Rich Chinese Immigrants Are Buying Their Way to a Green Card

BEIJING (TheStreet) -- Beijing-based Henry Global Consulting is taking the high ground in the debate over U.S. immigration reform: The firm fully supports letting rich Chinese buy their way into the American dream.

It's a view Henry shares with at least a dozen other immigration consulting firms in China that cater to high-rollers ready to invest $500,000 or more in the United States in exchange for a green card.

The firms with names such as Well Trend United, Royal Way and Chuguo are easy to find online through a Baidu (BIDU) search for the phrase "America green card" in Chinese. They also advertise on investor-focused Web sites such as China Finance Online (JRJC).

In recent weeks, amid debates in America over how to handle illegals from Latin America, these firms have been pushing hard to find Chinese clients interested in the EB-5 immigrant investor program run by the government's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

More immigrants with permission to settle in the United States come from China than any other country except Mexico. Last year, according to U.S. government data, the nearly 72,000 Chinese granted permanent resident status represented about 7.2% of all newcomers from around the world.

EB-5 is especially attractive for Chinese. It requires neither employment nor English language proficiency. Instead, according to the U.S. State Department, it lets a foreigner apply for a green card after investing at least $1 million "without borrowing... in a qualifying commercial enterprise" or $500,000 "in a high-unemployment or rural area considered a targeted employment area."

The investment must create full-time jobs for at least 10 U.S. citizens, green card holders or immigrants authorized to work in the United States -- excluding the investor and immediate family members -- within two years. If these criteria are met, the foreigner may be awarded permanent U.S. residency.

The program started drawing more Chinese attention in February after Canada stopped giving residency status to rich immigrants who loaned 800,000 Canadian dollars to the government. The Canadian program, popular among Chinese, was declared ineffective by the government.

Henry and other Chinese consulting firms are offering to help would-be immigrants invest in U.S. business projects that qualify for the $500,000 threshold. Among those cited on Web sites are a power plant expansion in Texas, construction of a luxury hotel in Philadelphia, and an office building project in downtown Cleveland.

About 9,000 investors from around the world get a green card through the EB-5 program every year, the State Department said. It's unclear how many hail from China -- but if the consulting firms have their way more Chinese will be coming soon.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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