On September 13, 2012, Congress passed and sent to President Barack Obama an immigration bill that, among other things, extends the Employment-Based Fifth Preference ("EB-5") Immigrant Investor Program for an additional three years. The President is expected to sign this legislation.
Under the EB-5 program, investors can secure permanent residence in the United States if they invest $500,000 to $1 million in a commercial venture that creates at least 10 full-time jobs. On September 7, 2012, The New York Times reported how the EB-5 program is becoming a more popular source of financing for the hotel and hospitality industry. Other industries looking for an alternative source of relatively inexpensive financing also are considering the EB-5 program because its investors tend to be more interested in the immigration benefits than the risks or rate of return.
The EB-5 program has had a checkered history within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"). The administrative support for the program has never matched its entrepreneurial promise. As a result, the EB-5 program has not reached its potential. In July 2012, the USCIS announced that it plans to establish a separate and distinct office in the agency to oversee the administration of this program. According to USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas, this new office will be led by a chief of immigrant investor programs, who will have extensive experience in the business world and thus be better able to ensure that the program is administered efficiently and effectively.
The creation of this new office is the latest in a series of steps that the USCIS has taken to try and improve the EB-5 program and make it more attractive to foreign capital. Hopefully, the action by Congress to extend the EB-5 program will spur even more action by the USCIS to better manage this program.