South Dakota's EB-5 program helps foreigners get EB-5 visas, a special kind of employment-based visa. The deal:
- Invest $500K in a business venture in a "distressed" area.
- Receive conditional green cards for you and your whole immediate family.
- Provide evidence that your investment created ten jobs.
- Receive premanent green cards.
Mr. Millner evidently got his current Veblen operation off the ground with 27 such queue-jumping Korean investors (just curious: anyone up in Veblen see an increase in demand for Korean groceries at the store?). This list also shows the Swiers got a couple Korean investors to buy their green cards by investing in their dairy operation here in Lake County. (Huh—I didn't know Lake County was a "distressed" area.)
The investors don't appear terribly concerned about the long-term profitability or sustainability of the projects they make possible. We should be doubly concerned: the fact that these projects can't snag regular investors without offering the additional carrot of expedited immigration to America should put up red flags about their financial viability. And when the money to run a "farm" comes from someone who doesn't live on the land, who never sees the land, who doesn't care about the land, that tells me we are going to come out on the short and stinky end of the externalities stick.
(One commentator takes the position that such investment-for-immigration is a heck of a deal, alleging that a lot of these economically unviable projects would likely end up drawing government pork. There's always a bright side. Better to have wealthy foreigners than American taxpayers on the hook... I guess.)
The EB-5 program has a "money for nothing" feel to it... and "money for nothing" usually works out badly. If these foreign investors view their $500K as an immigration fee rather than an actual investment, they won't hold the dairies and other businesses as accountable as would investors operating from the proper capitalist motivation. And an immigration policy favoring irresponsible investors denies places in America for folks who can't buy their green card but who are willing to come to America and invest their capital and their lives in the same community.