Over 100,000 Chinese have spent at least $24 billion on “golden visa” programs around the world. These programs offer residence in exchange for investment.
A U.S. residency is in highest demand. The United States has taken in at least US$7.7 billion from more than 40,000 Chinese investors in the last decade.
The US EB-5 program gives green cards to anyone who invests US$500,000 in a business that creates or saves at least 10 jobs.
Their money goes toward government bonds, businesses, mountain ski resorts, new schools, and real estate projects.
These investor visa programs are sought after by upper-middle class Chinese who want a better life for their families. They are dissatisfied with the pollution in cities, growing real estate prices, and a high pressure school system that stifles children’s creativity.
Wealthy Chinese also worry about the encroachment of the Communist Party in their daily lives. This includes official influence over courts and police, and they feel insecure about being able to protect their property and savings.
More than 100,000 Chinese have applied for investment visas in the past decade, with the number tripling between 2010 and 2015.
The increase over this period saw an estimated US$27 billion pour into the United States, Canada, and a dozen other countries offering residence for investment, according to the Associated Press.
China’s real estate boom has given some Chinese enough spending power for these visas. Real estate prices in China’s largest cities have more than tripled in the last decade. Prices in Beijing rising by an average of 25 percent a year during that time. A family that gained bought an ordinary apartment more than a decade ago can now sell it for the price of a “golden visa.”
And, as their dissatisfaction with China’s problems grows, more families are choosing to do so.
The huge growth of Chinese demand has pushed some countries to toughen their investment requirements.
Canada has cut off applications altogether.
The program can also attract fraud and other criminal behavior. In the United States, federal investigators found at least three Chinese investors who obtained green cards through the program were fugitives wanted by Beijing.
Separately, more than a dozen separate multimillion-dollar fraud cases in the last five years have involved hundreds of Chinese investors.These investors had their residency in the United States thrown into jeopardy after their projects failed.