Since 1992 it has been possible under the EB-5 program for those wishing to emigrate to the United States have been able to move to the top of the list by investing either $500,000 or $1,000,000 (depending on the location of the investment). In recent years, developers have made much greater use of this provision to finance project as disparate as the Jay Peak ski resort in northern Vermont and the Atlantic Yards sports arena and mixed-use project in Brooklyn. Nearly one-half of the $2.2 billion invested over the life of the program has occurred in the last fiscal year. In 2005 only 158 visas were issued pursuant to the program; that number had skyrocketed to 2,364 in the first quarter of the current fiscal year.
As the September 2012 deadline for reauthorizing the program draws closers, a number of publications including The New York Times and Business Week have raised questions about how developers are using the program in ways not envisioned by those who drafted the measure. Because the investment required is cut by 50% if the investment takes place in a Targeted Employment Area, which are metro areas with very high employment rates and rural areas. Yet, developers in NYC used gerrymandered districts to qualify projects including the GEM Building, the Battery Maritime Building and Atlantic Yards in affluent areas of Brooklyn and Manhattan that had virtually no unemployment.