‘Not Your Cleaning Lady’s Green Card Program:’ $500K Visas Finance U.S. Construction

Desparate times in the construction industry call for desparate measures. Like letting foreigners basically buy green cards, for example.

Developers are increasingly turning to a program that gives temporary green cards (which can turn into permament ones) to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in a U.S. project, The Wall Street Journal reports today. Use of the 20-year-old program nearly doubled last year, to 1,995, from 1,031 in the prior year. In 2006, when the economy was still roaring, there were just 486 applicants, according to The Journal

Raising capital half-a-million dollars at a time is hardly the most efficient route, but developers say the state of financing in the last couple years has left them with little choice:

“It’s an attractive alternative,” said Evan Zeppos, a spokesman for the Milwaukee developer, Jackson Street Management. “Any developer knows now that for financing, the faucet is still very tight.

The new-old program came to light this fall, when it turned out that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner was using the program to help finance its Brooklyn project. But even Forest City VP MaryAnne Gilmartin seems a little queasy about the program.

“As citizen Gilmarten, I’m not sure how I feel about it,” Ms. Gilmartin said at a New York Commerical Real Estate Women event attended by The Observer a couple of months back. But she continued that with conventional financing channels frozen, the project might otherwise never get built. “This is not your cleaning lady’s green card program,” she said.

lkusisto@observer.com ‘Not Your Cleaning Lady’s Green Card Program:’ $500K Visas Finance U.S. Construction