Fri, APR 1st 2016 @ 10:57 am EDT

EB-5 applications doubled to 6,277 in the fist quarter of 2016 compared to only 2,941 filed in the first quarter of fiscal 2015. The program has seen an uptick in applications after calls by both Republicans and Democrats to end or reform the program.

The number of pending EB-5 petitions jumped 62.6% from 13,526 in the first quarter of 2015 to 21,988 this quarter. However, the approval rate for the EB-5 petitions declined from 56% in the first quarter of 2015 to 20% in 2016.

The EB-5 visa program allows foreign nationals to obtain or essentially “buy” green cards if they invest at least $500,000 in American businesses. The program was designed to help create jobs and increase foreign investment in the U.S. economy but many are questioning if this program is as effective as it has claimed.

A 2015 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office declared that the USCIS’ methodology for calculating the economic benefits of this program was invalid and may have overstated the impact of the program. The report also found that the EB-5 program relies heavily on paper-based documentation, which leaves it susceptible to fraud.

After this report was released Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wrote an op-ed that called for an end of the program saying, “simply put, EB-5 sends a terrible message to the millions of immigrants patiently waiting their turn to enter the United States legally…It says that American citizenship is for sale, and that’s not what our country stands for.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) backed legislation last year to reform the EB-5 program but said that the involvement of “the EB5 Investment Coalition, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Real Estate Roundtable — with their force in the backrooms of the Congress, kept us from getting the legislation passed.”

Read more on this story at Law360.com.