BOCA RATON, Fla. – From hotels to restaurants, foreign investors have made their mark in South Florida. In some cases, investors earned American citizenship through their investment.
Now leaders in Washington, D.C. are debating how to move forward with the EB-5 program as it is set to end next Friday.
Just like fresh ingredients make the perfect meal, the right pieces have to come together to form a successful investment.
When Alex Rudolph took the Tap42 concept from Fort Lauderdale to Boca Raton, foreign investors were part of his recipe.
They’re not just paying for a green card, they’re investing in the business because they have faith in the business like we do,” Rudolph pointed out, adding his has personal relationships with his investors.
The program allows foreigners to fast track their green card by investing at least $500,000 in American projects that create a minimum of 10 jobs.
Families from Vietnam, India, Argentina, and Italy have all expressed interest in partnering with Rudolph. Many of his partners frequent his restaurants. Locations in Coral Gables and Midtown Miami were also funded through the EB-5 program.
“Restaurants, hotels, assisted living facilities, you see it all over Palm Beach County,” explained Lauren Cohen. She connects investors and businesses through her Boca-based company, e-Council, Inc.
Since the program is set to expire, Cohen said there is a mad dash from investors to find out what the future holds.
“Investors want to take advantage of the opportunity while it’s there,” Cohen said.
Critics argue the EB-5 program allows foreigners to buy American citizenship for their families and skirt traditional routes.
But Cohen said she believes EB-5 kept businesses pumping and Americans employed through the Great Recession.
“Projects need money and the country needs economic stimulation, that’s not going away anytime soon,” Cohen said.
She admitted the program could use reforms. It’s basic outline hasn’t changed since 1993. She expects Congress will extend the program at the last minute. And then increase the minimum amount the government requires investors to contribute.
Rudolph hopes Congress serves the program new life so he can open new restaurants. He has plans for two more locations. Each one would employ about 75 people.
“It’s a great opportunity for people from other countries to be able to live the American Dream, and also for us to get to interact and have investors from all over the world, as opposed to a bank giving us a loan, writing a check and saying, ‘We’ll see you later, good luck with your business,’ ” Rudolph said.
A spokesperson from Senator Marco Rubio’s office said Rubio supports the program, but would like to see changes to cut out abuse and fraud.