Virgin Islands Governor Uses EB-5 as an Excuse for Mainland Trips

By David North on June 24, 2015

The following is taken from the June 19, 2015, Virgin Islands Daily News (The "he" is the VI's governor, Kenneth Mapp):

"The EB-5 program is a specialized program, and any law firm really don't do EB-5 work, and they don't have the relationship with the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security in dealing with the background issues to be able to grant someone EB-5 status," he said.

"It says a person must invest a minimum of $500,000 in a business, and create, I believe, five to 10 jobs, and then there is a scale if they invest more, then they have access to get a permanent residency status for their spouses and their families."

Discussing the visa program, the governor also set the table for more trips out of the territory.

"That project, in itself, will require us to have more travel to Miami as we work to put this program together and to make it functional," he said.

Now, as I learned when I was with the Office of Insular Affairs in the Department of the Interior, one of the ongoing controversies in U.S. island politics is the amount of time (and money) spent by the incumbent governor in off-island travel. This is true in all of the islands, all of the time.

Making an effort to raise money for the island in question is always a good reason for justifying a trip, and Governor Mapp is now using EB-5 for that purpose.

Maybe the governor will learn on his next trip to Miami that the State Department has little to do with the program (beyond approving visas for aliens already cleared by Homeland Security), that each investment must create 10 jobs (not five to 10), and though it might be a good idea to have a sliding scale of visas for investors, in fact, a single investment gets a full set of visas for everyone in the family. Further, most EB-5 investments do not involve state governments except in the most minor way.

Whether he engaged in George W. Bush's English, as quoted, or was misquoted by the newspaper we will never know.

To my knowledge, the EB-5 program has not been used in the Virgin Islands. Our islands, as opposed to the British Virgin Islands next door, do not operate off-shore banks and are routinely hard up for investments. The USVI has a stagnant economy and a wasteful local government; and it will probably, in the near future, have the same kind of debt-repayment problems currently besetting Puerto Rico.