On May 30, 2013, USCIS finally issued the much anticipated Final EB-5 Adjudications Policy Memorandum.  The Final EB-5 Adjudications Policy Memorandum makes significant changes to and provides clarifications for the EB-5 Program.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • Less Regional Center Amendments: The new memo states that USCIS does not require formal amendments to regional center designation when an RC changes its industries of focus, its geographic boundaries, its business plans, or its economic methodologies.  Previously, the I-924 listed “acceptable amendments” to include some of these. The memo clarifies the non-mandatory nature of these business changes.
  • An RC’s Geographic Area is Determined by Reasonableness:  For the first time, USCIS outlined that determinations on the geographic area of a regional center are based on the RC’s ability to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the proposed economic activity will promote growth in the proposed area. This means that the RC must show that the proposed area contributes significantly to the supply chain and labor pool of the proposed projects.
  • Defines Hypothetical, Actual and Exemplar Projects: The memo states that if a project complies with the requirements of a Matter of Ho business plan, it is an “actual project.” If the project does not comply with Matter of Ho, it is “hypothetical.”  Additionally, an actual project requires more detail than a hypothetical. Finally, the memo defines an “exemplar” as an actual I-526 petition for a project that USCIS will review for EB-5 compliance, including all transactional documents (such as the offering materials).  This is important because if USCIS approves an “actual project,” USCIS will give deference to the later filed I-526s.  Hypothetical projects are not accorded deference at the I-526 stage.
  • We decided that already! Deference to Prior Decisions: Deference to already adjudicated matters is one of the most significant changes contained within the memo. For example, if USCIS approves an I-924’s Matter of Ho compliant business plan, it will give deference to this at the later I-526 stage.  I-924 approval notices should state whether a project has been approved as an exemplar or actual project, thereby being accorded deference in future adjudications.
  • Approved the Use of Escrow Accounts: USCIS explicitly approved investor’s use of escrow accounts as long as release of funds is immediate and irrevocable upon approval of the Form I-526 and acquisition of an immigrant visa or approval of Form 1-485 (adjustment of status).
  • Bridge financing Permitted If You Just Can’t Wait: If a developer uses bridge financing prior to receipt of the EB-5 capital, this will not affect the job creation calculation whether or not said financing was contemplated before the EB5 financing.  However, it is always a best practice to have contemporaneous evidence of the intent to use EB-5 capital.
  • USCIS Defers to State Adjudications of TEAs: USCIS will review state determinations of TEAs to see whether they used reasonable methodologies, but will otherwise defer to state determinations.
  • Eventual Acquisition of an Asset Does Not Count as “At Risk” Investment: If the investor is individually guaranteed the right to eventual ownership or use of a particular asset in consideration of the capital contribution, then the expected present value of the guaranteed ownership or use does not count toward total amount of the investor’s capital contribution in determining the amount of money truly at risk.
  • Restructure or Reorganization Means (probably) a Total Remodel or Significant Addition: Plans to convert a restaurant into a nightclub or add crop production to a livestock operation would constitute restructuring. This seems to mean USCIS wants a complete remodeling or significant addition to the existing business. “Reasonable time” to Create Jobs at I-829 is Not a Free Pass: Investors need not have created all the jobs at the I-829 stage, but need to be in “substantial compliance” and show that they will create jobs “within a reasonable time.”  This is not an open-ended allowance, but does provide some flexibility. After this time, jobs will not be considered unless there is a force majeure. 
  • Material changes at I-829 stage? Don’t Fret: An individual investor can proceed with their Form I-829 petition to remove conditions even if within the time between I-526 approval and submission of the Form I-829 a material change occurred to the business plan.  As long as the investor can show that they satisfy the conditions for removal of conditions, USCIS may still issue an approval.