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For sale: U.S. citizenship, $500,000 to $1 million

For sale: U.S. citizenship, $500,000 to $1 million

Depending on how you look at it, a federal immigration program that offers foreign investors a shortcut to naturalization is either tantamount to selling American citizenship or a shrewd tactic to draw job-creating investments from overseas. In reality, it's a bit of both, and as a key part of the program comes up for reauthorization in the next few weeks, Congress needs to make some fundamental changes or kill it altogether.

The EB-5 (short for Employment-Based Fifth Preference Immigrant Investor) visa program began a quarter of a century ago as the federal government was looking for ways to spur foreign investment. The Immigration Act of 1990 — the last time Congress overhauled...