Immigrants have invested at least $20 billion in the U.S. economy since 2008, with over $5 billion invested in 2017 alone.

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In Seattle’s diverse Mount Baker neighborhood, the shining Stazione:25 is under construction – a 301-unit multifamily apartment project, within a few blocks of Mount Baker Transit & Light Rail Station.

The name is a nod to the region’s original Italian-born immigrants; today, the area is home to those who moved here from worldwide locales, including Eritrea, Mexico and China. In Seattle, “there’s a tradition of welcoming people from different parts of the world,” says Rob Spitzer, co-owner of Mount Baker Associates, Stazione’s development company.

One primary funding source for Stazione:25 may be surprising to some – immigrant investors.  While debates over immigration rage on, few Americans are aware of a particularly successful program creating jobs and building hospitals, apartments and other critical infrastructure.

Indeed, immigrants have invested at least $20 billion in the U.S. economy since 2008, with over $5 billion invested in 2017 alone, thanks to the EB-5 Program. American businesses, in turn, can access foreign capital, and American workers can get jobs.

EB-5 basics

Mount Baker’s Stazione:25 was partially funded by the Seattle-based Smith Western Regional Center, part of EB5 Coast to Coast LLC. “Regional centers” are entities allowing immigrant investors to pool their funds with other investors; the centers help investors find and fund multimillion dollar, large-scale building projects. As of April 2019, 885 approved regional centers existed nationally according to the U.S. Center for Immigration Services, with about 60 centers in Washington state.

The U.S. Congress created the EB-5 visa program almost 30 years ago (in 1990) to boost the economy, by attracting international investment, thereby creating more jobs. As an incentive for investing and creating at least 10 jobs, investors and close family can gain permanent U.S. residence.

The minimum investment is $500,000, if investing in a Targeted Employment Area  rural status or high unemployment area, or about 150% of the national average, which includes many urban locales. Outside of TEAs, investors must invest at least $1,000,000.

Immigration investment benefits the housing sector

Affordable housing can easily be one result of the EB-5 program. For example, the Stazione:25 structure qualifies for Seattle’s tax exemption program, as 20% of the new apartments are set aside as affordable rentals, based on the area’s average income.

Most EB-5 projects involve construction or renovation of a new facility, such as building a new apartment complex. Other investment projects include improving transportation infrastructure, producing movies and manufacturing auto parts.

In 2017, the Smith Western Regional Center combined immigrant investor funds with a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development loan to construct the 80-unit apartment complex, The Savoy at Lake City. Now, those over age 55 can live in a community environment full of activities and perks (including a fitness room, rooftop deck with fire pit and private miniature gardens).

Immigrant investment increases jobs

Construction-related work is a natural outcome of building development. Often, they’re high-paying jobs associated with materials production, architecture, design and engineering. Each EB-5 investment must create a minimum of 10 jobs – although many projects create far more.

EB-5 work in Seattle has included SoDo’s 26-story apartment tower The Wave at Stadium Place (finished in 2014) in SoDo, and Seattle Waterfront improvement projects, all of which led to additional construction jobs, in addition to management and maintenance positions that come with upkeep for new structures.

Nationally, active projects have resulted in an estimated 174,039 expected jobs, or around 16 jobs per immigrant investor, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Washington is one of the top five states where EB-5 investors and their families reside, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Immigrant investment increases health care access

While new apartment complexes are a popular funding choice, EB-5 projects have also included building new health care facilities or urgent care centers, and renovating or building onto an existing hospital.

“There’s a real crisis in rural America, with a shortage of medical services and providers,” says Steve Smith, President of EB5 Coast To Coast and the Washington-based owner of the Smith Western Regional Center.

For example, the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital is being built in Buffalo, New York, with $50 million of EB-5 capital from 100 immigrant investors.

Within 2014 and 2015 alone, $351 million was invested in health care and social assistance projects, according to a February 2019 report released by Invest in the USA, a national trade association for the EB-5 Regional Center Program.

Most of that money, around $260 million, was invested in the U.S. West, and produced almost 35,000 healthcare-related jobs in manufacturing, construction, and other associated work, according to IIUSA.

“The U.S. EB-5 Program is the only economic stimulus plan that operates at no cost to American taxpayers,” Smith says.

EB5 Coast to Coast LLC is a strategic adviser to a family of USCIS-designated EB-5 Regional Centers across the country. Presently our Regional Centers cover areas in 35 states, including most major metropolitan areas.