In anticipation of the February 26, 2014 telephonic meeting of EB-5 Stakeholders titled “Discussion About the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program,” the Greenberg Traurig EB-5 Team submitted the enclosed topics/issues for discussion. We look forward to a productive call.
- The December 12, 2013 OIG Report contained four recommendations. Can you comment on the following?
- Timing for the new proposed regulations and whether it will include material from the May 30, 2013 memo?
- Developing a memorandum of understanding with the Departments of Commerce (“DOC”) and Labor (“DOL”), as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to provide expertise and involvement in the adjudication of applications and petitions for the EB-5 regional center program. Will this be a joint regulation or binding guidance?
- How will the quality assurance steps to promote program integrity and ensure that regional centers comply with the Code of Federal Regulations requirements are established.
- Expedite Procedure. Once an expedite request is approved, what is the procedure for following up on expedited cases? There seems to a void in communication.
- Reconsider Introduction of Premium Processing for I-924 and/ or I-526 Petitions.
- Processing Times Improvement. This year we saw the establishment of the EB-5 program office in Washington, DC. I-924 transfers to the new program office have resulted in decreased processing times for initial regional center application as well as amendments. However, I-526 petitions and I-829 petitions are at an all-time slowdown and are now taking 18 months or more to adjudicate. This causes problems for projects in need of financing and shakes investor confidence in the program. A decrease in processing times is urgently needed.
- Provide Clarification on Sale of Regional Centers. On May 30th of 2013, the UCSIS released its long awaited binding EB-5 policy guidance. Missing from this guidance was the topic of regional center sales. Previously, USCIS had held that sales were permitted but required amendments. In recent adjudications, USCIS seems to be shying away from this position. Clear guidance is urgently needed.
- Provide Clarification on Geographic Expansion in May 30th memo. It appears that the standard for expansion - “reasonableness” - that is supported by data of a dependent economic region is required to justify a geographic expansion of existing regional centers without an amendment. There appears to be much confusion on what is and is not permitted in terms of expansion – clarification is needed.
- Are you aware that the Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has recently sent out letters to Regional Centers that have been designated by the Department of Homeland Security seeking information about the Center and the projects? Specifically, the letters request:
- Any approval from USCIS to participate in the EB-5 Program regarding the Regional Center and their business plan, including any subsequent recertification;
- The total amount of investment and number of individuals by country of origin making investments through the Regional Center since the regional center has been in operation;
- The name, address and a description of each business in which the Regional Center has made an investment of funds and the number of jobs created by each investment;
- Any fees charged to EB-5 applications or received by the Regional Center, including amount and description;
- A list of any current or former corporate officers of the Regional Center, including the title or position and dates of employment; and
- The name of address of any individual entity – either foreign or domestic – you or the Regional Center has an agreement with to provide legal, accounting, recruiting, or consulting services, as well as a description of the service provided.
It appears that the Senate Committee is continuing to investigate the Department of Homeland Security’s oversight of the EB-5 program. Can you comment on this?