A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Significant Enhancements to EB-5 Regional Center Investor Visa Program Proposed

On May 19, 2011, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed significant enhancements to the administration of the USCIS Immigrant Investor Program, commonly referred to as the EB-5 Program. The goal is to transform the intake and review process for immigrant investors as part of the Obama administration's continued commitment to improve the legal immigration system and meet the country's economic needs for the 21st century.

The EB-5 investor visa program sets aside10,000 visas annually to immigrant investors who invest in commercial enterprises that create at least 10 U.S. jobs. An investor must invest at least US$1,000,000 (or US$500,000 for areas with high unemployment or rural areas).  Investments can be made directly under the investor's program or through a designed regional center.  A regional Center is a specific investment entity, public or private, which is involved with the promotion of economic growth and creation of jobs.  A regional center must first submit a proposal to the USCIS and get designated as an approved EB-5 regional center first, before they can participate in the EB-5 program. There are three main enhancements proposed to streamline Regional Center sponsored applications.

First, USCIS proposes to accelerate its processing of investor's applications for job-creating projects that are fully developed and ready to be implemented. Further, the government will also give these EB-5 applicants and petitioners the option to request Premium Processing Service, which guarantees a decision within 15 calendar days for an additional fee (current fee is $1225).

Secondly, USCIS proposes the creation of new specialized intake teams with expertise in economic analysis and the Investor Visa Program requirements.  The significance is that EB-5 Regional Center applicants will be able to communicate directly with members of these specialized intake teams via e-mail to facilitate the resolution of issues and questions regarding their applications.

Thirdly, USCIS proposes to create an expert Decision Board to render decisions regarding EB-5 Regional Center applications. Members of the Decision Board will include an economist, adjudicators, and legal counsel.  Again, the purpose is clearly to employ personnel with expertise in economic matters to decide EB-5 cases.

This proposal will be posted online until June 17, 2011, for public comment.  The proposed changes will not take effect until they are formally adopted and implemented by the USCIS.

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