Sep
03

USCIS Published 2015-Q3 Adjudication Data Reveals Another Record Quarter for the EB-5 Program

On July 28, 2015, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published its third quarter report on I-526 and I-829 petition adjudication data. As always, IIUSA is here to provide a detailed summary with charts and graphs comparing recent and historical trends. Read the IIUSA press release here.

 

I-526 petitions – To View the IIUSA Data Report Click Here 

(Full Report for IIUSA Members Only)

FDIEB5

EB-5 investment contributed over $1.4 billion in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the U.S. economy in Q3 of FY2015. This is a 45% increase from Q2 of this year.

526 statistics

According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published third quarter data, there were a total of 2,868 I-526 petition approvals, a 45% growth from Q2 of this year.

Data points to know: 

 

1. I-526 approval rates grew 45% from Q2 and 153% year-over-year in addition EB-5 contributed over $1.4 billion FDI in Q3 of 2015.
2. The number of I-526 receipts remains strong – 7% growth from Q2, but dropped slightly year-over-year. With a strong Q4, FY2015 could still be a record year for the EB-5 Program.
3. The number of pending I-526 petitions dropped to slightly from 13,663 to 13,117.
4. The I-526 approval rate increased slightly from Q2 (88%) and remains over 90%.

 

I – 829 petitions – To view the IIUSA Data Report  Click Here

 

829quarterly

According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published third quarter data, the number of I-829 petition receipts grew 10% compared to 2015-Q2 data and 15% year-over-year.

Data points to know: 

 

1. I-829 receipts grew 10% compared Q2 and 15% year-over-year.
2. I-829 approvals, denials, approval rate are all pretty much the same (+/- less than 1%) compared to the Q2.
3. The number of I-829 petitions pending grew to over 4,000 (14% increase from Q2).
Sep
02

USCIS Adds Protocol Webpage for Processing of EB-5 Petitions, Applications and Stakeholder Communications

United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) has recently added a new webpage called “EB-5 Resources” to the EB-5 section of its website. The new page currently has training materials on the EB-5 Protocols, “Ethics and Integrity: Protocols for Processing of EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Petitions and the EB-5 Regional Center Applications, Incduing Stakeholder Communications”, published on April 30, 2015.

These protocols apply to all DHS and USCIS employees and contractors involved in policymaking, evaluation, or review of the EB-5 program or the adjudication of any particular EB-5-related petition or application.

The protocols focus on the guiding principles of EB-5 processing, procedures for leadership intervention in specific EB-5 petition or Regional Center application decision and procedures for stakeholder contact regarding specific EB-5 petitions or applications.

The webpage includes links to the USCIS employee “EB-5 Protocols Training Slideshow” which details:
  • The Purpose of EB-5 Protocols
  • Guiding Principles for EB-5 Processing
  • Procedures for Stakeholder Contacts Regarding Specific Petitions or Applications
  • Leadership Intervention in Specific EB-5 Petition or Regional Center Application Decisions/Adjudications
  • Expediting Requests
  • Reporting a Suspected Violation of EB-5 Protocols, Ethics Rules, or any Statue, Regulation or Policy.
Click Here to View the New Webpage
Click Here to View the EB-5 Protocols

 

 

Aug
27

Report on August 13th USCIS EB-5 Stakeholder Meeting by Robert C. Divine

divineReport on August 13, 2015 EB-5 Stakeholder Meeting
by Robert C. Divine, Vice President, IIUSA; Shareholder, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, & Berkowitz, P.C. 

The August 14, 2015 stakeholder meeting provided some useful “take aways” for the industry. I have followed up with the Investor Program Office and the Office of Public Engagement asking them to publish the essential conclusions from the meeting, especially since the audio quality for those listening by phone was quite poor.

Mr. Colucci said IPO has 108 on staff and expects another 20 soon. He said IPO has been completing 1,000 I-526s per month and in the quarter March to June IPO adjudicated 1100 more than received. He gave these statistics:

I-526: received 7,723 526 (5% increase), approved 6,498, denied 663.
I-829: 2,268 received (47% increase), approved 606, denied 5
I-924: received 252 (30% increase), approved 187, denied 31.

Mr. Colucci reported that USCIS has initiated an integrity program with dedicated resources, and apparently one of its first actions has been to publish the recent email notice to stakeholders a warning that any regional center continuing to use the words “United States, U.S., or Federal” in its name would be reported to the Federal Trade Commission. A stakeholder pointed out that uses of such names by very well-known companies exist, such as US Bank and Federal Express, but USCIS seems to believe those are subject to governmentally recognized exceptions not applicable in the regional center context.

Mr. Colucci reported that he and some other USCIS personnel recently visited China for a week and interacted with the relevant national and provincial police agencies that oversee immigrant investment agencies there. He said that the Chinese agency provided useful information to USCIS in detecting fraud in source of funds documents. He said the USCIS personnel also visited with State Department officials and watched some EB-5 immigrant visa issues. They spoke with consular fraud personnel about local (in China) site visits relating to source of funds verification.

