Jul
22

NACo Adopts Resolution in Support of EB-5 at its Annual Conference and Exposition

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On Friday July 11th at The National Association of Counties (NACo) annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Community, Economic & Workforce Development Steering Committee unanimously approved a resolution supporting IIUSA and the permanent authorization of the EB-5 Regional Center Program. This resolution was officially recommended to the NACo leadership for full adoption. IIUSA Association Building Committee Chairman Bob Honts and IIUSA Advocacy/Research Coordinator Ashley Sanislo Casey were in attendance at a subcommittee and full committee hearings to answer any questions share information with county representatives. To see the full NACo Annual Meeting agenda, click here.

 

In March, IIUSA Executive Director Peter D. Joseph presented to the Community, Economic Development and Work Force Steering Committee which then unanimously approved an interim resolution supporting IIUSA’s EB-5 legislative initiatives which was adopted and approved on Monday, March 3, 2014 by the full NACo Board of Director. The July resolution is now an official 2014 National Association of Counties (NACo) Policy Resolution.

NACo’s resolution in support of EB-5 states, “The EB-5 Regional Center Program (the “Program”) authorization expires on September 30, 2015, NACo supports federal legislation to permanently authorize the EB-5 Regional Center Program and to maximize its capacity for economic impact and job creation.”

The National Association of Counties (NACo) is the only national organization that represents county governments in the United States. Founded in 1935, NACo represents over 3,500 Counties Nationwide and counts nearly 35,000 local elected officials among its membership.
Jul
15

RIMS II Update Coming from Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) plans to release in 2015 a modified economic model to replace the original Regional Input-Output Modeling System (RIMS II).  Cost savings will be realized because the modified model will be updated less frequently.

Much like RIMS II, the modified model will produce regional “multipliers” that can be used in economic impact studies to estimate the total economic impact of a project on a region.

However, the modified model will be updated with new input-output (I-O) data only for benchmark years.  That is – years ending in two and seven.  The modified model will become available to customers in 2015 and incorporate 2007 benchmark I-O data and 2012 regional economic data.

Last year, as a result of budget sequestration and reduced funding levels, BEA discontinued updates to RIMS II.  Orders for RIMS II multipliers, however, have continued to be accepted because the cost of fulfilling these orders is covered by a nominal processing fee.

After investigating ways to continue to meet the analytical needs of our customers but do so at a lower cost to BEA, the bureau decided to make a modified economic model available. Until the modified model is available in 2015, customers may continue to buy RIMS II multipliers.

What are RIMS II multipliers? 

The Regional Input-Output Model (RIMS II), which is maintained by the BEA, is commonly used to estimate how an initial change in economic activity, such as an increase in exports of a local business, will affect the spending and hiring decisions of other local businesses. RIMS II input-output multipliers show how local demand shocks affect total gross output, value added, earnings, and employment in the region.

In September 2013, BEA economists Zoë Ambargis and Ian Mead led a webinar focused on how to employ best practices when using the model’s output and how to archive the model’s results. To download the recording of the webinar, click here. To view the webinar presentation, see here and here.

Jul
11

IIUSA Statement on Gates, Buffett, Adelson Praise for EB-5 in New York Times Op-Ed

The New York Times opinion piece co-authored by three of the most recognizable names in the business world (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Sheldon Adelson) highlights the valuable role that the EB-5 program can play in spurring economic growth – a point that is often overlooked in the larger immigration debate. Their support is a reflection of broad and diverse support that the Program enjoys today, and for good reason.

The authors notes that it is in American’s self-interest to attract investments from abroad through the EB-5 program, noting that “people willing to invest in America and create jobs deserve the opportunity to do so” and that “expanded investments of [this] kind would help us jolt the demand side of our economy.” We couldn’t agree more.

A comprehensive, peer-reviewed economic study commissioned by IIUSA found that during fiscal year 2012, investments made through the EB-5 program contributed $3.39 billion to U.S. GDP and supported over 42,000 U.S. jobs. This is more than a 100 percent increase from the average annual impact result reported in 2011 – and record breaking statistics for 2013 and first two quarters of 2014 currently under analysis.

The success of EB-5 is due in large part to a stringent policy framework that aligns with the recommendations by this powerful trio – a provisional immigration benefit dependent on investments of a certain size in new businesses, further strengthened by the requirement that each investment create 10 jobs. Additional reforms to enhance the integrity of the program and increase its economic power are welcome. A good place to start would be to make the program permanent and expand its capacity for economic impact with bipartisan legislation in the House like H.R. 4659 which is made up of ideas that have been passed the House in the 112th Congress. That alone will significantly boost investor confidence, capital flow, and resulting U.S. job creation.

