Jan
20

Terminated Regional Centers Page Added to USCIS.gov – IIUSA All Access Pass Resources Provide Comprehensive Analysis

Last week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) created a new webpage to list all 16 terminated EB-5 Regional Centers, their termination date and state(s) served. The page notes that USCIS may terminate a regional center’s participation in the Immigrant Investor Program when the regional center fails to:

  • Submit Form I-924A on an annual basis, on a cumulative basis and/or as otherwise requested by USCIS to demonstrate continued eligibility; or
  • Promote economic growth as required.

On the December 5, 2014 USCIS EB-5 Stakeholder Engagement (read summary here or listen here), EB-5 Program Chief Nicholas Colucci noted that from the federal fiscal year ended September 30, 2014 (FY-2014), of the nearly 600 designated Regional Centers, USCIS terminated 7 RCs for failure to file I-924A and is still reviewing responses to 28 notices of intent to terminate regional centers it claimed no longer served to promote the economies of their areas.

Of the 16 Regional Centers that have been terminated by USCIS, none have been IIUSA members.

All Access Pass Gives Members Access To Regional Center Notices of Intent to Terminate (NOITs) & Final Termination Letters 

IIUSA has improved the All Access Pass for 2015 to include (aside from its comprehensive EB-5 webinar/video library) Regional Center NOITs and Final Termination Letters. Currently, IIUSA has USCIS documentation from six Regional Centers and expects to receive further disclosures in coming months. You must be an All Access Pass holder to access over 100+ pages of documentation relating to these notices, as well as a comprehensive data report including the number of months from issuance of the NOIT to Final Termination and the number of months the Regional Center remained approved until final termination.

IIUSA also produced a new report on Regional Center designations, exclusive to All Access Pass holders. This report includes a breakdown of all 619 USCIS-designated Regional Centers across the country – 250 of whom are IIUSA members – which detail the apporoval dates, states served, approved geography, approved industries and economic models.

You can read more about the All Access Pass here. With questions, please contact us as info@iiusa.org.

Jan
16

California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) Conducts Survey of EB-5 Regional Centers in the Golden State

Back in October, IIUSA looked at the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) recently launched EB-5 portal to expedite the application process for certifying Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs).

Within the GO-Biz, the International Affairs and Business Development unit is charged with implementing the State of California’s EB5 foreign investor program.  This program not only administers TEA designation letters, but promotes the state’s EB5 visa program to foreign investors and manages the EB-5 Regional Center information on behalf of the State of California.

As part of its mission, Go-Biz also conducts an annual survey on the state’s Regional Centers which list the Regional Center contact information, website, number of completed projects, job creation, total foreign direct investment and number of I-526/I-829 petition approvals. To view/download this spreadsheet, visit the Go-Biz EB-5 Portal here.

Any questions for the International Affairs and Business Development unit should be directed to EB5info@gov.ca.gov.

Dec
24

IIUSA EB-5 Market Exchange Featured in Riverside County Export Magazine

IIUSA Executive Director Peter D. Joseph with Richard Dozier, Riverside County Official, at the 4th Annual EB-5 Market Exchange, October 23, 2014 in San Francisco, CA.

IIUSA was featured in the most recent edition of EXPORT magazine, a periodical detailing foreign trade benefits and trends in Riverside County, California. Established in 2009, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, led by Commissioner Tom Freeman, has spearheaded an effort to attract foreign investment to their county.

The article, which reviews several panels and takeaways from IIUSA’s 4th Annual EB-5 Market Exchange also reinforces IIUSA’s singular focus on representing diverse industry of stakeholders and advocating for a permanent and successful EB-5 Regional Center Program.

The economy of Riverside County, California has seen its share of successful EB-5 projects of late. In fact, EB-5 capital helped to revitalize an abandoned World War II-era warehouse into a thriving manufacturing facility and headquarters for the solar energy manufacturer SolarMax.

Read more about Riverside County’s EB-5 successes in an August article written by IIUSA Executive Director Peter D. Joseph for a National Association of Counties (NACo) newsletter and the October article “The Innovative ‘All of the Above’ Approach to Job Creation” published by The Huffington Post.
Dec
23

New Department of State (DOS) FY2014 Statistics Reveals Important Trends in EB-5 Visa Usage, Market Diversification

IIUSA Editorial Committee member Suzanne Lazicki put together an excellent chart revealing visa data according to immigrant investor origin (and percentage total) and visas issued to investors in direct vs. Regional Center investments. See below.

