US immigration services are actively weighing the question of whether bitcoin can be used to pay for obligations tied to a controversial visa program.
The context: One avenue for acquiring a green card or permanent residency in the US is through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program. This initiative was started in the 1990s as a way to attract overseas investor capital to projects in ostensibly needy areas.
Yet the EB-5 program has come under fire in recent months amid accusations that it has become a vehicle for wealthy investors to effectively buy their way into the US and invest in projects – namely, luxury real estate – that are completely unrelated to the program's intended goal. The program has even been targeted by members of Congress for elimination given the criticism.
Family members of Trump administrator advisor Jared Kushner, who is President Donald Trump's son-in-law, sparked controversy earlier this month after appearing to encourage Chinese citizens to invest in their developments via the EB-5 program – and curry favor with Trump in the process.
The bitcoin connection: Recent statements from the head of the Immigrant Investor Visa Program office, Lori MacKenzie, suggest that investors may, in fact, be able to pay their obligations under the EB-5 guidelines using bitcoin.
MacKenzie, who spoke on 3rd March during an EB-5 event in Washington, DC, said that Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) is "considering issues involving virtual currency such as bitcoin" related to "the use of bitcoin to transfer investment funds to the new commercial enterprise".
She went on to say:
"USCIS cannot provide blanket assurances regarding any particular form of transfer, but we will continue to evaluate evidence provided by petitioners to determine whether the relevant statutory and regulatory requirements have been met, including evidence that the funds invested belong to the petitioner, and were acquired, directly and indirectly, by lawful means."
Bottom line: So, what does this mean?
For starters, blockchain is a topic that is on the US government's radar, but whether it will result in a concrete policy shift or statement remains to be seen. A representative for CIS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Indeed, it's a subject – at least somewhat – that has come in the past, led by questions of whether income derived from bitcoin-related activities can be used to satisfy the EB-5 requirements. The consensus appears to be that the government shouldn't take issue with it, though as several experts remarked last year, the source of the funds would be a paramount issue.
Then again, this could all be rendered moot should the EB-5 be abolished. At the same time, it's not clear whether the Trump administration will move to axe the program.
Green card image via Shutterstock