As the leading advocate for policies that ensure EB-5 continues to create American jobs at no cost to the taxpayer, IIUSA is proud to stand with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Sheldeon Adelson in support of this important program.

eb5 is working

Jul
09

CIS Ombudsman Releases Official 2014 Annual Report with Mention of Continued Monitoring Various Efforts to Improve the EB-5 Program by USCIS

By statute, the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman submits an Annual Report to Congress by June 30 of each year. The Ombudsman’s Annual Report must provide a summary of the most pervasive and serious problems encountered by individuals and employers applying for immigration benefits with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Annual Report also reviews past recommendations to improve USCIS programs and services.

Ombudsman Report & Mention of the EB-5 Program
  • In an overview “Message from the Ombudsman”, Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman Maria M. Odom noted:
USCIS’s efforts to address gaps in policy and improve operations in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program are noteworthy.  Shortly before publication of our 2013 Annual Report, USCIS issued comprehensive new policy guidance.  The agency also relocated its adjudications unit to Washington, D.C.; hired a new program office lead, adjudicators, and economists; and re-started stakeholder engagements.  The result is a transparent and rejuvenated investment and job creation program, with a focus on customer service and integrity. 

  • On page 3 of the Executive Summary, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is mentioned under Key Developments and Areas of Study: 

The Immigrant Investor program has presented USCIS with significant challenges due to many variables, including the complexity of projects, the financial arrangements with investors, and the attribution of job creation to the investment. In April 2013, USCIS relocated adjudications to Washington, D.C. and issued new guidance addressing several longstanding stakeholder concerns. While stakeholders continued to raise concerns with adjudication delays, the Ombudsman received fewer requests for case assistance (61 requests) than in the 2013 reporting period (441 requests). The new adjudications unit and updated policy guidance usher in a new era for this increasingly popular investment and job-creating program.

  • On page 4 of the Executive Summary also discusses USCIS handling processing times, customer service responses, the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office and problems with payment of the immigrant visa fee via the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS).
  • In the full report, the EB-5 Program is examined on pages 27-30. The report makes mention of the increase in form I-924 applications and includes a chart (below) showing year-over-year growth.

  • In its discussion of “Ongoing Concerns” (Pg. 30) the report notes:

In January 2014, the Ombudsman held separate meetings with EB-5 stakeholders and USCIS IPO leadership. Stakeholders reported lengthy processing times in EB-5 product lines, and raised concerns regarding lack of information sharing and engagement between the agency and stakeholders. Stakeholders stated that USCIS adjudicators appeared to be implementing new guidance from the May 2013 EB-5 Policy Memorandum, including deference to prior adjudications involving the same regional center project. Ombudsman Odom communicated this feedback directly to responsible EB-5 program officials, including the new IPO Director.    

Shortly after these meetings, on January 26, 2014, the IPO held a national teleconference.  USCIS updated stakeholders on the transition of EB-5 adjudications from the CSC to the Washington, D.C.-based IPO, and noted that, due to the transition, processing times will likely temporarily increase throughout the remainder of FY 2014, as the IPO on-boards and trains approximately 100 new adjudicators, economists, and other staff.  Adjudication of Form I-829 will remain in California for the remainder of 2014.  Program leaders expressed determination that when the IPO is fully operational, USCIS will reduce processing times, and improve the predictability and consistency of EB-5 adjudications. Additionally, USCIS announced that it will redouble efforts to simultaneously enhance program integrity as it seeks to improve program efficiency. 

Complete Annual Reports and Executive Summaries

Jul
02

Leon Rodriguez Confirmed as New USCIS Director by Majority Vote in the Senate

On June 26th, the U.S. Senate confirmed Leon Rodriguez as the next director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with a vote of 52-43. Rodgriguez, who was nominated by President Barack Obama in December to replace Alejandro Mayorkas (who moved to deputy secretary of DHS) will take over for acting Director Lori Scialabba.

Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, commented that “Rodriguez brings a wealth of experience from his previous role in the Department of Health and Human Services and Justice. His distinguished career, intellect, dedication and professionalism will help him perform well in his new role.”

Rodriguez will leave the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, where he has been director since 2011. He previously served as chief of staff and deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, overseeing cases involving discrimination based on national origin and immigration status.

