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EB-5 Investor program extended to Dec. 22

Commerce Department director Keniseli Lafaele [SN file photo]
ASG hoping for an additional longer extension

Commerce Department director Keniseli Lafaele says the US Congress has extended the EB-5 Investor Immigrant Program to the end of next week, while two other ASG officials hope for a further extension of the program, that would attract foreign investors to American Samoa.

DOC announced in late October this year that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has approved a Regional Center under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program for American Samoa. And the approval was effective Oct. 12, 2017.

Lafaele said at the time that the EB-5 program was set to sunset on Dec. 8 unless extended by Congress. He also said that the EB-5 Regional Center is a key funding initiative for the Lolo Administration’s Economic Development Implementation Plan (EDIP).

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Lafaele said yesterday that the program has been extended to Dec. 22 this year.

“With about $9 billion of EB-5 investors funds in escrow — to be invested in the US — I'm inclined to think Congress will find a way to extend the program for another year or longer so these funds are invested in their home states and communities sooner than later,” he said, adding that Congress is also working on improving the program.

He explained that under the program, investors/entrepreneurs are eligible to apply for a green card if they: make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the US, and plan to create or preserve 10 jobs for qualified US workers.

“Our EB-5 Regional Center is a well established regional center based in Washington State, and has been active in engaging investors from Asia — primarily China, South Korea and Japan,” he said.

According to the DOC director the regional center would be the source that American Samoa could tap for major developments such as the old Rainmaker Hotel site and cable car rehabilitation. (Samoa News notes ASG has been trying for many years to find investors for these two development projects.)

Additionally, American Samoa is preparing proposals to be submitted to the Regional Center with the hope of attracting investors to the territory who could earn their US green cards with the investments.

Lafaele told Samoa News late last month that finding investors has been a real challenge for Philippines based company, AVM Bernado Engineering, which is setting up a multi-food processing plant in American Samoa.

However, he says that with the approval of the EB-5 regional center in Pago Pago, the ASG and AVM are looking for investors through that route.

Three other government officials say American Samoa can use the EB-5 program to entice foreign investors to the territory, to boost the local economy as well as diversification, after the economy has depended on the canneries for some 5 decades.

The officials are hopeful that Congress extends the program beyond Dec. 22 and for a longer period of time, saying that American Samoa has always been faced with difficulties attracting US investors. “This program can really do a lot of good for our economy,” said one of the officials.

Congress created the EB-5 Program in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.