US agency decision revives Vermont foreign investor center

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The state of Vermont has won an appeal with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that allows the continued operation of the state office that manages foreign business investment through a federal program that grants U.S. residency to people who help create jobs.

The ruling, which the state announced Friday, helps protect the interests of hundreds of foreign investors who sought permanent residency when they invested in the Jay Peak ski resort and other projects through the EB-5 foreign investor visa program, Mike Pieciak, the commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, said Friday.

In 2016, state leaders announced the discovery of widespread fraud at Jay Peak Resort, involving a diversion of tens of millions of dollars committed by foreign investors to create new U.S. jobs. In the aftermath, USCIS closed the Vermont center in 2018, but the state argued in its appeal it was working to protect the interests of the investors.

“We pursued this outcome because it was the right thing to do for hundreds of existing investors and should allow them to continue their journey for a better life in the United States,” Pieciak said in a statement.

Under the federal EB-5 program, if investors each put up at least $500,000 and the money helps create jobs, it can lead to permanent U.S. residency for the investors.

The ruling sent an earlier decision to terminate the Vermont office back for further review. It also reinstated the Vermont Regional Center, which manages the EB-5 projects in the state.

The center is no longer taking on new projects and is in the process of winding down operations. Once those projects have been completed, it will cease operations.