Green Cards for Green Energy

Austin, Texas, mayor Lee Leffingwell is currently applying to make his city an EB-5 Regional Center. Austin’s “EB-5 Regional Center” will focus on green job creation and green energy development.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, most EB-5 visas are processed through regional centers, which have surged in numbers over the past five years. In 2007, only 11 centers existed; today, there are 218 across the United States.

Austin’s EB-5 center would be the eighth in the country to focus its efforts on green job creation, according to InsideClimate News. California, Nevada and Michigan are some of the other states that already have centers developed around eco-friendly employment.

One reason behind Austin’s decision to create a green-minded EB-5 regional center may be its recent rapid decline in its technological sector, according to Angelou Economic’s “2010-2011 Economic Forecast.” Angelou reported that many of the city’s previously booming tech companies have moved overseas. Austin’s real estate market has caused the city additional shortages in terms of budget and spending power.

“This has the potential to pump millions of dollars into the Austin region, while creating jobs for our residents,” Leffingwell said at a recent press conference, according to InsideClimate.

The EB-5 visa program gives foreign investors a green card for themselves and their families if they invest $1 million in a U.S. project.  Once the project is approved by the government, foreign investors are put on a fast track through the often lengthy U.S. visa process. Each project must create at least 10 jobs.

The program began in 1990, and the first regional centers opened in 1992.