The Phaserl


Is The Chinese Visa Bubble Popping?

by James Corbett, The International Forecaster:

Riddle me this: As we all know by now, China is bleeding capital, with a record $725 billion in outflows last year alone. Accordingly, the ChiComs have been flipping their lid, imposing new capital controls left and right to try and stop the bleeding. One of the most straightforward of these capital controls limits each Chinese citizen to $50,000 worth of foreign exchange transactions a year.

In other words, if they want to buy anything overseas or even park their money in an overseas (dollar-denominated) account, they’re stuck at $50,000 a year.

So why do Chinese nationals account for the vast majority of the US government’s EB-5 immigrant investor program, a program that issues visas for immigrants that invest at least $500,000 in a new American business? Wouldn’t it require 10 years of diligent savings before a Chinese investor could possibly amass the needed capital to qualify for the visa in the first place?

The answer to this seemingly insoluble puzzle isn’t so hard to find, of course. Capital controls don’t work. They just incentivize people to find creative ways around them. Like “smurfing.” This unlikely term has been applied to the process of breaking down large amounts of cash into smaller chunks so they can be moved abroad without triggering capital controls. One smurfer helpfully explained his process to Bloomberg earlier this month:

“Our suggestion to the client is to open three to four personal accounts in the U.S. or line up three to four friends’ accounts, so they can split the money and wire it to different personal accounts without being put on a blacklist by the Chinese authorities,” said a Shanghai-based real estate agent who gave the surname Dong. “It may require a trip to the States to do so to facilitate the process.”

Whatever the case, Uncle Sam is now acting like any seller in any market would when there proves to be strong demand for their product: They’re jacking up the price. If new amendments to the program are passed, it’s going to cost those hopeful Chinese immigrants $1,350,000 to buy their way into the States.

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