Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My take on Senate Bill 1501, affecting the EB-5 Program and regional centers

When it was SB 774, it was a good EB-5 improvement bill. With Sen. Grassley's participation, the bill has become an unmitigated nightmare!  I cannot support this bill, as written, and cannot encourage the senators in the five states where my regional center operates, to support it.

Summary by Boyd F. Campbell, 2015-07-15

The bill provides for a five-year extension of the regional center program.  I would rather see Congress make this oldest "pilot" program permanent.
It would rework TEA classifications to encourage more rural (towns under 20,000 population) development and not allow aggregation of census tract or commuting pattern configurations. OMB has cautioned Congress for years not to rely upon Metropolitan Statistical Areas, which is uses for statistical purposes only.  There are many rural areas within MSAs.
The bill increases investment amounts to $800,000 for TEA projects and $1.2M for non TEA projects. These increases are unnecessary and create confusion in the EB-5 marketplace.
It creates an extra-judicial framework so that DHS may, allegedly, have better oversight of regional centers. This extra-judicial framework does not affect independent EB-5 projects unrelated to regional centers, which are far more risky.  Finally, the bill requires regional centers to pay for this extra-judicial framework with a mandatory assessment of $20,000 per year.  This is disgusting and is beneath Congress's role.
It changes job creation calculations, requiring direct employees for a new commercial enterprise, only 30 percent of jobs may be created by non EB-5 capital.  This will make many EB-5 projects unattractive.
The bill provides for improvements in reliability of processing times.  Limit of 120 days on average for exemplars, limit of 150 days for I-526 and 180 days for I-924. This is a nice idea, but it won't happen. As more and more USCIS employees are hired for the EB-5 Program, processing times become longer and longer.
It introduces a premium-processing fee to expedite petitions and reduce processing times. This won't happen either.
Finally, the bill removes TEA determinations from the states and puts USCIS in charge of TEA determinations.  This is a REALLY bad idea.  Do the senators know how long it will take USCIS to make TEA determinations?  Months.  Many months.  I get them done in my states (five in the Southeast) in less than a week.
Unless SB 1501 is heavily revised in accordance with my comments above, I must urge the senators in the five states in which my regional center operates to vote no on this bill.