USCIS EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Stakeholder Engagement
USCIS hosted an EB-5 Stakeholders Teleconference on July 28 and August 29, 2016. During the teleconference, the Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) discussed some of the highlights and challenges related to the EB-5 Program. IPO Chief, Mr. Nicholas Colucci said that USCIS intends to support the program’s vitality, integrity and transparency. Some of the issues discussed at the teleconference included: upcoming regional center audits and project site visits, EB-5 investments by minors (investors under 18), IPO staffing updates, increasing IPO’s interaction with U.S. financial institutions, regulatory changes and policy updates.
Mr. Colucci presented the following important data:
Today there are nearly 850 regional centers comparing to fewer than 200 five years ago;
More than 21,000 investors submitted Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur and nearly 11,900 of them were approved;
Approximately 2,300 of I-829 petitions to remove conditions approved, representing 23,000 jobs across the U.S.
In terms of capital coming into the U.S. economy, 11,900 investors at half a million dollars each equals approximately $5.9 billion in new capital for New Commercial Enterprises (NCEs).
With respect to IPO staff, USCIS is going to meet the goal of reaching 171 staff members by the end of calendar year 2016. Mr. Colucci reported that the agency has been hiring auditors, economists and lawyers to assist with the more than 25,000 petitions and applications that are pending.
With regards to site visits, the visits will be to the job creating entity (JCE); unannounced; and conducted by Fraud Detection and National Security field personnel. IPO is seeking to determine if the project is consistent with what was proposed and is operating as expected.
With regards to regional center audits, they will be conducted at the regional center by IPO staff and they will be announced in advance. The audits could last up to a week or more, and officers conducting the audits will follow Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards and seek to speak with individuals at the regional center. An audit will review the regional center’s compliance with applicable laws and authorities.
IPO Chief also discussed a forthcoming report of the Department of Commerce which determines size and contribution of the EB-5 Program to the U.S. economy. Mr. Colucci considered the report to better assess estimates of positive economic impact, than estimates made by USCIS and other private-sector economic studies of the program.
USCIS will continue to provide briefings and technical assistance to Congress as the sunset of the EB-5 program is approaching on September 30, 2016. IPO continues to draft new regulations while Congress deliberates the future of EB-5.
Another important issue, which appeared during the Q&A part of the engagement, was whether minors under the age of 18 could be petitioners in an I-526 petition; i. In order to avoid the possibility of minor children aging out as a result of delays with petition. As “aging out” has become a serious , whichissue for happens a lot with Cmainly Chinesea-born petitioners, potential investors have begun considering using a minor child as the main principal in EB-5 petition.
Although there are no age requirements in the regulations, minor petitioners generally don’t have the capacity to enter into binding contracts that are necessary to qualify for EB-5 investments. The minor petitioners must demonstrate that the contract is binding on them, and documents submitted with their I-526 petition must include proof that parents or legal guardians have the right to execute offering documents on behalf of minors. Also, only minors age 14 and over, are eligible to sign the form I-526. If the minor is below 14, a parent or a legal guardian must sign the form on minor’s behalf together with proof of parental or legal guardian relationship to the petitioner.
Regarding the I-924 Form, Application for Regional Center, USCIS recently started sending e-mail Requests for Clarification (RFC) related to Part 3 of the form. USCIS asks for all principals, agents and other individuals involved in operating of regional center. The information must also contain their dates of birth and positions. Although the current form does not require this information, USCIS is preparing a new form, which will request to specify the above-mentioned information.
For more information on the EB-5 program, upcoming expiration of the EB-5 program, and legislative and program changes, please contact us.