Visa program allowing wealthy foreigners to obtain US citizenship to expire by this month end

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WASHINGTON: A contentious visa program that allows wealthy foreigners to obtain US citizenship by investing in economic development projects will expire at the end of this month unless Congress acts to extend it.

The program, called EB-5, allows foreign investors to gain citizenship by investing $500,000 to more than $1 million to finance a business that eventually employs, directly or indirectly, at least 10 American workers in economically depressed areas.

Developers and supporters in Congress say the program, run by the Department of Homeland Security, has brought billions of dollars to areas that would otherwise not have access to capital.

But the program has been marred by fraud and used to build large projects in wealthier areas like Manhattan and the Las Vegas Strip instead of high-unemployment or rural areas. Federal investigators have also discovered that attempts to infiltrate the program were made by people with possible ties to Chinese and Iranian intelligence, and that international fugitives who laundered money in their home countries gained citizenship through the program.

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