Utah gets first EB-5 regional center
Earlier this month Utah received approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for its first EB-5 regional center, the Mountain States Center for Foreign Investment in Orem, Utah.
With the recession drying up a significant portion of lending capital, the EB-5 regional center will help Utah attract investment.
“We are the first and only regional center approved in Utah, and that’s a pretty exciting thing not only for us but for the state,” Mountain States president and chief executive officer Heath Westfall, told the Desert News.
The EB-5 investment program gives foreign nationals a chance to earn U.S. green cards by investing in American businesses. If they invest $1 million in a U.S. business and that investment leads to the creation or preservation of 10 jobs the investor becomes green card eligible.
EB-5 regional centers were created to help direct and manage such foreign investments. Some of these centers, like Mountain States, are designated Targeted Employment Areas. These regions are defined by law as “a rural area or an area that has experienced high unemployment of at least 150 percent of the national average,” according to the USCIS.
According to Westfall, there are a number of reasons why foreign nationals choose to participate in the EB-5 visa program.
“The lifestyle in the United States is much better than other places in the world. They are attracted to that and other great opportunities for business. In addition, they want to bring their children over here to go to school,” he told the news provider.
While Mountain States is approved to help fund projects in a number of different industries, Westfall said that the EB-5 regional center is initially going to focus on securing investments for Marriot-branded hotels. The first of which will be in Moab, followed by one in Murray.
Westfall said that the first project should get off the ground shortly.
“We anticipate funding our first project in the next 60 days,” he told the news source. “The project is ready to go.”
Westfall said that the regional center has received a boost from the membership of Stephen Studdert, a former advisor to presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
“Because of a lot of relationships that he and his sons were able to establish through previous employment with the government, that’s where we’re finding a lot of success with foreign investors,” Westfall told the Desert News.
There were 4,219 foreign nationals who obtained U.S. green cards through the EB-5 visa program in the fiscal year 2009.