What Money Can and Can't Buy in Our Immigration System

By David North on February 10, 2016

The caller wanted to know if the following immigration deal was legal: An Asian middleman working with an American poultry farmer was offering a green card, after one year, in exchange for an up-front cash payment of $25,000 and the assurance by the alien that if he did not do the farm labor himself, he would make sure that someone else worked for the farmer for a full year.

It sounded a little like the draft in our Civil War. If you were drafted and poor you went to war; if you were drafted and rich, you could hire a substitute. And I suppose that while working on a 21st century poultry farm is pretty grim, it is not quite as unattractive as being a 19th century foot soldier.

My response was: "Of course that's not legal. It is not that buying a visa is always illegal in America; you can buy a set of them for your family for $500,000 through the immigrant investor (EB-5) program."

As the columnist Miss Manners used to say, "There are standards."

Further, the requirement that the worker would have to stay with the employer for a full year is also illegal.

I never was able to secure any hard information about who was making the illicit offer, but I did learn that there is an existing immigration mechanism that would allow the poultry farmer (if the maneuver had not been detected) to carry out his part of the bargain.

Within the system of employment-based green card visas, there are five groupings (with immigrant investors being in the EB-5 category). Within the EB-3 class there is an allocation, in practice, of 5,000 visas a year for unskilled workers that is backlogged by only a year or so. There is an initial process that is often prolonged, and that is securing a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor that there is shortage of qualified workers for the position in question.

The exchanges with the caller came in bits and pieces, and some of the facts in the case emerged rather slowly. In the end I discovered that the man who knew of the poultry scam was already eligible, immediately, for a visa as a Treaty Investor family member (E-2), but did not know it. Further, after years of waiting, he will be able to get a green card as a relative of a citizen. (These two facts are not related to each other.) In the meantime, as an E-2 relative he would be eligible to secure an employment authorization document.

E visas are nonimmigrant ones and do not, in and of themselves, lead to a green card.

As an aside, my caller said that one of the reasons why there are so many small Korean retail establishments is that a migrant with $100,000 to $200,000 can buy a retail establishment and thus qualify for an E-2 visa. This is another way to buy your way into the country, but not permanently.

The Treaty Trader (E-1) and Treaty Investor (E-2) programs are worrisome because they are handled totally by the State Department, which has no on-the-ground oversight and enforcement mechanism. Further, there are no statutory minimums for the size of the investments.

I have read on one of the numerous legal advice websites that the absolute minimum, in fact, is $40,000, but that petitions involving less than $100,000 are hard to get approved. A couple of months ago we reported on the case of a beauty shop operator who secured an E-2 visa with an investment of less than $190,000.


Topics: Visa Fraud