IR­RE­SISTIBLE ‘GOLDEN VISAS’

Over 100,000 Chi­nese have poured US$24b into pro­grammes across the world

New Straits Times - - Business -

WHEN the sis­ter of United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kush­ner pro­moted in­vest­ment in her fam­ily’s new sky­scraper from a ho­tel ballroom stage here ear­lier this month, she was pitching a con­tro­ver­sial Amer­i­can visa pro­gramme that has proven ir­re­sistible to tens of thousands of Chi­nese.

More than 100,000 Chi­nese have poured at least US$24 bil­lion (RM104 bil­lion) in the last decade into “golden visa” pro­grammes across the world that of­fer res­i­dence in ex­change for in­vest­ment, an anal­y­sis has found.

Nowhere is Chi­nese de­mand greater than in the US, which has taken in at least US$7.7 bil­lion and is­sued more than 40,000 visas to Chi­nese in­vestors and their fam­i­lies in the past decade.

The flood of in­vestors re­flects how China’s rise has cat­a­pulted tens of mil­lions of fam­i­lies into the mid­dle class.

But at the same time, it shows how these fam­i­lies are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing rest­less as cities re­main choked by smog, home prices mul­ti­ply and schools im­pose ever-greater pres­sure on chil­dren. They also feel in­se­cure about be­ing able to pro­tect their property and sav­ings.

Their money goes to­wards gov­ern­ment bonds, busi­nesses, mountain ski re­sorts, new schools and real es­tate projects, in­clud­ing a Trump-branded tower in New Jer­sey built by the Kush­ner Com­pa­nies, once run by Kush­ner, now a White House se­nior ad­viser.

But the in­dus­try is murky, loosely reg­u­lated and some­times fraud-rid­den — in the US, fed­eral reg­u­la­tors have linked the EB-5 visa pro­gramme to fraud cases in­volv­ing more than US$1 bil­lion in in­vest­ment in the last four years. The EB-5 pro­gramme and many oth­ers like it mar­ket heav­ily in China.

China’s “golden visa” in­vestors are part of a wave char­ac­terised not by poverty, per­se­cu­tion or war, but by peo­ple with steady jobs who are pur­su­ing happiness that’s eluded them in their home­land.

The AP ob­tained data from of­fi­cials in 13 coun­tries on how many Chi­nese have used their in­vestor pro­grammes since 2007.

The mar­ket leader is the US EB5 pro­gramme, which gives green cards to any­one who in­vests US$500,000 in a busi­ness that cre­ates or saves at least 10 jobs.

The EB-5 has been heav­ily crit­i­cised by gov­ern­ment watch­dogs and tar­geted by law­mak­ers in the Congress, who say it pro­motes fraud and helps de­vel­op­ers build­ing mega projects more than strug­gling com­mu­ni­ties.

Ni­cole Meyer, Kush­ner’s sis­ter, had ap­peared this month at events here and in Shang­hai to pro­mote One Jour­nal Square, a New Jer­sey tower project planned by the Kush­ner fam­ily that would be par­tially funded through EB-5 in­vest­ment. AP

AP PIC

An event pro­mot­ing EB-5 in­vest­ment in a Kush­ner Com­pa­nies de­vel­op­ment in Shang­hai re­cently. The EB-5 pro­gramme has been heav­ily crit­i­cised by gov­ern­ment watch­dogs and tar­geted by law­mak­ers in the US Congress, who say it pro­motes fraud.

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