When we look more closely at the data, we notice that the number of EB5 investors from Mainland China continues to grow. In fact, in FY2014, 9,128 EB-5 visas or 85.4% of total visas went to Chinese applicants (versus 6,895 visas or 80.5% of the total in FY2013). In the Q3 Issue of the Regional Center Business Journal, IIUSA Policy Analyst Lee Li organized historical EB-5 visa usage data illustrating how demand from Chinese investors has driven the overall growth of the EB-5 Program over the past several years.

Aside from China, EB-5 investor demand is largest in South Korea, Mexico, Taiwan and Vietnam. With retrogression for China visa applicants predicted this fiscal year, EB-5 stakeholders should take heed of this important data.
(Click Link Below to View in PDF)
(Click Link Below to View in PDF)
Dec
22

IIUSA Welcomes Audit of the EB-5 Program Conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO)

The EB-5 Program has undergone significant changes in the last year.  Growth of the program continues at unprecedented rates with a 72% increase in applications from investors seeking to participate in the program compared to last year.  And, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) established a new, centralized program office staffed with economists as well as experts in business and fraud detection. 

A GAO review should really capture the program how it is being administered today – a far more robust system of interdisciplinary experience at USCIS along with continued growth in the Program’s economic impact across the United States.

Proper oversight, transparency, compliance with – and enforcement of – all applicable securities, anti-fraud and immigration laws and regulations are essential to maintain the confidence of all industry stakeholders and ensure that the EB-5 program continues to bring capital and job creation to American communities  That is why we support legislation that makes the Program permanent while also strengthening government enforcement capabilities and oversight responsibilities.   

EB-5 is working for America, creating jobs and stimulating economic growth at no cost to taxpayers.  According to our most recent economic impact report, EB-5 investments supported over 42,000 U.S. jobs and contributed $3.39 billion to the GDP during FY2012 – more than double the economic impact seen in FY2011.  And with projects ranging from renewable energy companies to redevelopment of blighted urban neighborhoods, EB-5 investments are making a difference in communities across the country.
Dec
18

IIUSA Press Release: New USCIS Data Shows Remarkable Growth for EB-5 Program

New USCIS Data Shows Remarkable Growth for EB-5 Program

IIUSA analysis points to staggering increase in qualified funds raised and projected job creation.

Chicago (PRWEB) December 17, 2014

The Association to Invest in the USA (IIUSA), the national not-for-profit industry trade association for the EB-5 Regional Center Program (the “Program”), recently released its analysis of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data demonstrating significant growth of the EB-5 program in FY2014.

Under EB-5, a program created by Congress with broad bipartisan support, foreign nationals who invest between $500,000 and $1,000,000 dollars in approved U.S. businesses are eligible for permanent residency if the U.S. government confirms that their investment created at least 10 American jobs within two years of the investment.

According to IIUSA analysis, the number of investors seeking to participate in the Program in FY2014 increased by 72 percent compared to FY2013, and the number of investors requesting approval for permanent residency based on demonstrated job creation has more than doubled.

Specific data points of interest include:

  • In FY2014, USCIS received 10,928 I-526 petitions to determine eligibility for the EB-5 Program, compared to 6,346 I-526s received in FY2013.
  • USCIS approved 5,115 I-526 petitions in FY2014 – representing approximately $2.6 billion in capital designated for investment in U.S. job-creating projects
  • In FY2014, USCIS received 2,516 I-829 petitions to remove visa conditions based on demonstrated job creation compared to 1,217 I-829s received in FY2013
  • USCIS approved 1,603 I-829 petitions which represents at least 16,030 American jobs created by EB-5 capital

“The numbers released by USCIS point to astounding growth of investors participating in the EB-5 Program as well as investors demonstrating jobs created by EB-5-funded projects,” said IIUSA Executive Director Peter Joseph. “The increase of approved investors in the past year, compared to those from 2008 when our country was entering its devastating economic downturn, is nearly 800 percent; and the number of completed projects in FY2014 has similarly skyrocketed. Public and private developers alike have found EB-5 to be immensely valuable in bringing jobs and industry to the U.S., and these are the numbers to prove it.”

IIUSA’s analysis also notes that 1,266 I-526 and 178 1-829 petitions were denied, demonstrating the rigorous scrutiny and oversight exercised by USCIS as well as the risk required by law for those participating in the EB-5 program.

