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EB-5 Visa program may be vulnerable to fraud, memo says

A visa program that is designed to attract wealthy foreign investors is being hailed as a weak point in the nation’s immigration security network. According to a memo written to Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) indicated that the protocols surrounding EB-5 visa make it susceptible to fraud.

The memo comes on the heels of news that an Iranian network that was “involved in a series of international assassinations and terrorism opportunities” used the EB-5 visa to send banned technology from the U.S. to other points around the world. The visa has come under scrutiny because the background checks for applicants are not nearly as stringent as the same checks for other types of visas.

Specifically, critics believe that the regional centers established under the program are vulnerable to fraud because the businesses ostensibly funded through foreign investments are subject to any oversight. For a number of years, managers and owners of such centers did not undergo background checks and several centers have collapsed amidst allegations of fraud.

Moreover, critics say that the investment thresholds ($500,000 to $1 million) are too low given the current economic climate, and that the current levels do not identify truly wealthy individuals who make legitimate investments into the U.S. economy.

It is unclear whether the memo was politically motivated, but when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)made the memo public, it raised the ire of a number of law enforcement officials. They claim that the public revelation could jeopardize a number of ongoing investigations. It is also uncertain whether the memo will lead to changes in the EB-5 visa program.

Source: WashingtonTimes.com, “Senator’s memo shows Iran links in Homeland Security’s troubled immigration program,” Shaun Waterman, December 12, 2013 

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Godoy Olivieri, Ltd.-An immigration law firm

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