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Chinese investors 'buying' US green cards for $1m

18 December 2013 Last updated at 00:05 GMT

As the US debates how to reform its immigration system - and deal with roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country - wealthy foreigners already have a legal route to a new life in America.

A visa programme called EB-5 offers overseas investors the opportunity to get permanent residence - a green card - in return for $1m (£614,000). In areas with high unemployment, the visas are available for a $500,000 investment.

The visas have been available since the 1990s, when Europeans were the main beneficiaries. But today Chinese citizens represent a majority of the applicants.

While critics complain about foreigners "buying" their way into the US, the scheme's supporters told the BBC that the developers fund projects that create jobs in America.

Produced by the BBC's Franz Strasser

Altered States is a series of video features published every Wednesday on the BBC News website which examine how shifting demographics and economic conditions affect America on a local level.