Reporters barred from China event seeking investment in Kushner project

A poster for an event is seen at a hotel in Shanghai China

The program, which has been around since 1990, is big business for developers like Kushner Companies, whose former CEO, Jared Kushner, is President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser.

Mr Kushner's sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, was in Beijing on Saturday seeking US$150 million (S$210 million) in investment in a luxury apartment-complex project in New Jersey, according to U.S. media reports.

Almost 7,000 EB-5 visas were issued to Mainland Chinese investors past year, making them the number one nationality in the allocation, according to State Department data.

But the most problematic aspect of this business pitch is the potential conflict of interest that it poses for Kushner, who now serves as a senior advisor to President Trump.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: In a ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Beijing, Nicole Kushner Meyer made a presentation to potential investors. That was not Ms. Meyer's intention.

The Beijing event promoting One Journal Square sparked discussion in the United States over whether Jared Kushner's family's business would benefit from decisions Trump makes with regards to the government's EB-5 programme, which grants visas to foreigners investing at least US$500,000 in designated USA projects.

Chinese citizens have snapped up more than 80 percent of the visas issued under the program since 2011, according to Invest in the U.S., an industry association, and there's a huge backlog of applications.

Those apartments were also developed by Kushner Companies, and about a quarter of the funding - around US$50 million - was obtained via EB-5 investment, according to a report a year ago by Bloomberg News.

Sunday's presentations emphasised the complex's similarity to a Trump-branded luxury development a ten-minute drive away.

Ethics filings corroborate that Kushner divested from the One Journal Square project, although he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, still benefit from investments in other Kushner Companies projects.

"Applicants are sometimes cleared in less than a month and the critics say the government is essentially selling visas to wealthy foreigners with no proven skills, paving the way for money laundering and compromising national security", Bloomberg reported. The investors and immediate family members, in turn, are eligible for visas, which can then become green cards.

Kushner Companies however, in an email to the Post Sunday, said it "apologizes if that mention of her brother was in any way interpreted as an attempt to lure investors". Her relationship to Jared Kushner was also mentioned during the presentation hosted by Chinese company Qiaowai, the Washington Post reported.

The program offers foreign nationals permanent residency - commonly known as a green card - in exchange for investments of at least half a million dollars in a United States business that must also create 10 American jobs.

"The fact that she is the sister to the top adviser to the president makes it even worse", Lofgren said. The Obama administration had proposed that the price of the least expensive investor visas go from $500,000 to $1.3 million, and left it to the Trump administration whether to implement.

A new proposal now in Congress could soon raise the minimum investment for the EB-5, or investment, visa.

And this was exactly the point one investor made, saying, "Invest early, and you will invest under the old rules". Under the program, created in 1990 to stimulate the United States economy, there is a good chance of eventually obtaining USA permanent residency for the visa holders and their family members.

Nearly all EB-5 investors are Chinese nationals, but the government keeps their names confidential.

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