Trump in-laws promote thorny visa-for-sale program in China

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The real estate development firm partly managed by the sister of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner has issued an apology over a weekend event in Beijing in which Kushner's name was used to attract wealthy Chinese to a cash-for-visa scheme commonly used by investment-hungry US real estate developers.

Kushner Companies insisted the reference was not an "attempt to lure investors".

Kushner's sister Nicole Meyer promoted One Journal Square, a Kushner Companies' development in Jersey City, at an event Sunday at the Four Seasons Hotel in Shanghai, according to participants. The New Jersey building makes use of an EB-5 visa program to draw in worldwide investors, including the Chinese.

The EB-5 program allows rich foreign nationals to invest as little as $500,000 in a US development project likely to create 10 or more new jobs in order to obtain a green card.

It was not immediately known whether any of the wealthy people who listened to the Kushner company pitch in Beijing made a decision to invest.

On Monday, Kushner Companies said Meyer's remarks were not meant to motivate investors to sign onto the real estate project. "That was not Ms. Meyer's intention".

Almost 90 percent of EB-5 visas were issued to Chinese nationals in 2014, when the program reached its quota of 10,000 visas.

It's called the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program.

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The investor visa program was designed to entice overseas investors to put $500,000 into projects, mainly in higher-unemployment areas, creating at least 10 jobs, or $1 million in wealthier areas. "It says that visas-and eventual US citizenship-are for sale, a awful message for the 4.4 million people waiting in line for visas-some for as long as 23 years", Feinstein said in the statement.

Meyer mentioned her brother and touted the investment opportunity as important to "me and my entirely family", according to both The New York Times and The Washington Post. A 2013 Homeland Security Department investigation cited risks that Iranian intelligence operatives may have exploited the program, and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services found numerous fraudulent documents when it audited a sampling of investors' green card applications.

"We have every reason to believe there will continue to be a lot of demand for visas for the USA from Chinese investors", said Dave Platter, global communications director at Juwai.com, a property search engine that lists real estate around the world for Chinese buyers. She said that the reports on the Kushner Companies' investment pitch shows there is "a stark conflict of interest for the Trump White House" when it comes to the EB-5 visa program.

Attendees were reassured by a U.S. lawyer that despite his tough talk on immigration, Trump was unlikely to make any changes to the EB-5 policy in the near future. In Shanghai, they were told they could not attend the "private event" even though it was publicly advertised.

The program has been dogged by waste, fraud and abuse.

An attorney for Jared Kushner said he had sold his stake to a trust benefiting other members of the Kushner family, and would recuse himself from related policy matters while serving as an adviser to Trump.

Some lawmakers have called for an overhaul or abolishment of the program, but it was recently renewed without changes until the end of September. Last week, the developer of this project submitted an application to Jersey City for a tax subsidy and abatement on this property.

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