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Foreign investors who spend $1 million in Federal Way will qualify for green card

Federal Way hopes its offer of conditional U.S. residential status in exchange for economic capital will catch the attention of foreign investors.

The federal government, on Nov. 5, approved Federal Way as a member of its EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. The city's downtown is now considered a regional center — an area in need of economic growth. Foreign investors who pump a minimum of $1 million into the area and help to create at least 10 new Federal Way jobs are granted permanent U.S. residential status for two years. Their spouses and unmarried children are also eligible for a visa, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Web site.

"That's a pretty big incentive to go here instead of somewhere else," said Patrick Doherty, Federal Way economic development director.

According to the USCIS Web site, to qualify for the program, foreign investors must spend a minimum of $1 million to accomplish any of the following:

• Create a new business

• Purchase and restructure or reorganize an existing business, creating a new commercial enterprise

• Expand an existing business, increasing the number of jobs or net worth of the enterprise by 140 percent

• Contribute to retaining all existing jobs in a business that has lost 20 percent of its net worth in the past two years

The visa program is ideal for larger economic projects, Doherty said. In the past, immigrants could gain a green card by traveling to the U.S. and setting up their own business. The EB-5 program allows them to invest in a business and economic growth without having to own or operate the business.

"It's almost like buying a share," Doherty said.

The program is competitive. As of Nov. 9, Federal Way's downtown is the sixth regional center in Washington state and the 60th in the nation, according the USCIS Web site. Traditionally, specific businesses, rather than larger areas within municipalities, are classified as regional centers, said USCIS media manager Sharon Rummery.

This is the first time Federal Way has applied to the program, Doherty said. Gov. Chris Gregoire and state representative Adam Smith wrote letters of recommendation for the city, he said.

"It brings capital into Federal Way so we can do tremendous things with economic development," Mayor Jack Dovey said.

Investors wishing to take advantage of the program must undergo a background check. They must also document the source of their money and provide information about their investment to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The city's downtown is already recognized at the state level as an area in need of redevelopment. The state awarded Federal Way Local Infrastructure Refinancing Tool funding in 2007. This funding can be used to construct public infrastructure, such as roads, right-of-ways, sidewalks, parking, open space and bicycle or pedestrian trials, among other things.

The state will compensate Federal Way an amount not to exceed $1 million per year for the next 25 years. The income comes from tax revenue earned in the city's designated revenue development area (RDA) downtown. Tax revenue gathered in this area goes to the state. However, Federal Way, due to its LIFT status, gets a portion of the revenue reimbursed to it at the end of each year.

At the conclusion of this year, tax revenue earned in the RDA will be compared to that earned in the same area in 2008. In 2010, the state will reimburse Federal Way the difference between the 2009 and 2008 figures, up to $1 million. The process will continue each year until 2033.

Learn more

To learn more about the EB-5 visa program and its requirements, visit the USCIS Web page at www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscisit.

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