A Sad Note About the EB-5 Program

By David North on October 16, 2017

The Australian program for immigrants as business investors seeks moneyed people who will start their own companies in that country — a plausible reason, the Aussies feel, to issue a visa.

A sad note on the Immigration Daily website reflects how far our passive immigrant investor program differs from Australia's vibrant one.

In the United States, an EB-5 investor is routinely not expected to contribute to the management of the project; he or she is, however, assumed to be capable of making the decision to invest or not. I don't think we should give visas to passive investors, but we have been doing it for more than a quarter of a century.

But how about an investor who is not only too young to legally manage money, but is both young and has special needs, such as autism? Can that person get an EB-5 visa? Can that person be the "principal applicant" for EB-5?

I think it is a far-out question, but a creative immigration lawyer not known to me — Bernard Wolfsdorf, who practices in New York City — has some detailed advice for wealthy, alien parents of such children; his offered the advice because he has been "approached by parents with children with Autism or other special needs on whether such children are able to obtain an EB-5 visa." These are parents not willing to come to the United States themselves, bringing along the child as part of the family (a somewhat easier and more normal process), but rather parents apparently wanting to send the child (perhaps with a guardian) to the United States as the EB-5 investor without the parents.

It may well be that the parents have no plan to set the child adrift that way, but are using the EB-5 program as a technique to benefit the whole family while not intending that the child actually should live — as immigrants do — in this country. Maybe the parents do not want to be known in China (the source of most EB-5 migrants) as having applied for the program.

In other words, the parents may not be cruel to the child, but they are thinking about being cruel to the immigration system, and to American law.

Wolfsdorf's advice, which sounds plausible under the strange circumstances, does not touch on the subject of sending the autistic child to the States without his or her parents. We probably will never know what happens in this case.

It is a dim reflection on this already bizarre sell-a-visa program that this sort of thing is even contemplated by the family, or the family's lawyer, but sad to say, that is the case.

I worry about the autistic, people born with an innate inability to sense the emotions and feelings of others, and want society, and the government under some circumstances, to go out its way to be helpful to such people. But that help should come from within the community where the child is born.

In terms of immigration policy, cases like this one shed light on how the system is often gamed in ways that do not reflect the talking points of industry lobbyists.