On Dec. 5, 2014, USCIS’ Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) hosted a stakeholder engagement to discuss the state of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, including current trends. A summary of the engagement’s most salient themes was posted on the EB-5 Insights blog. The agency made an executive summary available to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) this week, which can be accessed here.  Over 700 stakeholders participated in the engagement, in which subject matter experts from IPO provided EB-5 program updates from Fiscal Year 2014 and discussed initiatives for Fiscal Year 2015.

As we previously remarked, EB-5 filings constituted over $5 billion in potential EB-5 investment funds for FY 2014. These large capital injections into our economy spur domestic growth and job creation for U.S. workers, which is why the EB-5 community and certain congresspersons have been so vocal about its reauthorization on a permanent basis.

Highlights from FY 2014:

  • Agency Expands Manpower: IPO stated that it is committed in its effort to recruit, hire, and train capable adjudicators, attorneys, and fraud detection and national security officers to keep the EB-5 program operating efficiently and lawfully. To that end, from FY 2014 to the date of publication, IPO increased the number of officers on staff from 83 to 94, with ten more to begin in the near future; the office boasted a total of 13 Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) employees and 11 attorneys within USCIS’ Office of Chief Counsel (OCC) for the same time period.
  • Unprecedented EB-5 Program Growth: IPO experienced a significant increase in both approved regional centers as well as in EB-5 investor petitions (regional center and standalone) during FY 2014, spanning a large variety of projects throughout the country. Some statistics of note:
    • FY 2014 submissions equaled more than a quarter of the petitions received since the program’s inception in 1990—25 years ago. This led to, for the first time, an exhaustion of the program’s approximately 10,000 allocated visas for investors and their dependent family members.
    • IPO received:
      • §  11,000 I-526 Petitions in FY 2014, which represents a 72 percent increase from FY 2013;
      • §  2,500 I-829 Petitions in FY 2014, which represents an 106 percent increase from FY 2013; and
      • §  270 I-924 Applications in FY 2014, which represents a 34 percent increase from FY 2013.
    • Specific figures on I-526 and I-829 Petitions received, approved, denied and pending can be found here and here, respectively.
  • Regional Centers Scrutinized for Compliance: As of March 2, 2015, USCIS had approved approximately 641 regional centers. However, IPO emphasized its commitment to performing comprehensive reviews of those in operation to ensure compliance with the EB-5 Program’s rules. This task is largely carried out through reviews of the Forms I-924A, which each active regional center is required to submit by the end of the fiscal year. Indeed, USCIS terminated seven regional centers simply for failure to file a Form I-924A during FY 2014. Moreover, the agency also issued 28 Notices of Intent to Terminate (NOITs) to regional centers that were determined “to no longer serve the purpose of promoting economic growth.”The strengthening of overall program integrity is a principal goal of the agency moving forward. In its efforts to ensure compliance with the law and detect and eliminate instances of fraud, USCIS will expand their use of site visits to validate supporting documentation; bulk up its reviews of regional center compliance, as noted above; expand the size of the FDNS team and provide FDNS officers with specialized training in combatting money-laundering and international banking crime to sharpen their skill sets; and implement new software tools to assist in fraud detection efforts. IPO also called upon all of us that work within the program to do our part by reporting instances of fraudulent conduct to the agency.

Looking Forward: Initiatives for FY 2015

  • More Opportunities to Connect with IPO: IPO also underscored its desire to improve customer service and public communications, by undertaking to schedule outreach events in distinct geographic areas across the United States to provide better forums in which to connect with decision-makers. IPO announced that it anticipates holding more regular public engagement sessions with stakeholders on the EB-5 Program, in addition to enhancing the nature and format of these engagements. The latter goal aims to facilitate a more interactive and detailed discussion on recurring topics and practice pointers for those working in the EB-5 program. To receive more information on and invitations to engagement efforts, you should register at the USCIS Subscription Service. Similarly, IPO encourages the submission of ideas and suggestions pertaining to the improvement of the EB-5 Program via email submissions at Public.Engagement@uscis.dhs.gov.

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