EB-5 Regional Center Program Preserved—For Now

Despite uncertainty and innuendo to the contrary, no changes will be made to the EB-5 Regional Center Program through the end of fiscal year 2017.

The draft omnibus appropriations bill currently circulating in Congress, which will keep the government funded through September 30, 2017, reauthorizes the pilot program, which had been scheduled to sunset on April 28. Section 542 of the legislation’s text appropriating funds for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) merely extends the date of the program’s expiration. The omnibus bill is widely expected to pass this week.

Background

First authorized in the Immigration Act of 1990, the EB-5 visa category offers an employment-based pathway to permanent residency to foreign nationals who invest a minimum of $1 million in a commercial enterprise that creates at least 10 full-time employment opportunities for U.S. workers. The Regional Center Program lowers this minimum investment amount to $500,000, based upon alien investors’ proposals that such investment in USCIS-approved Regional Centers (or in rural or targeted employment areas) will promote economic growth and job creation. Additionally, investors in Regional Centers are allowed to claim “indirect” jobs to satisfy the requisite number of employment opportunities created as a result of their investment. As opposed to “direct” jobs, indirect jobs are those shown to be induced tangentially to the investment—for example, jobs created for a vendor that supplies services or goods to a Regional Center.

Since the Regional Center Program, officially inaugurated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as the Immigrant Investor Program, was launched in 1992, Congress has failed to permanently codify it in immigration law. Instead, the program has been consistently reauthorized for finite durations of time. Each time the clock winds down to the program’s expiration, there is often a bevy of legislation introduced seeking to change or altogether eliminate the program. (For recent examples of such proposals, refer to here and here, respectively.) While USCIS estimates that the EB-5 program in general has created more than 35,000 jobs and facilitated nearly $9 billion in foreign direct investment in the past five years alone, several instances of corruption have tarnished the visa category’s reputation. (For a recent episode of such misuse of the visa category, refer to our article here.) These high-profile occurrences, unsurprisingly, underlie legislative initiatives to render the category’s requirements more stringent or simply eliminate the visa.

Just last month, Owen Gu, an attorney at our Houston offices, was featured in a New York Times article on the EB-5 program.

The Upshot

The takeaway for foreign investors interested in applying for EB-5 visas by way of investments in Regional Centers: the pilot program stands until at least September 30, and the requirements remain the same:

  • Minimum investment: $500,000
  • Job creation: no fewer than 10 employment opportunities, whether direct or indirect
  • Forms:I-526 and I-924, the latter of which is used by investors to petition for USCIS designation of a new Regional Center

Our Thoughts

Given the polarized national discourse on immigration and priorities of the current administration, it would hardly be surprising if actual changes were made to the EB-5 visa category or its Regional Center Program—or both.

At Zhang and Associates, we understand how important the EB-5 visa and associated pilot program are to foreign investors. This is especially the case for intending immigrants from China, who collectively account for roughly 90 percent of EB-5 applicants. Over the past two decades, we’ve successfully assisted hundreds of immigrant investors secure green cards through the EB-5 classification, many of whom made investments in Regional Centers. While we’re sympathetic to the impetus to reform the category, we have had a first-hand look at the economic benefits that redound to communities suffering from high unemployment and low growth as a result of our clients’ direct investment. As such, we remain optimistic the Regional Center Program will continue to be an option for alien investors well after the end of fiscal year 2017.

But our optimism shouldn’t be mistaken for naiveté. No one knows what may happen in the short time before the pilot program is slated to expire again this fall. Accordingly, our recommendation to foreign nationals interested in applying for EB-5 visas through the Regional Center Program is to contact us as soon as possible to discuss your immigration options during a free consultation. With the status quo preserved for the next five months, now is the time to reach out to an experienced EB-5 legal team.

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Former U.S. Consular officer, Attorney Sechyi Laiu joined Zhang & Associates, P.C. on June 26, 2017


At Zhang & Associates, P.C., Attorney Laiu specializes on Consular Processing cases and business development. Attorney Laiu also focuses on TN visas, E visas, CBP administrative proceedings (monetary confiscation, deferred inspection), and overseas financial compliance.

Prior to joining Zhang & Associates, P.C., Attorney Laiu worked for the U.S. Department of State as a Chinese and Portuguese speaking diplomat. As a consular-coned officer who served in Vancouver (Canada), Shenyang (P.R. China), and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Attorney Laiu processed over 30,000 visa cases and worked in every section of Consular Affairs overseas (Fraud Prevention Unit, Immigrant Visas, Non-Immigrant Visas, and American Citizen Services).

He will use his experience and expertise to deliver the highest quality of service to our clients.


Founded in 1996, Zhang & Associates, P.C. offers legal services to clients nationwide in all aspects of U.S immigration law. We have successfully handled thousands of immigration cases.

At Zhang & Associates, P.C., our attorneys and supporting professionals are committed to providing high-quality immigration and non-immigration visa services. We specialize in NIW, EB-1, PERM, and I-485 cases. In the past twenty years, we have successfully helped thousands of clients get green cards. If you plan to apply for a green card, please send your CV to Attorney Jerry Zhang (info@hooyou.com) for a free evaluation.

Zhang & Associates, P.C.

Silicon Valley • New York • Los Angeles • Chicago • Houston • Austin • Seattle • Madison

Tel: 1-800-230-7040, 713-771-8433
Email: info@hooyou.com
website: http://www.hooyou.com

 

(05/02/2017)