“USCIS has taken important steps in the last year to improve its ability to evaluate petitions and projects and strengthen the integrity of the program,” said Joseph. “IIUSA will continue to advocate for integrity measures as well as Congressional reauthorization of the program that continues to bring much-needed capital and job creation to communities across the country.”

Dec
08

Final Notice: EB-5 Regional Centers Must File Form I-924A by Dec. 29

This is a final reminder that Form I-924A, the annual reporting form used to demonstrate continued eligibility for the Regional Center designation, and Supplement to Form I-924 for fiscal year 2014, must be filed by December 29.

 

On November 6, IIUSA hosted a webinar on the topic of I-924A filing featuring IIUSA President K. David Andersson, IIUSA Vice President Robert C. Divine, and Klasko Law Partners Associate Daniel B. Lundy. This webinar is available for purchase for $99 by clicking here and using the memberdiscount code. Furthermore, all IIUSA members can view the PowerPoint presentation slides and supplemental documents from the webinar byclicking here. 

 

As a note, 340 of the 369 Regional Centers approved as of September 30, 2013 submitted timely I-924As for that fiscal year;  Of the remaining 29, some filed late and some were issued a Notice of Intent to Terminate (NOIT) and some ultimately were terminated for failing to file (it is not clear how many might have been forgiven for failure to file on time).

 

An additional 24 NOITs were issued and remain pending based on failure to fulfill job promotion obligations under 8 C.F.R. 204.6(m)(6), and the speakers acknowledged that a letter explaining steps taken to cultivate projects may carry sufficient weight to counterbalance a lack of projects and related filings.

 

USCIS Reminder To File I-924A

On December 3rd, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sent an e-mail reminder to all EB-5 Regional Centers & EB-5 stakeholders to file Form I-924A by December 29. Read the full message below:

USCIS reminds all approved EB-5 regional centers with a designation letter dated on or before Sept. 30, 2014, that they must file Form I-924A, Supplement to Form I-924, for fiscal year 2014. Regional centers must submit Form I-924A no later than Dec. 29, 2014.

If a regional center fails to file Form I-924A, USCIS will issue a notice of intent to terminate participation in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. If a regional center files an incomplete Form I-924A, USCIS may issue a notice of intent to terminate participation.

Notice About Terminated Regional Centers

A regional center that has been terminated from the EB-5 program may not solicit, generate or promote investors or investments for any other EB-5-related projects, or otherwise participate in the Immigrant Investor Program.    

About Form I-924A

Regional centers are required to submit Form I-924A every year to demonstrate continued eligibility for the regional center designation. See 8 CFR 204.6(m)(6).

There is no filing fee for Form I-924A. To learn more about where to file, visit the I-924A Web page.

When Completing Form I-924A 

Complete the entire form annually. In some cases, USCIS may request that a regional center submit information covering more than one fiscal year on Form I-924A. In that case, complete Part 2 (b) to identify the period of time and the information requested by USCIS. 

For more details, refer to Questions and Answers: Form I-924A.

Dec
04

Executive Action Summary: Obama Legalizes Undocumented, Tweaks EB Categories by Robert C. Divine

President Obama’s executive order on immigration, announced last Thursday, November 20th is expected to have wide-ranging implications on policy affecting millions of undocumented persons living in the United States.

However, EB-5 stakeholders should note that these executive actions on immigration will have no immediate impact on the EB-5 Regional Center Program. Most notably, President Obama chose not to declare that family members not count against employment-based immigrant visa allocations. This provision would have had the effect of nearly tripling visas.

IIUSA Vice President Robert C. Divine’s summary of the executive action (below) notes the significant policy changes that are underway.


Obama Legalizes Undocumented, Tweaks EB Categories

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

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a bold series of measures to change removal priorities, temporarily legalize and grant work authorization to millions of undocumented persons, and make some other changes to employment-related immigration processes. The changes, summarized at http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction, were implemented primarily through a set of memos from the Secretary of Homeland Security and include the following:

1. Expanded Deferred Action. Two different groups of applicants can apply for “deferred action,” meaning they will be protected from removal, and receive work authorization, in three-year increments, even if previously removed or ordered removed. Employers will need to be prepared to deal with verification challenges when legalized workers present new identities with work authorization documents.

