“My American friends, they don’t realize that the simple fact they were born here is worth $500,000,” she said.

Svetlana Anikeeva sees greater opportunity for her daughter in the United States than in her native Russia. To become U.S. citizens, she and her husband invested a half million dollars in a commercial office development.

For reasonably deep-pocketed immigrants like Anikeeva, the program is a win-win. It allows investors and their direct family to earn permanent green card status while pumping money into the American economy. The program, which began in 1990, has been growing in recent years, with some in the U.S. business community using it to fund projects in the midst of a slow economic recovery.

Since the financial collapse of 2008, the number of applications for EB-5 visas has risen dramatically. During fiscal 2007, just 776 foreign investors applied for visas, a number that ballooned to 6,040 last year. This year could be the first time it reaches the 10,000 visa cap.

Over the past seven years, foreign investors who have applied have had a good record of being approved, with around 80 percent getting into the EB-5 program, according U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics. More than 85 percent of those investors were ultimately granted permanent green cards.