USCIS recently reported faster processing times of I-924 Applications for Regional Center Designation and the number of approved regional centers are currently at an all-time high, and both factors correlate to more I-924 Applications being submitted to and processed by USCIS than ever before. As a result, we have noticed certain trends that have developed demonstrating common issues that arise when submitting the I-924 Application for approval by USCIS. The following is an analysis of what we believe are the top five issues that arise, through the form of a Request for Evidence (RFE) sent back to the applicant from USCIS, when adjudicating the I-924 Application.
- Funds Dedicated to the Regional Center – USCIS has become especially concerned about any funds dedicated to the start-up costs for the regional center. In particular, USCIS will want more information to determine whether (A) the dedicated funds derive from a lawful source and (B) whether the funds are sufficient to satisfy the three main components of the Operations Plan, which are administration, finances, and marketing of the regional center. The purpose of the RFE is for USCIS to ensure that the group requesting regional center designation has the financial resources to successfully run and operate the entity. This means that USCIS has become interested in issuing RFEs to learn more about the proposed regional center’s upcoming necessary expenses and marketing strategy to raise funds for the EB-5 project.
- Hypothetical, Actual, or Exemplar Project – The USCIS EB-5 Policy Memorandum from May 30, 2014, focused on differentiating between hypothetical, actual, and exemplar level projects, which affects the level of deference that will be given to I-526 petitions that are later filed in connection with the EB-5 project. As a result, USCIS may not simply elect to designate the proposed EB-5 project with one of these labels after reviewing the I924 Application, but instead will request that the applicant proactively indicate what type of project is being proposed. Labeling the project as hypothetical, actual, or exemplar when initially submitting the documentation to USCIS is an easy fix toward avoiding this type of RFE.
- Geographic Footprint – USCIS will examine whether the amount of territory requested in the I-924 Application will potentially receive a positive economic/job creating impact in all areas sought. Keeping in mind that the mission of the EB-5 program is to stimulate economic activity and job growth in the EB-5 project area, USCIS is skeptical of applicants overestimating its project’s impact throughout multiple and vast territories. Aim to satisfy USCIS’ concerns when initially submitting the I-924 Application by sufficiently explaining how all territories requested will likely receive economic and employment benefits as a result of the proposed EB-5 project.
- Third-Party Verification of Two-Year Construction Timeline – Regional centers strive to get credit for as much job creation as possible during the construction of its project. A project that has a projected construction timeline of at least 24 months can not only get credit for creating indirect jobs, but also direct construction jobs, which ultimately increases the project’s overall job count. Therefore, USCIS is scrutinizing the 24-month construction timeline at a higher level by requesting the applicant provides data from a third party that verifies the projected construction timeline in order to investigate further whether the project should be able to add direct construction jobs to the job count. Obtaining third-party verification data and submitting the same in the original I-924 Application could help with limiting this form of RFE.
- Discrepancies between the Business Plan and other Project/Ancillary Documents – When initially filing the I-924 Application, it is imperative that all project documents are thoroughly reviewed for consistency, particularly the financial and economic data. For example, financial and job creation data specific to the proposed project should remain consistent among the business plan, economic study and other documents such as feasibility studies and pro forma financial projections.
Paying extra attention to these issues when preparing your I-924 Application will help minimize Requests for Evidence sent to you in response to your filing, which will help lead to a smoother approval process for obtaining regional center designation.