Saturday, December 22, 2012

Uncertainty reigns because USCIS takes wrong turns

That's how it happens too often in the bunker that is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  The "customers" are the enemy.  The permanent party (USCIS employees) are the oracles of all truth and light.  In their bureaucratic world, there can be no bright line tests.  "We handle these issues on a 'case-by-case basis'."
Where do they learn to talk like that?
If their actions and decisions were inconsequential, I wouldn't care, and neither would anyone else, but they're not.  Sometimes their actions and decisions have devastating consequences for law-abiding U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, their families and their businesses.  In the EB-5 arena, their actions and decisions can cost businesses owned by U.S. citizens millions of dollars and cause the layoffs of hundreds of U.S. workers.
During the past three or four years, USCIS has rarely made a decision or pronouncement that led to an improvement in its mismanagement of the EB-5 Program.  In most cases, the opposite was true.
That's why it is so vitally important that the USCIS director hire someone to run the EB-5 Program who has high intelligence, vision, strong leadership skills and the communication skills to explain to immigration service officers occupying the bunker to draw some bright lines for the regional centers, immigration lawyers and various economists and consultants active in the EB-5 Program.
We also need someone who will listen and try to understand why we have so little confidence in USCIS.  Most deputy directors I have seen in Washington conference meeting rooms look like they just want to get our of there, which is probably true.
Personnel is policy.  Remember "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job"?
The wrong person in the wrong job can get lots of people killed or cause chaos in a little-known immigrant visa program that could create 100,000 or more direct, indirect and induced jobs for U.S. workers every fiscal year!
I caution, however, that this person needs to be appointed to a position that is co-equal with the position of deputy director so he or she cannot be easily canned.  They did it in 2008 and they'll do it again.  If that is not done, the person will have zero clout and get nowhere.  The permanent party deputy directors within USCIS will marginalize the person otherwise.  They have never liked the EB-5 Program -- largely because they don't understand it and because problems (and misinterpretations of regulations and guidance) pop up from time to time -- and they would like to see it go away.
The way to bring this chaos to near normal is to hire a strong leader for the EB-5 Program who understands commerce, the U.S. economy, economic development, job-creation, business realities, banking, and finance.
We've heard a lot of talk out of USCIS in Washington, but very little action other than taking good meetings.  Nothing is accomplished by "taking good meetings."  It's like the TSA show at the airport:  security theater.
More on this subject in part two, when we get down to the nitty-gritty of three hot buttons:  bridge loans, tenant occupancy and "nexus."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Increased use of EB-5 clear in new USCIS report

In a report dated October 26, 2012, USCIS reported greater usage of the EB-5 Program.
For the federal fiscal year ending September 30, 2012, USCIS reported that there were 6,041 I-526 petitions filed for the temporary EB-5 visa.  Of those, 3,667 I-526 petitions were approved and 957 were denied.
For the same period, USCIS reported there were 712 I-829 petitions filed for the permanent green card.  Of the total I-829 petitions then pending, USCIS approved 736, and denied 60.
Contrast this with federal fiscal year 2011, when 3,805 I-526 petitions were filed, 1,571 approved, and 372 denied.  I-829s that year?  2,345 filed, 1,067 approved, and 46 denied.
The agency is not close to the 10,000 visa cap yet, but the Department of State has warned that it may have to allow Chinese applicants to "retrogress", causing delays (not long, but delays) in visa issuance.  Please see the entry below for more about that.