On May 19, 2011, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") proposed significant enhancements to the administration of its Immigrant Investor Program, commonly referred to as the "EB-5 Program." Under the EB-5 Program, 10,000 green cards are set aside annually to immigrants who invest between $500,000 and $1 million in a commercial enterprise that creates at least 10 jobs for Americans. The EB-5 Program potentially is attractive to citizens of certain countries, such as China, that have experienced lengthy backlogs in the employment- and family-based green card quotas. Unfortunately, the EB-5 Program has not attracted much interest due to the USCIS's administrative delays and inflexibility and the fact that the issuance of the green card is conditional and can be revoked after two years when the USCIS reviews the success of the investment. In the current, uncertain economy, many foreign nationals who might otherwise be interested in the EB-5 Program are not willing to risk this level of investment, unless the outcome is much more certain.
In its announcement, the USCIS proposed three fundamental changes to the way in which the EB-5 Program is administered. First, it promised to accelerate processing initial Regional Center applications and to permit premium processing of these cases. Second, the USCIS proposes to create new specialized intake teams with expertise in the specific economic analyses required to properly assess these applications. Finally, the USCIS will convene an expert Decision Board, composed of an economist, experienced adjudicators, and legal counsel, to render decisions on Regional Center applications.