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'Visa for sale' not a bad thing, Rice U political science expert says

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Immigration is a hot button issue in almost every political fight.

From border security to figuring out a plan for the American-educated children who are in the U.S. illegally, there are so many questions, so many concerns.

Now, a 20-year-old program joins the debate.

"It's definitely a visa for sale," said Mark Jones, a political science expert from Rice University.

Jones is talking about the EB-5 visa, which is currently featured in a Time Magazine article headlined, "The New-and-Rich Immigrants from Mexico: How Their Money is Changing Texas".

"Large numbers of Mexicans are coming to Houston," Jones said.  "(It's) primarily due to issues of violence and quality of life in Mexico City and to a lesser extent, Monterrey."

And that's where the EB-5 comes in.  Created in 1992, the visa allows wealthy foreigners a chance to move their families to the U.S., as long as they invest in a business that creates at least 10 new jobs here.

The cheapest option comes with a half million dollar price tag and several conditions.

While it is expensive, Jones says recent changes to the EB-5 program, along with the spike in violence in Mexico, has resulted in more applications.

"In the past, it was very difficult (to obtain an EB-5) because the individual investor had to locate the investment themselves and set everything up," he said.  "Now they can go through 'middle men' regional centers that do all the work for them.  It's really one-stop shopping.  They write the check for $500,000 plus a fee to these middle men, and these investors do everything that's needed in terms of paperwork."

The visa is good for two years.

"After that point, you can sell your investment and then apply for permanent residency," Jones said.

While he does describe it as a "visa for sale," Jones thinks it's a good thing for the local economy.  In 2012, FOX 26's Ford Atkinson spoke to a real estate agent about the growing number of Mexican nationals buying houses here in our area.

"They're bringing businesses here," the agent said.  "(They're) eventually, slowly employing people."

"The EB 5 Visa program is for any foreign national, whether they come from Mexico, England, France or Singapore.  They can all participate in it," Jones said.

ONLINE:

http://nation.time.com/2013/01/14/the-new-and-rich-immigrants-from-mexico-how-their-money-is-changing-texas/

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