by Lincoln Stone, Partner, Stone Grzegorek & Gonzalez LLP; Susan Pilcher, Senior Attorney, Stone Grzegorek & Gonzalez LLP; Elsie Hui Arias, Partner, , Stone Grzegorek & Gonzalez LLP
The USCIS Immigrant Investor Program Office (“IPO”) has commenced its long-anticipated program of regional center “audits,” now designated by IPO as “Compliance Reviews.” This form of oversight is targeted at regional centers and is distinct from the “Site Visit” program that involves unannounced visits to locations of job-creating businesses that have received EB-5 investor capital. IPO has signaled its intention to conduct a Compliance Review of every USCIS-designated regional center. This article provides an overview of the Compliance Review process as experienced by us in a few client matters. Admittedly, our experiences with Compliance Review could be part of a trial phase conducted by IPO prior to its broader launch of a program to review all regional centers, so the process may evolve as is suggested by certain aspects of our experiences to date. Nevertheless, we expect this general information will prove useful to regional centers as they prepare for a Compliance Review and further refine their internal practices to ensure compliance.
The IPO Team
IPO has dedicated a specific team for Compliance Review. Whereas in IPO’s Site Visit program investigators from the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security unit are dispatched to the sites of EB-5 job-creating businesses, the “Compliance Division” within IPO administers the Compliance Review program. By all appearances, the Compliance Division is a small team of professionals with training and experience in auditing, forensic accounting, and compliance work. They are knowledgeable and cordial. The overall impression made during our experiences is the members of the Compliance Division are more attuned to eliciting information about organizational processes than say, for example, the facts underlying a particular I-924 application filed by a regional center or a certain I-526 petition filed by an EB-5 investor.
IPO commences the Compliance Review process by issuing a written Notice of Compliance Review (“Notice”). According to this Notice, the information sought in the Compliance Review is “used to assess” the regional center’s “compliance with applicable laws and authorities”, with citations to the EB-5 statutes, regulations and Policy Manual.