Julia Harrison discussed the “first in first out” modified by grouping of some projects. She said they are working hard to catch up on some longstanding petitions that have fallen out of order. She mentioned the phenomenon of expediting without explaining how USCIS approaches types of expediting as a practical matter. She acknowledged that USCIS on its own expedited electronically filed petitions when it discontinued ELIS system. She also said that USCIS will not review compact disks or other electronic media in a filing. She said USCIS will publish guidance in the next several weeks about what will happen if the regional center program legislation expires.

Lori Henson invited stakeholders to send in comments about the draft memo on job creation and sustainment of investment published this week, particularly on issues that need to be further clarified.

The question and answer component of the meeting yielded the following essential lessons, which I have asked IPO and OPE to compile in writing with any others they deem appropriate:

Sale subject to an EB-5 loan (i.e., preserving the loan) is OK. (we hope that USCIS will please publish what a USCIS lawyer had written and the speaker read).
Conditional residence ends, for purposes of the requirement to sustain the investment, upon the timely filing of the I-829, and it would be inappropriate for USCIS to require an investor to show sustainment beyond the time of filing.

An NCE can use proceeds from a JCE liquidation/repayment to pay off investors who already reached the end of conditional residence, even if proceeds for other investors need to be reinvested (see draft memo on “sustainment” just published). It is permissible for a JCE to place operational profits in a sinking fund for later distribution to investors after the end of their conditional residence. [it was not clear to me whether Mr. Lyons meant that the funds could be transferred to the NCE before the end of conditional residence or must be held in some account by the JCE, and that should be clarified.]

USCIS has authority to prioritize RC-sponsored petitions over non-RC petitions, but it has not deliberately exercised that authority, and it intends to get processing times of non-RC closer to on-par with RC-sponsored petitions.

USCIS does not and will not hold in abeyance I-526s related to projects other than ones for which an I-924 is filed.

To Listen to the Full Recording of the Event, Please Click Here (Members Only)
Aug
26

Call for Comments on USCIS Draft Policy Memorandum-602-0121 Due By September 8th

Last week United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a draft policy memorandum, PM-602-0121, to provide guidance on the “Job Creation Requirement and Attainment of the Investment for EB-5 Adjudication of Form I-526 and Form I-829″. To read a full analysis of the draft memorandum please see here.

USCIS has called for comments on the draft memorandum. Below is the USCIS notification reprinted in full.

Dear Stakeholder,

USCIS has posted the following draft policy memorandum for your review:

Comment Process: Please email all comments to ope.feedback@uscis.dhs.gov byTuesday, September 8, 2015. Please include the following to make your comments clear:

  • State the title of the relevant memo in the subject line of your message:
  • Refer to a specific portion of the memo:
  • Explain the reason for any recommended change; and
  • Include data, information, or authority that supports the recommendation.
For complete information on the comment process, visit the Feedback Opportunitiessection of www.uscis.gov.

If you are unable to access the memorandum through the links provided above, please do the following:

  1. Go to www.uscis.gov/outreach
  2. Select “Feedback Opportunities” on the left side of the page
Kind Regards,
USCIS Public Engagement Division

Aug
25

American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Publishes Comparison Chart of EB-5 Bills

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has recently published a comparison chart of the House EB-5 Bills which include HR 616, HR 3370 and HR 2131 (from the 113th Congress). Less than 40 days remain until the reauthroization  deadline of September 30.

To view the full chart please click here and see below: 

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Aug
24

IIUSA Data Report: USCIS Processing Times for I-526, I-829 Petitions and I-924 Applications through June 2015

To view the complete report, click the link above (Members-Only)

I-526

The processing time for I-526 petitions, as of June 30, 2015, is 13.5 months up from 13.4 months in May 2015. Processing times had been decreasing since February before increasing slightly for the month of June.

I-829

The processing time for I-829 petitions, as of June 30, 2015, is 14.3 months up from 13.6 months in May 2015 and up from 5.7 months in June 2014; this represents a year over year increase of 150% in processing times. This marks the second month in a row that I-829 processing times surpassed I-526 times.

I-924

The processing time for I-924 petitions, as of June 30, 2015, is 11.8 months which represents a slight increase from the 11.5 month processing time data for May 2015. The year-over-year statistics represent a 93% increase in processing times.

Aug
18

USCIS Issues Warning on Unauthorized Use of the DHS Seal

On August 14, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Public Engagement Division sent an e-mail reminder to industry stakeholders that use of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seal without first obtaining written approval from the Secretary of DHS is prohibited. The Secretary’s approval is also required to use the DHS logo coupled with the USCIS signature. Below is the message reprinted in full:

USCIS would like to remind you that no one, including EB-5 regional centers, may use the official U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seal without first obtaining express written approval from the Secretary of DHS or the Secretary’s designee. The Secretary’s express written approval is also required to use the DHS seal coupled with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) signature.

If an EB-5 regional center or related entity displays the DHS seal or USCIS signature on its website, electronic and printed forms, or promotional and marketing materials without express written approval, USCIS may refer the regional center or related entity to the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission for further action.

