Congress Renews the EB-5 Regional Center Program

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program was first established in 1990 by the Immigration Act of 1990. The purpose of the EB-5 program is to provide a pathway for investors to immigrate while benefiting the U.S economy. By investing $1,000,000 to a commercial enterprise (or $500,000 to a commercial enterprise in a targeted employment area (TEA)) and create at least 10 full time jobs, the investor can obtain a green card through the EB-5 program. In 2019, new regulations raised the investing amount requirement to $1,800,000 or $900,000 if invested to a business in a TEA.

Stemming from the EB-5 visa, the EB-5 Regional Center program was established in 1993. The Eb-5 Regional Center Program allows multiple EB-5 investors to combine their investments and invest through a Regional Center. A Regional Center is a USCIS approved 3rd party that combines the EB-5 investors with business developers that seek funding.

The regional center certification is advantageous for the operators and promoters of the regional center because it gives credibility to the regional center when it starts to develop a real project.This credibility is often used to attract additional investors. Commonly, before the project is ready, a hypothetical project proposal is used to establish a regional center designation from USCIS. The hypothetical project must contain a specific business proposal and its positive economic impact on the region. However, USCIS does not require that the hypothetical project be followed through. The hypothetical project is merely a general project proposal. EB-5 investors should be aware that the regional center is under no obligation to actualize the hypothetical project, and that their investment will possibly be used to fund a different project. I-526 or I-924 filed based on the hypothetical project will be reviewed as a new case and deference will not be given based on a pre-approved hypothetical project.

An actual project, however, is a shovel-ready project that is ready for development. Unlike hypothetical projects, approvals of actual projects will be accorded deference in subsequent filing of I-526 applications. To receive approval of an actual project for regional center designation, the business plan must have sufficient verifiable detail. Evidence to obtain approval include but are not limited to a description of the business, experience of business’ owners, business marketing plan and market analysis, general structure and objects, budget, job descriptions for positions needed, and a timetable for hiring needed positions. A hypothetical project will transform into an actual project when USCIS approve an amendment of the I-924 form OR when the first I-526 application based on the project is approved. 

There are various benefits to an EB-5 investor that invests through a regional center as opposed to directly investing to a business. Firstly, Regional Center projects are pre-approved by USCIS. Direct EB-5 investors will have to show that their business plan creates 10 full time U.S workers, while the pre-approved Regional Center project has already met this requirement. Regional Center program counts jobs that have been indirectly created while the basic program requires the 10 jobs to be directly created. The fulfillment of this requirement also means that it will be faster for the EB-5 investor to obtain permanent residency.

Secondly, the Regional Center Program requires less involvement from the investors in the business. Most EB-5 applicants’ main goal is to immigrate to the U.S as opposed to invest in a business. The investment, for many investors, is merely a way to immigrate. As such, EB-5 investors do not necessarily want to be actively involved in managing the day to day of the business they have invested in. The Regional Center allows for limited partnership and the investors can play a more passive role. In essence, the investors do not have the burden of direct management.

Thirdly, numerous Regional Center projects are in TEAs, which requires the EB-5 petitioner to invest less money. Although meeting the $900,000 investment requirement is not exclusive to Regional Centers, targeted employment areas can be difficult to identify for foreign investors. Many Regional Centers projects are already established in these areas, thereby meeting the TEA requirements and simplifying the EB-5 process for the investor.

However, investing directly might be more beneficial than investing through a regional center depending on the goals of the investor. Direct investment allows the investor to have more control over the business. If the investor wants to play a more active managerial role, direct investment is more preferable to regional center investment. Although the investor still retains voting rights on major decisions, the investor has little say over other aspects of the business. Furthermore, Regional Centers charge an administrative or management fee that usually costs around $50,000 to $70,000.

Despite the pros and cons of investment through Regional Centers, the EB-5 Regional Center program was set to expire on November 21, 2019. However, Congress recently passed a temporary bill that have extended this program to December 20th, 2019. It is expected that the Regional Center program will continue to be extended on a temporary basis until a more lasting extension of the program is passed. In the unlikely event that the Regional Center Program expires, pending I-526 petitions that invested in a Regional Center project is expected to be adjudicated under the expired law, while petitions submitted after the expiration date will likely be denied. Nevertheless, the EB-5 Regional Center program is expected to continue. To learn more about the EB-5 program, click here.

Zhang & Associates, P.C. has successfully represented thousands of non-immigrant and immigrant visas cases. In particular, we have extensive experience the EB-5 visa application process. If you would like to contact us, please email us at Our attorneys will use their experience, expertise, and teamwork to ensure the highest quality of service.

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-two 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 ( for a free evaluation.

Zhang & Associates, P.C.

Silicon Valley New York Los Angeles ChicagoHouston Austin Seattle  Sunnyvale MadisonHonolulu

Tel: 1-800-230-7040, 713-771-8433