Last week, we recapped the annual IIUSA Membership Meeting, which was held on the afternoon of May 7th kicking off what was an excellent week of EB-5 grassroots advocacy, advanced education, and business development. The opening day of IIUSA’s 7th Annual EB-5 Regional Economic Development Advocacy Conference was highlighted by a keynote address from the Honorable Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the election of four new directors to IIUSA’s Board and reports from committee chairpersons to the IIUSA membership.
Today, we will take a look back at the EB-5 Advocacy Conference as a whole. The 400+ attendees at the sold-out conference were treated to eight panels, three Congressional Guest of Honor Speakers, keynote addresses from individuals representing five federal agencies/regulators, special guests from the American Chambers of Commerce in Shanghai and South China (as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), and a special ceremony with eight Chinese provincial level entry-exit Associations in which IIUSA signed joint Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs).
Largest (and most successful) EB-5 Advocacy Conference Ever!
The Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill was nearly “bursting at the seams” with 440people attending this year’s conference, representing over a 90% growth in number of attendees from the last IIUSA EB-5 Advocacy Conference in October, 2012. This year’s event boasted 24 sponsors including 17 exhibitors, including Regional Centers, law firms, economists, consultants, financial service providers and banks. This collective group, along with the hundreds of industry professionals in attendance, ensured that the exhibit hall was buzzing during speaking breaks and IIUSA-hosted receptions on Wednesday and Thursday evening.
A big thank to everyone who made this conference a success, from our sponsors, guests of honor, keynote speakers, members, industry leaders, staff, partners, and more! A special thanks as well to Carolyn S. Lee (Partner, Miller Mayer) who volunteered time to advise on programming as event planning began.
Three Congressional Speakers
IIUSA was honored to have three Congressional Guest of Honors speak at our conference, including one senator and two representatives. The Honorable Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, gave a memorable address during the IIUSA annual membership meeting on the visible economic impacts of the EB-5 Program in the state of Vermont. The EB-5 Regional Center Program is indeed very fortunate to have Chairman Leahy as its long-standing “Champion” in the Senate.
Just after the lunch break on Thursday May 8th, the standing room-only crowd witnessed an addresse from two U.S. House of Representatives member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA, 19th District). Congresswoman Lofgren, who is the Ranking Member of the House Immigration Subcommittee (of the Judiciary Committee) discussed the importance of attracting foreign capital that can be useful to the U.S. economy and pointed to the IIUSA-commissioned peer-reviewed economic impact study from 2012 which showed the EB-5 contributed $3.3 billion to U.S. GDP ($700 million in California alone) and supporter over 42,000 jobs nationwide.
Speakers Representing Five Federal Agencies
IIUSA’s 7th Annual EB-5 Advocacy Conference was notable not just for its big name speakers but also for the diverse representation of federal stakeholders who came to speak on various topics with EB-5.
On Thursday morning’s panel on securities laws, both the Exchange Commission (SEC), represented by Steve Cohen, the Associate Director of the Division of Enforcement, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), represented by Kavita Jain, Director of Emerging Regulatory Affairs and William Guli, from the FINRA Member Application Program (MAP), stressed the growing inter-agency collaboration to address fraud and other securities related concerns in the EB-5 industry. In his candid remarks, Mr. Cohen in particular highlighted the increased involvement of the SEC in the EB-5 Program, pertaining not only to addressing fraud, but also compensation practices. Ms. Jain and Mr. Guli spoke on the increase in broker/dealer activity in the EB-5 Program, and provided practical information on the process for becoming a broker/dealer and some of the considerations that people should make in this regard.
In the late morning on Thursday, Aaron Brickman, Deputy Executive Director of SelectUSA, the international investment initiative housed in the Department of Commerce, spoke about SelectUSA’s mission to promote and facilitate business investment in the United States, which countries were the sources of the greatest growth of foreign direct investment (FDI) over the past several years and how EB-5 is becoming a growing percentage of overall investment. He also highlighted the services that SelectUSA has available to the public to streamline the process of getting foreign direct investment to the United States to create American jobs.
