More Chinese rich people join the trend to pursue American permanent residency by making investments in the United States. But they may be victimized by financial traps set up by domestic immigration agencies and foreign investment organizations, local expert warned.
Qi Lixin, chairman of Beijing Entry & Exit Service Association, said the number of applicants for the US EB-5 visa through investment almost doubled in 2009, from around 500 last year to over 1,000 this year. The main reasons for them to do so are to provide a better education environment for their children and to look for further business opportunities.
"Only people with personal assets of over 10 million yuan can afford investment immigration," Qi said.
The EB-5 visa for Immigrant Investors provides a method of obtaining a green card for foreign nationals who invest money in the United States. Applicants should invest at least $500,000 in certain investments or regional centers with high unemployment rates.
"There usually exists a hidden problem for EB-5 visa applicants. As far as I know, there are more than 70 US regional center programs attracting investors in China. They said they can return customer's money in five years' time," Qi said, "But if losses occur, which side can assure Chinese applicants to get their $500,000 back on time? The domestic agency, or foreign investment organization?"
Qi said in most contracts signed by investors and immigration agencies, there was no specific provision to prevent investors from being exposed to heavy losses.
"If unforeseen things happen, we do not know who will shoulder the responsibility from the contracts. Besides, there is no federal law in United States to protect Chinese immigration investors," Qi said.
"It is irresponsible for immigration agencies to fervently promote those programs," Qi pointed out.
Beijing now has 76 agencies engaged in immigration business. In previous years, skill immigration took up a large portion of their business. However, as an increasing demand for better family development among Chinese rich people and substantial brokerage fee in investment immigration, agencies prefer to persuade qualified people to pursue green card by making investments.
For one investment immigration case, agencies usually charge 100,000 yuan per person for brokerage fee and $15,000 for attorney fee. In addition, there will be $30,000 to $60,000 management fee paid to investment organization overseas.
"A consultant only gets 500 yuan for every immigration case. If we stand on behalf of a company's interests, of course, we prefer doing investment immigration," Peggy He, Chief Immigration Consultant at Beijing Kaisheng Union Exit Entry Affairs Services Co, said.
"We admit it is risky to take part in these investment programs," Liu Jingjing, consultant from Beijing Kaisheng, told METRO. "But what we choose are relative safe programs. So far as I know, all cases we conducted are progressing well."
Qi said his association had received complaints over some investment immigration cases. A woman surnamed Zhang said she had entrusted a Beijing agency last year, but later, she found the brokerage fee the agency charged was far beyond the original sum.
"This is a financial game. Chinese immigrant investors have little room to gain benefit," Qi said, "Applicants are most likely to become biggest losers; foreign investment organizations are the biggest winners; domestic agencies play an active role to push the wave and help the boat."