Foreign Investors Learn "Bridge To Nowhere" Leads To Visas After All

By Tom Banse

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 a hundred 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 half a million dollars into a job creating business. More than twenty 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 dollars 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.

Mike Mattox: "We waited 20 months, so quite a delay. 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.


Access the USA - Washington Regional Center:

Green Card through Investment (USCIS):

Previous coverage:

NPR's Robert Smith on EB-5 visas (Weekend All Things Considered, Jan. 2013):

KUOW's Liz Jones, "520 Bridge Paves Path to Citizenship" (12/8/2011):

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