South Beach hotel looks to finance renovation through EB5 visa scheme

US: The 42-room Hotel Astor in South Beach is aiming to raise $8 million from foreign investors seeking green cards.

The hotel is looking to add concierge service, a roof-top pool, an all-night diner, spa and private-car service available 24 hours a day, with cash raised through the EB5 visa scheme.

Under the rules of EB5, foreign investors can qualify for a US green card if they invest a minimum of $500,000 in to US businesses.

David Hart, a Miami immigration lawyer overseeing the Astor project, has already secured half the 16 investors he needs: two from Venezuela, two from Colombia, three from Mexico and one from Canada. He expects the remainder to come from China.

The expansion of the art deco Astor must create 160 new jobs to justify the visas. About 100 will be employed by the hotel itself, and 60 jobs “will be claimed as created indirectly by construction work and the money that flows out from the Astor itself”.

“This is not a full-service hotel. Right now, there is no room service. There is no concierge. That’s all going to change,” said Hart. “My primary responsibility is to make something happen here over the next two years that will create the jobs we need. It’s all going to be transformed.”

The Miami Herald recently reported: “Though established in the 1990s, the EB5 visas soared in popularity during the recession as developers sought foreign cash to replace dried-up credit markets in the United States. Chinese investors dominate the transactions, accounting for about 65 percent of the nearly 9,000 EB5 visas granted since 2006. South Korea finishes a distant second at 12 percent and the United Kingdom holds the third-place slot at 3 percent. If Latin America and the Caribbean were one country, they would rank No. 4 on the list, with 231 EB5 visas granted, or about 3 per cent of the total.”

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