City hall bids to be investment visa hub
By Meisha Perrin
If all goes as planned, Miami City Hall will soon be the home of an EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center.
The intent: job creation and economic development.
According to Mayor Tomás Regalado, having the center in Miami will bring plenty of money to the city.
The city is seeking approval for the EB-5 center, to be run at no cost to the city, and expects to apply to US Citizenship and Immigration Services in four to six weeks.
After that, the center's approval can take six months or longer, said Mikki Canton, an attorney in private practice advising Mr. Regalado on economic development and architect of the idea.
The city is working with Enterprise Florida, Port Miami, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau on the business-development effort.
Having an EB-5 center here would allow foreign investors to invest in Miami through the center, and subsequently get an EB-5 Visa. The visa provides conditional, two-year resident status to qualifying investors and their families who invest at least $1 million, or $500,000 for designated target employment areas, in business that create at least 10 full-time permanent jobs for US workers.
If the investment and job-requirement conditions are met, after two years investors can apply for unconditional permanent residency, even though they aren't required to live in the US.
"The important thing is not only the creation of jobs but where it's going to put Miami globally," Ms. Canton said.
In 1993, the government extended its EB-5 program to allow for a pilot program that established designated regional centers.
Since then, almost every state has been designated for a regional center. Most have several.
But in the past, guidelines to establish a center were far less strict, Ms. Canton said, and now Miami officials are doing due diligence before applying.
For a center to be approved, she said, the city must show that a regional center would have a strong economic impact. The application must include a business plan for how the center would be run, plus a defined project technique.
In addition, the city would need monthly or tri-monthly audits to comply and ensure transparency.
The response has been extremely positive, Ms. Canton said. "The reaction is that it is a wonderful asset for the city to have."
The city is already looking at possible investment projects, she said, "some that are extremely exciting."
Two that the city is looking to support through the EB-5 center are a developer's real estate project for a mixed-use facility and a medical education and housing facility administered for veterans, Ms. Canton said.
But areas targeted for investment aren't limited to real estate, she said, because Miami can support a long list of target industries.
"Miami is really a gateway," Ms. Canton said, "not just to Latin America but the whole world — especially with the expansion of our port and the Panama Canal… There is an extremely tremendous possibility that Miami might become the best center all around."
"We have the brand name," she said. "We have the location."
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