Chairman Smith: The number one job of Congress is to create jobs. We must ensure that our policies help private enterprise strengthen our economy, create jobs for American workers and maintain our global competitiveness.
The investor visa program plays a part in achieving this goal. Under the program, almost 10,000 immigrants can receive permanent residence each year if they engage in a new commercial enterprise, invest between $500,000 and $1,000,000 in the business and see that it creates 10 full-time jobs for American workers.
The regional center pilot project, which is almost two decades old, has become the most used part of the investor visa program. Investment through a regional center is attractive to potential investors because they are relieved of the responsibility of running a new business and they can count indirect job creation towards the job creation requirement.
Investors may feel more confident about a regional center that is operated through a state or city government. In these difficult economic times, many state and local governments have turned to regional centers as a method of generating economic growth.
The Association to Invest in the USA has estimated that the regional center program has created or saved over 65,000 jobs in the U.S. and has led to the investment of over $3 billion in the U.S. economy. The program is set to expire at the end of fiscal year 2012.
Just as in any visa program, there is the potential for fraud in the investor visa program. We have to ensure, both for the sake of the American people and potential foreign investors, that regional centers operate at the highest levels of professionalism and integrity. The business plans and promotional materials that regional centers produce should meet the same standards as if they were to be submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Another proposal is a "start-up" visa. Foreign entrepreneurs would be granted conditional permanent residence to come to America to launch their businesses. If the businesses succeed and create a certain number of American jobs, then the immigrants would become unconditional permanent residents.
While we can benefit by bringing entrepreneurs to America with their bold ideas--and we need to do so--such a program could be susceptible to fraud and abuse. How is the government to determine which economic vision is feasible and which is pie in the sky? How will it root out schemes proposed simply to procure a visa?
I look forward to today's hearing to help answer these questions.