Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Regional Center aspect of EB-5 Program extended to Dec. 8

When H.R. 601 was signed into law, a provision in the bill reauthorized the regional center aspect of the EB-5 Program to Dec. 8.  The new law, which contained an appropriation for Hurricane Harvey relief for the east coast of Texas, including Houston, also contained a provision to keep the government running.  Called a continuing resolution, the law enables the government to keep operating without a budget.
There is work being done in Congress on comprehensive immigration reform, which may affect a variety of visa programs, including EB-5.  Fact is, the regional center aspect of the EB-5 Program is the longest-running "pilot program" in federal government history.  Continual "reauthorization" leaves a cloud of uncertainty over this visa program, which should not be allowed to continue.
Because of an increasing number of examples of fraud in the EB-5 Program, there is a move afoot in Congress to terminate the EB-5 Program.  Some members of Congress believe that the EB-5 Program is not accomplishing the goals intended, including economic development in rural areas and areas of high unemploment in the United States. I believe that Congress may reform the EB-5 Program, but I do not think Congress will terminate it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Republican senators want to roll back Obama proposal to increase investment amounts

See

https://therealdeal.com/?p=2132990

This feels different

Since I became involved in the EB-5 Program in 2006, the regional center part of the program has been extended five or six times.  This makes the regional center program the oldest pilot program in federal government, despite the fact that USCIS removed the word "pilot" from the name of the program. That agency cannot create a new reality for the regional center program.

Most extensions were for three years, but that has changed.  Most recently, Congress extended it (through a continuing budget resolution) from December 2016 to April 28, 2017. Then it was extended to September 30. I want to inform you that I think this time is different.

There is Sens. Grassley and Feinstein's bill to termiate the EB-5 Program altogether. There are increasing numbers of SEC fraud cases. There are more members of Congress who believe that the federal government is engaged in "selling citizenship", ignoring the program's stated goal of creating U.S. worker jobs.

So this time it feels different. I don't want anyone to panic, but I do think I will devote extra effort to close the open EB-5 projects in my regional center before September 30.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

USCIS releases EB-5 visa case processing times report

Dated March 31, 2017, USCIS released processing times for EB-5 visa related petitions today (May 23). The news is bleak and reflects slower processing even as the agency hires new employees and trains them. The Immigrant Investor Program Office has provided no comment on the slow pace of EB-5 petition processing. The report is below:

I-526 petitions for alien entrepreneurs are being processed as of Sept. 20, 2015

I-829 petitions for alien entrepreneurs to remove conditions are being processed as of Oct. 12, 2014

I-924 applications for regional center designation are being processed as of Sept. 16, 2015

I was once told by a former employee of the Ombudsman's Office at the Department of Homeland Security that visa case processing (no matter which visa program one specifies) slows as more employees are hired and trained for that visa program.  That sounds counter-intuitive, but it is true.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

USCIS Message: EB-5 Regional Center Compliance Audits

Dear Stakeholder,

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announces the launch of an EB-5 Regional Center Compliance Audit Program.  Regional center compliance audits are an additional way to enhance program integrity and verify information in regional center applications and annual certifications. These audits will verify compliance with applicable laws and authorities to ensure continued eligibility for the regional center designation.
For example, the audit team:
  • Reviews applications, certifications, associated records, and information on the regional center;
  • Verifies supporting documents, submitted with the application(s) and in the annual certification(s);
  • Conducts site inspections; and
  • Interviews personnel to confirm the information provided with the application(s) and annual certification(s).
You can read additional details on the program on our Regional Center Compliance Audit page.  Read more about the EB-5 program online at uscis.gov/EB-5.

Sincerely,

USCIS Public Engagement

USCIS Message: EB-5 Regional Center Compliance Audits

Dear Stakeholder,

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announces the launch of an EB-5 Regional Center Compliance Audit Program.  Regional center compliance audits are an additional way to enhance program integrity and verify information in regional center applications and annual certifications. These audits will verify compliance with applicable laws and authorities to ensure continued eligibility for the regional center designation.
For example, the audit team:
  • Reviews applications, certifications, associated records, and information on the regional center;
  • Verifies supporting documents, submitted with the application(s) and in the annual certification(s);
  • Conducts site inspections; and
  • Interviews personnel to confirm the information provided with the application(s) and annual certification(s).
You can read additional details on the program on our Regional Center Compliance Audit page.  Read more about the EB-5 program online at uscis.gov/EB-5.

Sincerely,

USCIS Public Engagement

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Why kill the EB-5 Program?

Sens. Diane Feinstein and Chuck Grassley may have their reasons, but why kill a job-creation program that works most of the time. Sure, there are some bad actors in the mix, but law enforcement agencies are rooting them out.
EB-5 creates jobs, and that is something we need as a nation.
I oppose S. 232 for the reasons stated above.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sub-minimum investment amount needed for rural areas

Sens. Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy have proposed increasing the EB-5 Program minimum investment amounts to $800,000 (EB-5 projects in TEAs or rural areas) and $1.2 million elsewhere. DHS has proposed increasing these amounts even more to take into account inflation.
Most of the EB-5 investment capital, thus far -- some say as much as 90 percent -- has gone to huge real estate projects in so-called "gateway cities" in California, Florida, and New York. This leaves regional centers and EB-5 projects in rural areas out of the picture.
My regional center -- America's Center for Foreign Investment -- is a southeastern United States regional center. Most of ACFI's EB-5 projects are in rural areas. Trying to find investors for ACFI's projects -- although in growing industries -- is extremely difficult.
ACFI pursues industries I think are likely to be successful.  My regional center is active in affiliating independent- and assisted-living investment projects as well as manufacturers of modular homes and buildings made from hardened materials, such as steel and hardy plank, which resist hurricanes, tornadoes, fire and earthquakes.  These structures are ideal for the Gulf Coast and for tornado-prone areas of the United States.
ACFI would be delighted to entertain other manufacturing projects in rural areas of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee (which is ACFI’s geographic area), but the EB-5 investment capital will not arrive because of the preponderance of EB-5 investment capital going to huge real estate projects in the gateway cities in California, Florida and New York.
To address this issue, I propose a minimum investment amount of $650,000 in rural areas, whether or not the location of the EB-5 project is within or outside a Combined Statistical Area or Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA).  My rational for the former is that we have many cows and cow pastures in Montgomery County, where a manufacturing plant might be located, but the cow pastures are in an SMSA, so the current lower investment amount of $500,000 is not applicable unless the EB-5 project is within an area of high unemployment, defined as 150 percent of the national average (which fluctuates, of course).  The Office of Management and Budget has repeatedly written to Congress that SMSA’s are created for “statistical purposes only” and were not meant to enable a particular federal program to operate within or outside an SMSA
I feel confident that this lower minimum investment amount of $650,000, exclusively for rural areas, would substantially benefit manufacturing and agricultural industries in the southeastern United States, and create many more good jobs for U.S. workers and others within ACFI’s geographic area than the huge real estate projects in gateway cities.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017