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Special Program Offers US 'Green Cards' to Investors

Some American companies are trying to attract overseas investment by offering U.S "green cards' to wealthy foreigners as an incentive. As part of a pilot program, U.S. Immigration authorities have approved several 'regional centers' - made up of corporations, organizations or agencies - that can offer EB5 immigrant visas to foreign nationals who are willing invest their money in a development. Managers of a resort complex near Disney World in Orlando, Florida say they have received interest from potential investors around the world.

Promotional aids are being used to attract international investors to put money into a Florida resort near Disney World.

The Lake Buena Vista Resort and Spa is one of 45 entities to be named a 'regional center' by the U.S. government.

The designation means it has more than 100 green cards available to attract wealthy foreigners to invest $1 million each in the development.

Developer Larry Cohen says domestic economic conditions prompted him to look for money from overseas.

"We've had the buyers that have wanted to buy the units, had the desire and the money to do so, but there are no loans available," he said. "And that's where the real crunch came."

Each investor gets two residential units at the resort, each priced at around $400,000, and receives a share of the income generated by tourists staying in them.

The government requires each foreign investment to create at least 10 jobs, directly or indirectly.

Out of 10,000 EB5 green cards made available annually, 3,000 are allocated to the national 'regional center' pilot program.

Ofer Fridfertig oversees this resort's operations. He says he has received thousands of inquiries.

"At least 45 percent of our Internet hits are coming from China," he said. "And we've gotten a lot of questions and requests for information from China."

Fridfertig recently traveled to China to try to attract investors interested in U.S. residency. Applications for investment-based green cards shot up in 2008, according to the US Department of Homeland Security.

A green card holder can travel freely to and from the United States, and reside in America permanently.

But immigration lawyer Ramachandran Balaraman says interest in EB5 green cards has declined recently due to the global economic slowdown and strength in the U.S. dollar.

And he says would-be investors must face scrutiny by U.S. authorities.

"The government wants to make sure that whatever you are investing comes from a legal source of funds," Balaraman said. "So it cannot be bad money, it has to be clean money."