In March, the Senate Judiciary Committee considered several executive nominees – including for USCIS Director – and recommended Rodriguez’s confirmation. At the hearing, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the most vocal supporter of the EB-5 Regional Center Program, made the following statement about the nomination of Mr. Rodriguez to USCIS Director and its implications for EB-5:

Today the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing to consider President Obama’s nominee to be Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Leon Rodriguez.  This office within the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for administering and processing asylum and refugee applications, immigration benefits, and naturalization and visa petitions, including the EB-5 Regional Center Program.  This office must have a qualified director at the helm.

Since its inception in 1993, the EB-5 program has spurred capital investment and job creation across the country and particularly in Vermont.  Vermont’s Regional Center is a national leader in using this federal jobs program.  I have seen this program transform regions of the state in extraordinary ways that will have lasting positive impacts for several Vermont businesses.  In the way the program has been overseen at the state level and applied throughout the state, Vermont’s process has become the gold standard for other states to emulate.  Last year the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved my amendment to enact broad improvements to this program during the Committee’s consideration of comprehensive immigration reform legislation.  This amendment was the product of cooperation with numerous stakeholders, USCIS, and the White House, and I was proud that it drew such strong support.  It has now been more than nine months since the full Senate passed historic immigration reform legislation with a strong bipartisan vote of 68-32.  The country cannot continue to wait.  It is time for the House of Representatives to take up and pass the Senate bill, which included the improvements to EB-5 that I have long sought.

I have met with Mr. Rodriguez and found him to be an excellent candidate to lead such an important division. He has vast leadership and management experience, spanning both public and private practice, and often intersecting with issues of national origin and immigration status. He also understands how important the EB-5 program is to states like Vermont.  He understands the challenges facing EB-5, including inexcusably long application processing delays, and he is committed to working with us in Congress to strengthen the program and make it permanent.  I applaud President Obama for selecting Mr. Rodriguez and I look forward to advancing his nomination in this Committee and on the Senate floor.

Jul
02

IIUSA Submits Letter to Senate Judiciary for Congressional Record Documenting the Economic Impacts of the EB-5 Regional Center Program

On June 18th, IIUSA Executive Director Peter D. Joseph submitted a letter for the Congressional Record to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the economic impacts of the EB-5 Regional Center Program. The submission, which includes the executive summaries of two peer-reviewed economic impact studies commissioned by IIUSA, emphasizes the EB-5 Programs responsibility for billions of dollars of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the U.S., creation of thousands of jobs and contribution millions of dollars to federal/state/local tax revenue to the U.S. economy on a yearly basis. 

On June 11th, the Senate Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which featured testimony from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, EB-5 Commentary from Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA) and others. 

Secretary Johnson’s statement focused on DHS efforts to protect U.S. borders, national security and public safety (
read full written testimony here). Yet, Sec. Johnson noted, “Whatever we do to revise our enforcement policies, there is no substitute for comprehensive immigration reform passed by Congress.”

Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committe and EB-5 Program Champion in the Senate, lamented the inaction on the part of House following the Senate in passing comprehensive immigration reform and also urged DHS to address the substantial visa processing delays in the EB-5 Program which are “threatening to undermine economic development where it is needed most.”    

Voicing concerns on EB-5 in his opening remarks was the Honorable Ranking Member Charles Grassley.  IIUSA continues to meet with Mr. Grassley’s office to answer any questions about his concerns as we strongly believe that the positive economic impact that the Program is responsible for far outweigh the issues caused by the inevitable “bad apples” that are far from indicative of the industry at large. 

Watch the hearing in its entirety on C-Span.org at this link.

Jun
20

DHS Office Of Inspector General Semi-Annual Report To Congress Mentions EB-5 Program

reportIn a recently released 64-page report, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its semiannual report to Congress (View PDF), covering October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014.

According to the DHS website, the OIG The OIG “conducts and supervises independent audits, investigations, and inspections of the programs and operations of DHS, and recommends ways for DHS to carry out its responsibilities in the most effective, efficient, and economical manner possible. We also seek to deter, identify and address fraud, abuse, mismanagement, and waste pf taxpayer funds invested in Homeland Security.”

The EB-5 Program is mentioned on pages 25-26 of the report in regards to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) oversight of the Program. The OIG conclusions were derived from a December 2013 report which was critical of the EB-5 Program and its administration by USCIS. The December report recommends that USCIS “strengthen regulations for oversight authority and consistent program application; better coordination with other Federal entities; comprehensive reviews of the program; and quality assurance procedures for program integrity.”

The USCIS response to the OIG report was the better read in 2013, attached as Appendix B to the report.  USCIS has, however, begun the overhaul of EB-5 regulations as recommended by the OIG – although it is unclear how long that process will take and whether it can be seen all the through to fruition.

