The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has approved an unusual way for prospective immigrants to earn a U.S. green card and permanent residency.
They can loan money to independent truckers in the Northwest who want to upgrade to less polluting rigs.
This was the brainchild of Bellingham immigration attorney David Andersson and a cross border association of state legislatures and parliaments called the Pacific Northwest Economic Region. It takes advantage of a fast track path to U.S. residency for wealthy foreigners. Immigrants can get a green card for themselves and immediate family by investing $500,000 in an enterprise that creates at least 10 jobs here.
David Andersson formed a new business to funnel such investments into loans to truckers who need to upgrade to newer rigs that meet toughened emissions standards.
"Credit is still very tight for the owner-operator," explains Andersson. "So there is really a perfect storm of opportunity in terms of demand for compliant trucks and the need for owner-operators to be able to access flexible financing."
A few national critics of this immigrant visa category including the Center for Immigration Studies have questioned the job creation claims of participating businesses.
This new Bellingham-based effort relies on an economic model that takes credit for indirect job creation from ongoing trucking activity.
The latest phase-in of stricter truck emissions standards took effect in California at the start of this year.
Alfred Portillo, vice president of operations for Green Truck LP, says those rules affect the majority of truckers in the Northwest.
"A very large number drive to California," says Portillo. "If you consider where most of our produce comes from, it'll be coming directly from the southern California market."
Portillo and Andersson said older semi-trucks must be retrofitted or more likely replaced with ones that have cleaner-running, late-model diesel engines. Their new immigration business, the Pacific Northwest EB-5 Regional Center, recently analyzed truck registrations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Andersson says their survey found of the 43,000 registered heavy-duty trucks in the four-state Northwest region, 27,000 are "now non-complaint" and could be barred from driving into California.
Andersson says he has already pitched the "green truck" investment path in China and plans to present the concept to another audience in Vancouver, Canada this weekend.