A. Childhood arrivals. Expands prior program. Apply after February 19, 2015, and show the applicant:

  • Came to the United States under the age of 16;
  • Has “continuously resided” in the United States since before January 1, 2010;
  • Currently is in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  • Has not been convicted of a “felony” offense, a street gang offense, a “significant misdemeanor” offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses a threat to national security or public safety; and/or
  • Is age 15 or older to request deferred action affirmatively from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) (as opposed to those facing removal action by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP), who apparently can apply even if under age 15).

B. Parents of U.S. Citizens (USCs) or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs). Apply after May 16, 2015, and show they:

  • Have a son or daughter who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident born on or before November 20, 2014;
  • Have continuously resided in the U.S. since before January 1, 2010;
  • Were physically present in the U.S. on November 20, 2014, and when applying;
  • Had no lawful status on November 20, 2014; and
  • Are not an “enforcement priority” (have not been convicted of a “felony” offense, a street gang offense, a “significant misdemeanor” offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, have been ordered removed after January 1, 2014, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety).

2. Prioritized Removal Efforts. Enforcement agents are directed to focus resources more strictly on national security threats, serious criminal offenders, and people ordered removed only after January 1, 2014. While the “Secure Communities” program is terminated, some approximation of it will be restored but with only “notification” by local police when they are about to release someone of interest, not “detainer” except in specific instances.

3. Provisional waivers of unlawful presence. Waivers will be expanded by regulation from “immediate relatives” only to beneficiaries of any family-based immigrant petition. This is a technical solution for people who would qualify for green cards except for having overstayed or violated their status, allowing them to apply for a waiver within the U.S. without first having to leave the country.

4. Advance parole solution. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will clarify that people who depart the U.S. under DHS-granted “advance parole” will not be considered to be “departing” the U.S., so that they do not trigger a bar on reentry, and so that their return can essentially cure a single prior “entry without inspection” and might make them eligible for the procedural benefit of completing any permanent residence process within the U.S. rather than through a visa abroad. Apparently this will allow some of the people gaining “deferred action” above to obtain green cards over time under otherwise normal rules.

5. EB Tweaks. These tweaks liberalize certain employment-based visa categories and processes, including development of agency guidance or regulations to:

  • Re-vamp how permanent visa backlogs are administered so that no limited numbers are wasted (seemingly stopping short of recapturing visa numbers previously wasted, as previously discussed);
  • Clarify when certain job changes for longstanding applicants for “adjustment of status” are considered in the “same or similar occupation” so that the worker still qualifies (apparently not allowing adjustment applications to be filed before a visa number becomes available);
  • Clarify the standard by which a national interest waiver may be granted to foreign inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises;
  • Authorize parole, on a case-by-case basis, to eligible inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises who may not yet qualify for a national interest waiver, but who have been awarded substantial U.S. investor financing or otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting-edge research (which is a procedurally radical unilateral creation of a de facto visa category not approved by Congress);
  • Allow work authorization to spouses of H-1B professional workers who have reached certain stages of employment-based sponsorship to green card;
  • Allow further extensions, beyond 29 months, of F-1 “Optional Practical Training” for graduated college students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields;
  • Clarify the meaning of “specialized knowledge” for L-1 transferees within a multinational business;
  • Revise the “PERM” permanent labor certification process in unspecified ways; and
  • Expand the crimes for which alleged victims may obtain T and U status for cooperation with the Department of Labor in workforce abuse investigations. Employers may need to consider compliance programs and other steps to guard against abuse of these incentives.

Note: President Obama apparently chose NOT (yet) to declare that family members not count against employment-based immigrant visa allocations, which would have had the effect of nearly tripling visas.

6. Family Members of Enlistees. Allow parole-in-place and deferred action for certain family members of enlistees and the availability of deferred action to undocumented family members of U.S. military members and veterans who were inspected and lawfully admitted.

7. Naturalization. Allow more flexible payments for naturalization applications, such as through credit card, and promote citizenship education.

All of these measures will require further agency action to administer. Meanwhile, Senate and House representatives may either seek to block the measures through appropriations or other processes or to complement them with more comprehensive legislation. ■

Dec
01

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Adjudication Data on I-526 & I-829 Petitions Reveal Unprecedented Growth Of the EB-5 Program in Fiscal Year 2014

On November 21st, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published updated data pertaining to the number of I-526 petitions (Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur) and  I-829 petitions (Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions) received, approved, denied and pending. The figures paint a picture of extraordinary growth of the EB-5 Program in Fiscal Year 2014.

