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Business visa program provides green card for foreign investors

Franchise businesses are setting up shop throughout many Texas communities, but the popularity of chains such as YoBlends and Elements Therapeutic Massage may be based on more than just customer demand. Business professionals say they are teaming up with well-to-do international immigrants in mutually beneficial relationships. The franchise businesses have begun pitching their opportunities as a way to obtain an EB-5 visa, which allows foreign investors to obtain a green card if they invest at least a half-million dollars into a stateside business.

There are some restrictions that accompany the program, however. The investor must provide 10 new jobs within a two-year span or they risk being sent back to their native country. Now, however, franchises are courting the visa-seeking community, touting their ready-made business opportunities as the perfect answer to restrictions in U.S. immigration law.

This effort may be paying off; in 2013, more than 6,300 foreign nationals applied for an EB-5 visa. That is a massive increase from the 470 applications submitted in 2006. Financial experts estimate that the EB-5 initiative has already created 57,300 jobs and raised $8.6 billion.

So, why the sudden increase in interest? Recent financial problems have caused traditional funding sources to dry up, limiting investors' options. The EB-5 visa, however, may be bolstering the expansion of American franchises even as we speak. The program is an excellent example of a process by which people can work within immigration law to obtain legal permanent resident status.

Immigrants may not realize that such opportunities are available, but franchise operators are attempting to educate those at home and abroad. Attorneys may also be able to educate clients about alternative visa and immigration options that may be effective but less common. Texas immigration attorneys may prove to be excellent resources for those seeking answers to their immigration predicaments.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Franchises Target Immigrants as Buyers" Angus Loten, Feb. 03, 2014

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