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Donald Trump

Kushner family woos Chinese for New Jersey property project with chance of US visa

Sister of Trump son-in-law tours mainland in search of property investors

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 May, 2017, 10:33pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 May, 2017, 11:30pm

Relatives of Jared Kushner, the US president’s son-in-law, are ­touring major mainland cities to woo wealthy Chinese investors for luxury developments in New ­Jersey, with the chance of getting a US green card in return.

Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, and her husband, ­Joseph Meyer, took to the stage at Beijing’s Ritz-Carlton hotel on Saturday, and Shanghai’s Four Seasons Hotel on Sunday to ­promote their new project, One Journal Square.

The Beijing leg ignited controversy in the United States over whether Kushner – who is a senior White House adviser – and US President Donald Trump are involved in the project and the ­EB-5 immigrant investor visa ­programme.

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About 100 people attended the Shanghai event yesterday, where they were told they could become US residents under the EB-5 programme if they put US$500,000 into the project.

The events are jointly organised by Kushner Companies, which Jared Kushner was associated with until he joined the US administration this year, and mainland migration agency ­Qiaowai. Similar events will be held at the InterContinental in Shenzhen on May 13 and the Four Seasons in Guangzhou on May 14.

During her seven-minute speech in Shanghai, Nicole Kushner Meyer did not mention Jared Kushner or Trump, talking instead about her family’s history since her grandparents went to the US as refugees in the 1940s.

The EB-5 programme is popular in China, with about three-quarters of the 10,000 visas given to mainland residents last year.

A Qiaowai sales staff member at the Shanghai event said it could take five years for applicants to be granted a visa under the scheme.

The EB-5 programme was created by the US Immigration Act of 1990, in part to create job opportunities. But it has been criticised for not sufficiently filtering out fraud and for being a way to sell US visas to rich foreigners.

The future of the programme is uncertain amid tightening congressional scrutiny of Trump’s vows to crack down on immigration, a factor causing concern for some at the Shanghai event.

“My biggest concern is that I have to wait for five years to receive a green card. It’s too long,” one of the attendees said.

But another attendee said he did not expect Trump would ­affect his visa application. “They said this kind of visa takes five years. Will Trump still be in office by then?”

Lu Xiang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ American studies institute, said the Trump administration was unlikely to tighten immigration across the board.

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“The US still needs high-quality skilled labour, including IT workers, and immigrant investors,” he said. “The tightening will mainly target refugees because of security concerns.

“Immigrant investors can bring more revenue for local governments, especially as Trump’s infrastructure and tax-cut plans raise fiscal deficits.”

Jared Kushner is reportedly close to China, and played a key role in the relationship between Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. He is also believed to be a key contact for China’s ambassador to the US, Cui ­Tiankai.

In the promotion event in Beijing on Saturday, Nicole referred to her brother’s position in the White House, saying he moved to Washington to join the US administration. A slide presented identified Trump as a “key decision marker” in the EB-5 programme.

The family’s move to lure Chinese investors drew criticism in the US, with critics saying the sales tactics could be interpreted as suggesting the family would make sure the investors got a visa.

Blake Roberts, a lawyer at the law firm of WilmerHale, which is Jared Kushner’s personal counsel, said Jared Kushner had no involvement in the operation of Kushner Companies. Roberts said in a statement that Jared Kushner had divested his interests in the One Journal Square project by selling them to a family trust of which he, his wife and his children were not beneficiaries.

“As previously stated, he will recuse from particular matters concerning the EB-5 visa programme,” the statement added.

Additional reporting by Associated Press