FY-2014 I-526 Data Highlights:

  • In total, there were 12,453 petitions pending at USCIS as of 10/1, representing over $6.2 billion dollars in foreign direct investment into the U.S.
  • The total number of I-526 receipts in FY-2014 were 10,928. This represents a 72.2% increase from FY-2013 (6,346), the largestpercentage increase year-over-year since 2010-2011.
  • A total of 5,115 I-526 petitions in FY-2014 were approved, with an approval rate of 80.2%. This is fairly consistent with the average I-526 approval rate between 2008 and 2014 (81.14%).
  • There were a total of 1,266 I-526 petitions denied in FY-2014.

FY-2014 I-829 Data Highlights:

  • The total number of I-829 receipts in FY-2014 were 2,516. This represents a 106.7% increase from FY-2013 (1,217), the largest percentage increase year-over-year since 2010-2011.
  • A total of 1,603 I-829 petitions in FY-2014 were approved, with an approval rate of 90.2%. This is fairly consistent with the average I-829 approval rate between 2008 and 2014 (90.8%).
  • There were a total of 178 I-829 petitions denied in FY-2014.


IIUSA Members: View the complete chart of I-829 statistics (FY-1992-FY2014), including data visualizations of total receipts, growth rates and approval rates. 

Nov
28

IIUSA Questions on Statistics, Administation and Policy Delivered to USCIS in Advance of 12/5 EB-5 Stakeholder Meeting

On November 3, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Office of Public Engagement announced the next EB-5 Program Stakeholder engagement will be held on Friday December 5th from 1:00 pm to 3:00pm EST.

After soliciting comment from the Membership, IIUSA delivered a series of questions to USCIS pertaining to adjudication statistics and processing times as well as administration and policy.

Statistics

1. Please provide the most recent quarterly statistics for:

a. Form I-526 received/approved/denied/pending;

b. Form I-829 received/approved/denied/pending;

c. Form I-924 Regional Center proposals received/approved/denied?

d. Form I-924 Regional Center amendments received/approved/denied?

e. How do these statistics compare to the preceding four quarters?

f.  How many Regional Center proposals are pending?

g. How many Regional Center amendments are pending?

2. Please list the processing times for the following EB-5 related Forms and how the times compared to target processing times.

a. Form I-526

b. Form I-829

c. Form I-924 for new Regional Centers

d. Form I-924 for amendments to Regional Centers

3. How many questions are currently pending in the EB-5 e-mailbox?  What is the average response time for these inquiries?

4. How many adjudicators currently work on EB-5 related petitions?

5. What other personnel changes have been made at the USCIS Investor Program Office (IPO) since the last stakeholder engagement in September?

Administrative

6. Is the EB-5 unit in the DC office fully staffed now?  If so, how many adjudicators do you have?  How many supervisors?  How many economists?  If not fully staffed yet, when do you plan to be fully staffed?  How many personnel will you have when fully staffed?  What forms are currently being adjudicated there?

7. Do you operate in teams by Regional Center?  In other words, do you have the same adjudications team and economists review I-526 petitions filed through a particular regional center?

8. How do you handle I-526 petitions filed with an associated pending or approved I-924 for a given Regional Center project?

9. Have I-829 adjudications be transferred to the DC office?

10. On average, how long does it take for USCIS to decide an EB-5 case after an RFE reply has been submitted?

11. What are the major goals for the EB-5 unit in 2015?

12. How much is the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) being used for the EB-5 Program?

13. To what extent does USCIS share information with other agencies, particularly the SEC and Commerce Department?  Does USCIS have a formal or informal memorandum of understanding with those agencies or any others regarding EB-5 cases or issues?  If so, could those memoranda be made public?

14. What is the status of the Department of Commerce economic impact study on the EB-5 Program?

15. How often is the “Special Review Board” announced in July being utilized?  If so, what actions has it taken thus far?  Are records available for the proceedings?

16. What other federal agencies does USCIS collaborate with on administration and enforcement of the EB-5 Program?

17. How are the newly hired corporate and securities attorneys at USCIS involved in the adjudications process?

18. What is the status of USCIS drafting new regulations for the EB-5 Program, as described in the USCIS response to the recent Office of Inspector General (OIG) report on the EB-5 Program?

Policy

19. What is required to “maintain investment” for I-829 purposes?  More specifically, can USCIS devise a policy that allows successful projects to be sold or refinanced (i.e., not have to miss out on an attractive liquidation opportunity) before the end of conditional residence of EB-5 investors?  This is particularly important for if/when there is “retrogression” of EB-5 visa availability.