If you use the DHS seal or USCIS signature without approval, you may be:

  • Improperly implying that the U.S. government is endorsing the regional center,
  • Inaccurately suggesting a special relationship with USCIS,
  • Engaging in unfair or deceptive trade practice under 15 U.S.C. §§ 45 and 52, and
  • Violating U.S. criminal statutes which protect the DHS seal and USCIS signature and which address the improper use of federal agencies’ seals, official badges, identification cards and other insignia. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 506, 701 and 1017.

Improper use of the DHS seal and USCIS signature can confuse the public and prevent them from being able to identify what communications are officially from DHS or USCIS. This negatively impacts DHS’ and USCIS’ ability to effectively communicate with the American public. Therefore, DHS only permits the use of the DHS seal and USCIS signature for very specific purposes.

For information on how to request approval to use the DHS seal, visit this DHS page.

Aug
14

Unpacking the Draft EB-5 Memorandum PM-602-0121 By Robert C. Divine

divineUnpacking the Draft EB-5 Memorandum PM-602-0121

By Robert C. Divine, Vice President, IIUSA; Shareholder, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, & Berkowitz, P.C. 

After years of considering the issues presented squarely by stakeholders, on August 10, 2015 USCIS issued a draft policy memorandum, PM-602-0121, to provide guidance to EB-5 adjudicators on certain requirements for job creation and “sustainment of the investment.” The impetus for the draft is the industry’s anticipation of the impact of visa number retrogression in expanding the period from I-526 filing to I-829 adjudication for mainland-China-born investors, but the issues have needed resolution regardless of that phenomenon. USCIS is using its admirable policy of publishing a draft policy for stakeholder comments before it finalizes and implements the policy. Comments are due by September 8, 2015.

This article assesses what the draft memo would do and not do, with implications for how it might be changed in response to expected comments. The article does not repeat the memo and presumes the reader has at least briefly read the memo, linked here. With hope the article will spur useful comments to USCIS.

The memo seeks to address two problems posed by the unpredictable and increasingly protracted time period between I-526 filing (after investment) and I-829 adjudication:

1. Whether to allow, at I-526 stage, more time for jobs to be created, since the current policy of 2.5 years after I-526 approval is likely to undershoot the real time for the majority of investors who were born in mainland China and must wait increasingly longer for a visa number before processing for and beginning their two years of conditional residence in the U.S.

2. Whether to relax what appears to be the current policy, reflected in the May 2013 policy memo, requiring investors to sustain the investment at risk in the job creating enterprise until the end of conditional residence, and whether to require created jobs to remain in place to the end of conditional residence.

To read the full article, click here.*

*Access to the full article is for IIUSA Members only. If you do not have access to the IIUSA Member portal, please e-mail us at tech@iiusa.org

Aug
13

IIUSA Statement Regarding GAO Report on EB-5 Program

As the national trade association representing more than 280 EB-5 Regional Centers, IIUSA welcomes the GAO’s in-depth look at how USCIS is administering the program and recommendations to strengthen oversight.

The EB-5 Program has grown exponentially in the last few years, with a 72 percent increase in applications from investors seeking to participate in the program in the last year alone.  Foreign direct investment (FDI) through EB-5 totaled $1.8 billion in the first two quarters of FY2015, putting the program on track to nearly double the FDI from FY2013.

Administering a program with this type of growth requires a significant dedication of resources and expertise.  As the GAO report notes, USCIS has significantly improved program oversight with the creation of the Immigrant Investor Program Office, staffed by trained economists, experts in business and immigration law, as well as fraud and national security specialists.

We support continued and expanded resources for the IPO as well as other reform measures to ensure program integrity and consistent, timely adjudication of EB-5 petitions.  Proper oversight, transparency, compliance with – and enforcement of – all applicable laws and regulations are essential to maintain the confidence of all stakeholders and ensure that the program continues bring capital and job creation to American communities.

IIUSA has a long history of working cooperatively with Members of Congress and federal agencies to improve and strengthen the EB-5 Program so it can continue making important and growing contributions to the U.S. economy.  As Congress considers legislation to reauthorize and reform the program, we look forward to a productive dialogue on measures to further enhance program integrity.
Jul
31

IIUSA Statement on Introduction of EB-Jobs Act (H.R. 3370), Legislation to Make EB-5 Program Permanent

As the September 30th sunset date for the EB-5 Regional Center Program (the “Program”) approaches, IIUSA welcomes the introduction of EB-Jobs Act (H.R. 3370) which, among other provisions, would make the Program permanent and increase the number of EB-5 visas available each year under certain conditions. We commend Reps. Lofgren and Gutierrez for putting forward a thoughtful package of reforms to continue – and potentially expand – the Program’s track record of job creation while strengthening oversight and accountability.

With a reauthorization bill – S.1501 — also introduced in the Senate (along with H.R. 616 in House), there is growing Congressional support for timely reauthorization. It is now critical that both chambers work together to ensure that the EB-5 Program continues to be a secure and effective engine for economic growth and job creation in the U.S. for years to come. ​