For a while, it looked like a major highway project across Lake Washington near Seattle could end up as a "bridge to nowhere" for nearly 100 immigrant investors. But now, after a long wait, the federal government has given the green light to process the green card applications of these wealthy businesspeople in exchange for their help financing the new SR-520 floating bridge.
A provision of immigration law allows well-to-do foreigners to invest their way to American citizenship. The first step is to sink at least $500,000 into a job-creating business. More than 20 middleman companies have sprung up around the Northwest to facilitate such foreign investment in local projects.
One of these -- Lacey, Washington-based Access the USA -- brokered the sale of nearly $50 million worth of bonds for a replacement floating bridge between Seattle and its eastern suburbs. But then the head of that company, Mike Mattox, says the mostly Chinese buyers of those bonds found themselves in bureaucratic limbo.
"We waited 20 months, so quite a delay," Mattox says. "There were so many rumors, both in the U.S. and in China. They were saying this project can't make it. It won't be approved, all these things."
Mattox turned down requests for refunds. He says he and the green card seekers were about to go to federal court to demand the U.S. immigration agency make a decision when -- without explanation -- the approval came.
Copyright 2013 Northwest News Network
On the Web:
Investing In Citizenship: For The Rich, A Road To The U.S. (Jan. 26, 2013) - NPR
520 Bridge Paves Path to Citizenship (Dec. 8, 2011) - KUOW
Access the USA: Washington Regional Center - official site
Green Card through Investment - USCIS