A federal program that gives foreign investors Green Cards is gaining traction in Portland and it’s helping to fund a building boom.
PORTLAND, Ore. – Kai Lu and his wife, Helen Shu, were raising their young daughter in China when an ultra-modern Marriott Courtyard hotel was built just minutes from their home in Suzhou, a congested suburb of Shanghai.
The couple went to check out the new hotel and noticed a flyer in the lobby advertising a similar hotel in Portland, Oregon. The flyer was seeking investors who, in exchange for half a million dollars, could receive Green Cards for their immediate family.
“We were planning to move to the U.S. or Canada,” said Lu. “We got a very good impression of the hotel group, so we were very confident in that investment.”
Lu combined the family’s savings along with some money from the couple’s parents to come up with the $500,000 investment. Three years later, they moved to Sammamish, a suburb of Seattle.
Lu is one of thousands of people who help fund big commercial real estate projects every year in exchange for U.S. residency through the federal program called EB-5. The program has backed projects in cities including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.
Critics of the program say it’s too secretive, putting national security at risk and making investors vulnerable to fraud. Three Republican senators called for a federal audit of the program, which began in December 2014. But that hasn’t stopped EB-5 from gaining popularity in Portland as developers hope these foreign investors can help the city boom.
“You will see more [EB-5] activity in Portland and beyond,” said Marvin Kau, vice president of project development at American United, a regional center that manages EB-5 investments in Oregon.
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