Following a several hour break, when many conference attendees headed to Capitol Hill for congressional meetings, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Immigrant Investor Program Chief Nicolas Colucci delivered a 20-minute prepared speech and held a short Q & A with the audience (to read full transcript of Mr. Colucci’s remarks,click here). Mr. Colucci reiterated, as he spoke to in an EB-5 Stakeholder teleconference in February (listen here), that he is focused on enhancing the administration of the EB-5 Program by improved delivering customer service/transparency and performance/predictability – while using all necessary tools to combat fraud on a collaborative basis with the industry and using his past experience at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and, more recently, FinCEN, U.S. Department of Treasury.
Lastly, Charles Oppenheim, who has been the Chief of the Visa Controls Office at theU.S. Department of State since 1999, presented on Friday May 9 on the possibility of visa retrogression for the EB-5 category as we get closer to maxing out the annual allocation of approximately 10,000. His main responsibility is the administration of a complex series of annual numerical limitations on immigrants subdivided by preference category and country and issues a monthly bulletin, which summarizes availability of visas for the coming month and other visa related information (visit http://travel.state.gov/ for more).Mr. Oppenheim, along with moderator Bernard Wolfsdorf, Managing Partner of the immigration law firm Wolfsdorf & Rosenthal, tackled the looming issue of EB-5 visa retrogression for Chinese applicants in the coming months. Oppenheim noted, to the relief of many in the audience, that visa availability will remain current through FY2014 and extrapolated with current demand figures that a cutoff date would be likely before the summer of 2015. To purchase this video OnDemand, click here.
International Guests of Honor
In addition to diverse, cross-sector stakeholder representation from the U.S. at the event, IIUSA’s international partners also had a strong presence at the conference. First on Wednesday, IIUSA welcomed Ken Jarrett, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai (AmCham Shanghai), as a special guest during the membership meeting. Mr. Jarrett gave brief remarks on how AmCham Shanghai and IIUSA will be working together to build opportunity and integrity for the EB-5 Regional Center industry in the largest investor market, China. After his remarks, IIUSA and AmCham Shanghai inked a formal memorandum of understanding to begin our working relationship. Stay tuned for more information.IIUSA also welcomed a special guest from the American Chamber of Commerce in South China (AmCham South China), Cindy Chen, Area Development Manager. Ms. Chen gave some stirring remarks to attendees during a Friday panel on China, highlighting the now longstanding partnership with IIUSA in EB-5 advocacy, education, and industry development. Ms. Chen also highlighted the culminating annual event for IIUSA and AmCham South China, the China International Fair for Investment & Trade (CIFIT) this September 6-10. IIUSA and AmCham South China have an exciting trade mission planned already for this year’s delegation with significantly more EB-5 programming and opportunity for exhibitors and attendees alike.Lastly, IIUSA had the honor of welcoming representatives from eight provincial exit/entry associations in China – which are essentially the regulators of the migration advisory industry within China. After significant negotiations, IIUSA signed memoranda of understanding with all eight associations highlighting the issues of due diligence, compensation practices, and market transparency/integrity. These MOUs mark the beginning of IIUSA becoming more assertive in our efforts to build an informed EB-5 marketplace. This will be an essential component of programming at CIFIT this year.
Eight Comprehensive EB-5 Panels
To provide context to each speaker and panel topic, IIUSA compiled a 150-page Conference Handbook & Advocacy Toolkit, which is now on sale through the IIUSA Marketplace for $50 (purchase here). Under each panel, we describe the pertinent information contained in the conference handbook.
“Securities Law Perspectives on the EB-5 Program”
EB-5 Project Due Diligence
EB-5 Advocacy: Educating the Public & Congress About the Growing Economic Contribution of the EB-5 Regional Center Industry to the United States
Update on USCIS Policies & Administrative Procedures
Thinking Global: Diversifying the EB-5 Investor Marketplace & Increasing Competition for Immigrant Investors
EB-5 Retrogression Predictions (and Consequences)
Building International Partnerships in China, the Largest EB-5 Investor Market
The panel also included a signing ceremony with officials of Provincial Entry-Exit Associations to formalize IIUSA’s association-to-association partnerships in China.
Quicklinks: Photos/Videos/Slides/Conference Handbook