f21d-0-5