Congress Reauthorizes EB-5 Regional Center Program through December
Though prospective changes to the program continue ruminating in Washington, the EB-5 Regional Center Program will remain authorized for at least the next two months.
Earlier this month, President Trump signed into law a bill to keep the federal government funded through December 8. The legislation—H.R. 601: Continuing Appropriations Act—extends the Regional Center Program during this period.
Established by 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 on alien investors’ proposals that such investment in approved Regional Centers (located in 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 investments. 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 was launched by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in 1992, Congress has failed to permanently codify it in immigration law. Instead, the program has been consistently reauthorized for finite durations of time, just as we reported to our readers in May.
While USCIS estimates that the EB-5 program as a whole 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.
The takeaway for foreign investors interested in applying for EB-5 visas by way of investments in Regional Centers: the pilot program remains an option until at least December 8, and the requirements, at present, remain the same:
Given the consistent actions of the administration to more aggressively enforce immigration laws, it would hardly be surprising if changes were made to the EB-5 visa category or the Regional Center Program in particular—or both.
In fact, the likelihood remains high that the minimum investment amounts, which have not been changed since 1990, will be increased. A bill introduced last month, for example—the RAISE Act, which the administration supports—seeks to raise the requisite capital to $1.35 million and $1.8 million for Regional Centers and direct investment projects, respectively.
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’ investments. As such, we remain optimistic the Regional Center Program will continue to be an option for alien investors after this most recent reauthorization.
That said, no one knows what may happen in the short time before December 8. 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 two months, now is the time to reach out to an experienced EB-5 legal team.
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 worldwide in all aspects of U.S immigration law. We have successfully handled over ten thousand 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, EB-5, PERM, I-485 I-130, H-1B, O, L and J cases. In the past twenty-one years, we have successfully helped over ten thousand clients get green cards. If you plan to apply for a green card, please send your CV to Attorney Jerry Zhang (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a free evaluation.
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