Following the release of the report, IIUSA posted a statement on January 3, 2014 conveying support for proper oversight, transparency and compliance with all applicable laws and regulations that are essential to maintain the confidence of all stakeholders, but found the OIG findings and conclusions puzzling and not reflecting the reality of USCIS operations related to the EB-5 Program.

Jun
18

Senate Judiciary Committee DHS Oversight Hearing features testimony from Sec. Johnson, EB-5 Commentary from Chairman Leahy

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On Wednesday June 11th, the Senate Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which featuring testimony from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson in his first appearance before the committee since his confirmation in December (Watch the hearing in its entirety on C-Span.org at this link).

Secretary Jeh Johnson testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the Department of Homeland Security. The focus of the hearing was on immigration policy and mounting human and economic costs of failing to enact meaningful immigration reform. The Honorable Chairman Patrick Leahy, who spoke at IIUSA’s EB-5 Advocacy Conference in May, lamented the inaction on the part of House follow the Senate in passing comprehensive immigration reform and also urged DHS to address the substantial visa processing delays in the EB-5 Program which are “threatening to undermine economic development where it is needed most.”

Secretary Johnson’s testimony focused on DHS efforts to protect U.S. borders, national security and public safety (read full written testimony here). Yet, Sec. Johnson noted, “Whatever we do to revise our enforcement policies, there is no substitute for comprehensive immigration reform passed by Congress.”

Voicing concerns on EB-5 in his opening remarks was the Honorable Ranking Member Charles Grassley.  IIUSA continues to meet with Mr. Grassley’s office to answer any questions about his concerns as we strongly believe that the positive economic impact that the Program is responsible for far outweigh the issues caused by the inevitable “bad apples” that are far from indicative of the industry at large. 

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Offices (IPO), which is administered by USCIS within the Department of Homeland Security, is undergoing a transformation under new EB-5 Program Chief Nicholas Colucci. In his remarks on May 8th at IIUSA’s EB-5 Advocacy Conference, Mr. Colucci noted that at the end of May there would be “upwards of 75 staff on board…almost a 40 percent increase from the end of February.” IPO staffers also continue to participate in ongoing professional development in an effort to boost efficiency, and (ultimately) morale within the office.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Offices (IPO), which is administered by USCIS within the Department of Homeland Security, is undergoing a transformation under new EB-5 Program Chief Nicholas Colucci. In his remarks on May 8th at IIUSA’s EB-5 Advocacy Conference, Mr. Colucci noted that at the end of May there would be “upwards of 75 staff on board…almost a 40 percent increase from the end of February.” IPO staffers also continue to participate in ongoing professional development in an effort to boost efficiency, and (ultimately) morale within the office.

Jun
06

IIUSA’s EB-5 Regional Center Industry Advocacy Platform

Legislative Action Center

The Association to Invest In the USA (IIUSA) represents 190 Regional Center members that together account for over 95% of the economic activity occurring in the United States through the EB-5 Regional Center Program in diverse communities across the country.  According to a peer-reviewed economic impact study, tn fiscal year 2012 alone EB-5 investments contributed over $3.39 billion to gross domestic product (GDP), supported over 42,000 U.S. jobs, and generated $712 million in federal/state/local tax revenue – all at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.  Investor demand continues to be at an all-time high according to fiscal year 2013 and Q1-2 fiscal year 2014 data.

On May 9, at the 2014 annual Board of Directors meeting, the IIUSA Board of Directors affirmed the industry’s consensus policy platform:

After 20+ years & nine extensions, time to permanently authorize the EB-5 Regional Center Program

Congress must act soon to permanently authorize the EB-5 Regional Center Program before its current “sunset” date of September 30, 2015, providing the certainty needed to maximize the Program’s economic benefit for the U.S. Strong bipartisan support has defined all nine re-authorizations to date, including 2012 with unanimous support in the Senate and 412-3 vote in the House – while also removing the word “pilot” for the statute. With economic impact setting records, and strong growth after more than twenty years in existence, a permanent EB-5 Regional Center Program is “an idea who’s time has come.”

Maximize the economic impact of the Program through expanded visa availability

It is essential that visa availability increase before a backlog occurs at the expense of the American economy. Solutions that have bipartisan support, and which have already been approved by either the House or Senate this Congress, include counting only the principal applicant towards the annual visa cap, removal of per-country caps on all employment-based immigrant visas, recapturing unused visas from past years and increasing EB-5 visa allocations based on demand-all of those options would increase the economic impact of the Program.

