Solutions to this economic mess may seem to necessitate complex plans, but a deceptively simple old visa program is starting to garner growing attention as a means to lift especially troubled areas of the U.S. out of their economic woes.

It works like this: immigrants invest $500,000 in a new or struggling business via an approved regional center, get green cards for their families, don't have to manage day-to-day issues with the businesses, and get to pull their money out after 2 years if they pass an audit. Sounds good?

I don't think this is going to be a comprehensive solution to the U.S. economic problems anytime soon (there are only 17 certified centers so far), but I would keep an eye on this to see what it turns into. If enough states start opening these things up, it could really do a lot of good for struggling communitites. I like the fact that it opens up new sources of financing, with some oversight that (hopefully) ensures that it gets allocated strategically. I'm not sure how big a demand there might be for a program like this from abroad, but I guess that remains to be seen. Other countries like Canada and New Zealand have similar programs, and the one in U.S. has been in place since Clinton was in the White House.  Maybe the crisis will cast this obscure visa program into the limelight.

If you want more information on the EB-5 visa program, the New York Times wrote a piece on it early in 2008, and there is a blog dedicated to covering it called "Which EB5."

Do you think this could be transformational for the U.S. economy? What kind of unintended consequences do you think could come up?

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