USCIS December 5th, 2014 EB-5 Stakeholder Engagement
On December 5th, 2014, USCIS held an EB-5 Engagement Meeting to discuss the current state and the future of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. In attendance were various persons of interest including Immigrant Investor Program Office personnel (IPO), and USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez.
Mr. Rodriguez began the engagement by stating that the EB-5 Program is critical to the economic development of our communities and seeks to bring out its full potential while protecting nation security and preserving its integrity.
During the EB-5 Stakeholder Engagement, IPO Chief Nicholas Colucci listed various highlights of the 2014 fiscal year. For example, it was announced that 230 regional centers have been approved in FY 2014. In addition, 11,000 I-526 petitions were filed in FY 2014, which is a 72% increase from FY 2013. I-526 petitions filed this year amounted to $5.5 billion in investments. Furthermore, 270 I-924 petitioners were filed from regional center in FY 2014 which was a 34% increase from FY 2013. USCIS also saw a 106% growth in I-829 applications with 2,500 in FY 2014. Compared to the early days of the EB-5 program, we have recently seen a surge in interest with these unprecedented numbers.
Chief Colucci also spoke on the potential future changes in FY 2015. Among these changes are quarterly stakeholder meetings, timely responses to inquiries and to send IPO personnel to visit Federal, State and local partners to create a better relationship and understanding of the program. IPO plans to also improve the quality of service by speeding up the processing times while maintaining quality. IPO also will try to improve integrity by working with law enforcement to prevent fraud and validate documents through commercial and government data for assistance.
The most pressing problem brought up in the engagement was the long processing times. The average processing time for I-526, I-829, and I-924 are 14.3 months, 8.6 months, and 8.5 months respectively. USCIS and IPO predict the processing times will go down as the adjudicators hired in October and November have finished their training.
Another issue raised by stakeholders is how RFE’s are triggered. IPO explains that for I-526 petitions, the source of the collaterals will trigger an RFE. For example, an RFE will be triggered when an investor uses a loan from his or her company. In addition, an investor who has received money as a gift must show how the funds were obtained and originated. The investor will also need to show their 5 year income.
Details about the job creation requirement were also clarified in the engagement. It was stated that jobs of U.S workers who are sent abroad will not count toward fulfilling this requirement. Moreover, multiple part time positions cannot be combined into full time positions for this requirement as well. IPO also stated that troubled businesses are only required to save 10 jobs per investor, not all of the jobs.
Targeted Employment Areas (TEA)
USCIS further emphasized the fact that the investor must show the investment is in a TEA during the time of investment, which is during the filing of the I-526.
IPO stated that only 21 I-526 petitions were filed through the ELIS, electronic filing system. IPO will continue to explore new ways to encourage the use of ELIS which may include easier interface, clearer instructions, beta testing environment, and more engagements to promote ELIS.
USCIS explains that they will not reject an I-829 petition for failing to follow the business plan and economic report outlined in the I-526. However, the I-829 still must show it has met the requirements and that the I-526 was filed in sincerity. It will also help to provide an explanation on why the I-829 and I-526 business plans differ.
USCIS explained that an I-526 petitionwill be processed faster if using the same documents and business plan as an approved exemplar I-924 petition. In addition, if USCIS has already approved an economic report and business plan in an I-526 petition, other petitions filed with the same documents for the same project may be processed faster.
During the meeting, the issue of retrogression was brought up. USCIS and IPO states that they are well aware of them problem and is currently working on a memo to be published. USCIS is also looking to change its policy requiring that jobs need to be created within 2.5 years from the I-526 adjudication. USCIS is also looking to redefine “permanently” if the job is lost during the I-829 filing, which can be as long as 7-8 years during retrogression. In addition, USCIS will seek to expedite cases regarding age out children. During the engagement, USCIS did not give any clear solid answers to questions regarding retrogression but promises to make changes in the future.
Overall, the tone of the engagement was optimistic. IPO and USCIS recognize the various problems regarding the EB-5 program and seek to address them through various changes.
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