Trump In-Laws Promise Chinese Visas
Trump family connections may have led to yet another ethics violation, after the sister of son-in-law Jared pushed a visas-for-pay program in Beijing, China last week. While the EB-5 visa opportunity has been a part of the U.S. immigration system since 1990, experts are concerned that Nichole Kushner Meyer’s participation in a seminar aimed at wealthy investors looking for an expedited entry into the United States may be interpreted as the family being able to influence which participants will be accepted. Additionally, the attendees were advised to submit applications immediately to avoid being caught up in potential forthcoming changes.
Investor Visas Encourage Job Growth
The EB-5 immigrant investor visa program was created as a way of encouraging foreigners to inject money into American businesses by providing green cards to high net worth individuals who spent between $500,000 and $1 million in new or existing businesses based within the United States. Each of these investments was supposed to either create or save 10 jobs, not including positions filled by the investor or his family. During the original implementation of the program, only a handful of applications were received. However, changes made by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in 2011 led to an expansion of the program, resulting in between 4,000 and 10,000 new applicants each year.
EB-5 Visas Potentially Subject to Fraud
However, in 2013, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a warning against fraudulent participation in the program, and has become increasingly aggressive about bringing action against people suspected of misusing investor funds. Under this cloud of suspicion, the program was supposed to be cancelled in March. However, as part of the recently approved budget deal, visas will remain available for participants throughout the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year. As negotiations begin for the 2018 budget, the Democrats, led by Senator Dianne Feinstein, have vowed to take aim at the program.
Did the Kushners Mislead Chinese Investors?
The conflict of interest issues of a member of the President’s family advertising the program’s existence in a foreign country became evident this weekend. Images captured of the slides used during the program identified Donald Trump as one of the decision maker’s responsible for the program, and encouraged Chinese investors, who currently receive 80 percent of the allotted visas, to direct funds to real estate projects being built by the Kushners in conjunction with their Kushner Companies real estate business. Former White House ethics attorney Richard Painter has denounced the implication that the family can guarantee visas doe to their family connections.
Australia Also Promotes Investor Visas
The United States is not the only country which offers wealthy individuals a fast pass to permanent residency. Australia operates a popular visa investment program called the Significant Investor Visa. However the program requires a much larger investment, the equivalent of $3,700,000. This sum is stretched over a longer period of time though, as the investors in the U.S. must complete their funding within two years, while Australian investors have five years to fulfill the program’s requirements. In Australia, as well as in the U.S., Chinese individuals make up the bulk of applicants.
Jared and Ivanka Run into Ethics Roadblocks
This is not the first time the Kushner family has been involved in an ethical quandary. Jared Kushner talked business deals with representatives from the Anbang Insurance Group, which many experts believe is at least partly owned by the Chinese government. Although Kushner recused himself from negotiations following exposure of his ties by the New York Times, his family holdings will undoubtedly lead to continued conflicts of interest. Also as both he and his wife Ivanka take on formal roles as White House advisors, it will be difficult for them to stay clear of the emoluments clause which prohibit government officials from profiting from government contracts.
How Do Investor Visas Affect Trading?
Since the program’s inception, foreigners seeking EB-5 immigration visas have contributed $5 billion in investments and helped create more than 85,000 jobs. Ending the program would hurt job growth, particularly in rural areas and locations with high unemployment, which require the lower investment amount of $500,000. This could drive the dollar lower, slowing down growth in the U.S. economy, especially as other regions step up their efforts to court outside funding. As a large number of the projects associated with the program are in the real estate industry, attempts to shut down this avenue to permanent residency could also negatively affect stock prices in the construction and real estate sectors.