Ensure efficient, predictable and transparent processing of EB-5 applications and petitions

Congress must ensure that the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has the necessary resources and expertise to administer an efficient, predictable, transparent, and secure processing system for the EB-5 Regional Center Program. Reliable processing times are essential for the success of this Program in creating U.S. jobs.  We are confident the agency is capable of adjudicating petitions efficiently and thoroughly.  To ensure USCIS has the resources needed to address the large backlog of EB-5 investor petitions, Congress must exercise its oversight responsibilities to establish more predictable and efficient processing of petitions. There are currently over 6,000 investor applications pending at USCIS, representing $3.0 billion in capital investment that will create over 60,000 American jobs at no cost to the taxpayer.

Support inter-agency collaboration and industry self-regulation to protect program integrity

In tandem with industry efforts to self-regulate by establishing best practices, Congress must support efforts at the agency level to ensure law enforcement responsibilities are being handled by the appropriate federal authorities while also ensuring the necessary resources are available to punish bad actors and deter fraud.

Maintain state authority to designate the geography of target employment areas (TEAs)

State governments are best suited to determine a geography’s merit for definition of “high unemployment.” Bringing a federal agency into the TEA determination process is unnecessary and will likely result in further delays of EB-5 adjudication. Similarly, expanding the authority for TEA designation to the local level (municipal and/or county) would create confusion, various applications of standards, and slow down the process of projects getting approval that overlap jurisdictions.

Competitive minimum investment amount with phased implementation of changes

Any potential increase in the minimum capital investment for immigrant investors should be done so not to disrupt current investment flows and discourage investment. Any changes in this regard must have a phased implementation that is fair to those already actively investing through the Program in order to maintain Program integrity.

May
23

Congressional “Dear Colleague” Letter: Support American Job Creation & Investment Through the EB-5 Regional Center Program

Gabbard & Schock

Representatives Aaron Schock (IL-18) Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Future Caucus, introduced a new bipartisan immigration bill, H.R. 4659 or the EB-5 Regional Center Extension Act of 2014, which would permanently authorize the EB-5 Regional Center Program and eliminate per country caps on visa allocations.

This week, Congressman Aaron Schock (IL-18) and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) circulated a letter to their House colleagues urging them to Cosponsor H.R. 4659 or the “EB-5 Regional Center Extension Act of 2014.” The new bipartisan immigration bill, which was introduced would permanently authorize the EB-5 Regional Center Program and eliminate per country caps on visa allocations. You can read the letter here or below.

IIUSA encourages you to contact your member of Congress and urge them to sign on to H.R. 4659

  • To find your representative, click here.
  • Additionally, this document is a great tool to empower your member of Congress with pertinent information about how EB-5 is working to create American jobs and thus stronger communities all around the country.

eb5 is working

Support American Job Creation and Investment

Cosponsor H.R. 4659 to make the EB-5 Regional Center Program Permanent

Dear Colleague:

Please join us in supporting H.R. 4659, the EB-5 Regional Center Extension Act, legislation that will create American jobs and drive economic development by increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) in our communities. It would also streamline the employment visa system by removing the arbitrary caps on the number of visas from individuals.

The EB-5 Regional Center Program has been in existence for two decades and has had an enormous positive economic impact. From 2005-20013, $6.5 billion was invested in projects around the country supporting 131,000 American jobs. The vast majority of these jobs are created in areas that are experiencing high unemployment or rural areas where traditional sources of financing and more expensive and difficult to come by. All of these benefits come without any cost to the American taxpayer.  In fact, EB-5 projects generated $265 million in state and local taxes and $448 million in federal taxes in 2012.

Economic development projects funded through EB-5 serve a diverse array of needs in communities across the country, from hospitals and assisted living facilities, to hotels and transformative rehabilitations of unused spaces. Making the EB-5 Regional Center Program permanent will give investor and entrepreneurs the certainty they need to continue and expand these beneficial trends.

Additionally, H.R. 4659 would remove the antiquated caps on the number of visas available to qualified applicants from individual countries. Currently, applicants form the highest petitioning countries face year of waiting for employment-based visas, depriving U.S. businesses of these applicants’ skills and investments.

Please Contact Kelli Ripp (kelli.ripp@mail.house.gov) in Rep. Schock’s office or Anthony Ching (Anthony.ching@mail.house.gov) in Rep. Gabbard’s office to sign on to this job-creating legislation.

Respectfully,

Aaron Schock                                             Tulsi Gabbard

Member of Congress                                 Member of Congress