By Cletus Weber, Partner, Peng & Weber, PLLC and Elizabeth Peng, Partner, Peng & Weber, PLLC
Starting February 21, 2017, USCIS began accepting only the December 23, 2016 (“new”) editions of the Form I-924 (Application for Regional Center Under the Immigrant Investor Program) and Form I-924A (Annual Certification of Regional Center). The December 23, 2016 updates to the I-924 and I-924A forms, which were accompanied by a sharply increased $17,795 filing fee for the I-924 and a brand new filing fee of $3,035 for the I-942A, reflect USCIS’s intensified focus on strengthening accountability and oversight of regional center owners and principals, as well as owners of regional center-affiliated new commercial enterprises (NCEs).
Key updates to Form I-924
The I-924 form has increased from 6 to 11 pages. Unlike the previous version of the I-924 form (edition date April 27, 2016), the new I-924 form solicits detailed identifying information about the regional center principal(s) and NCE owners.
- The old form required the name, date of birth and contact information of the principal filing the form, and included an optional continuation box for providing “information” about additional principals, agents, management companies, etc. “if needed.” Part 4 of the new form requires much more detailed information about regional center principals and makes detailed disclosure mandatory. It contains separate disclosure sections for owners and non-owner principals of the regional center entity, and requires all individual principals to provide their date of birth, country of birth, U.S. Social Security Number (which assumes that the principals have at least lawful work-authorized immigration status in the U.S.), position/title within the regional center entity, other names or aliases used, and a copy of valid government-issued photo ID. For any regional center principal that is an entity or organization, the form must provide each entity’s FEIN, trade name, and a list of all persons having ownership, control, or a beneficial interest in the entity or organization—along with their date of birth, country of birth, percentage of ownership and position held with the entity or organization.
- Part 4 of the new I-924 form also asks whether the regional center entity principal, managing company, or agent involved with the application has ever been associated with a terminated regional center, or has ever filed a regional center designation or amendment application that was denied. If the answer is yes, the applicant is required to provide an explanation of the termination or denial and the association between the regional center principal, managing company, or owner and the denied or terminated regional center. The inclusion of this probing question on the new I-924 indicates that USCIS is looking to identify and weed out unqualified or unscrupulous actors from the regional center program.
- In addition to detailed information on regional center owners/principals, the new I-924 form requires information about the owners of each NCE in which EB-5 investors have made or will make investments. Part 6 of the form must include each NCE’s owner’s name and (for individual owners) date of birth, country of birth, percentage of ownership and position held in the NCE. For an owner that is an entity or organization, the form must provide the entity or organization’s FEIN and list of individual owners’ names along with each owner’s date of birth, country of birth, percentage of ownership, and position held in the entity or organization. The previous version of the form asked applicants in an open-ended way to describe the ownership and control of each NCE but did not require the date of birth or country of birth of each direct or indirect owner.
In addition to more aggressive data collection regarding regional center owners/principals and NCE owners, the new I-924 form includes a much more detailed menu of application types than the previous edition of the form. The older form divided all I-924 applications simply into “initial application for designation” and “amendment,” without recognizing distinctions between different types of initial applications (e.g., those based on so-called hypothetical versus actual projects) or different types of amendments (e.g., those requesting an expanded geographic area versus exemplar approval). The new I-924 asks applicants to specify the project type (hypothetical, actual, or actual with I-526 exemplar) that is submitted in support of the initial designation or amendment application. It also asks amendment applicants to specify the type of amendment sought—regional center name change, organizational structure changes, exemplar approval request, etc. The new form also allows initial designation applicants to request the addition of a NCE associated with the regional center. Hopefully, USCIS will use this more granular data collection to not only improve its internal case sorting, but also to split the form I-924 processing queue into subcategories by specific application type for greater efficiency.
Key updates to Form I-924A
The I-924A form, used for annual reporting, has increased from 7 to 9 pages, and its title has changed from “Supplement to Form I-924” to “Annual Certification of Regional Center.” Similar to the I-924 form changes, the new I-924A form requires detailed information about principal and non-principal owners of the regional center entity filing the form (country of birth, social security number, etc.). The previous version of the I-924A (edition date April 27, 2016) simply required the name, date of birth and contact information of the principal filing the form.
Whereas the old I-924A focused on EB-5 capital investment amounts only, the new I-924A form asks for aggregate non-EB-5 capital investment from all projects sponsored by the regional center, and aggregate non-EB-5 capital investment in each industry. The new I-924A form also explicitly includes induced jobs in aggregate job counts, along with direct and indirect jobs. Otherwise, the new I-924A asks for largely same information requested on the old form but in a different format.
New Certifications on both forms
Interestingly, both the new I-924A and the new I-924A require more substantial certifications by the authorized individual signing the form. The old versions of both forms included a generic certification under penalty of perjury that the form and supporting evidence were true and correct, that the signer authorized the release of any information required by USCIS, and that the signer had authority to act on behalf of the regional center. The new forms add the following certifications:
- Copies of any documents submitted with the form are exact photocopies of unaltered, original documents, and the signer understands they may be required to submit original documents to USCIS.
- The signer recognizes USCIS is authorized to conduct audits and may verify supporting evidence through any means deemed appropriate, including but not limited to on-site compliance reviews.
- The signer has reviewed the form and understands the information in and submitted with the form.
Both the new I-924 form and the new I-924A form also include a section regarding the authorized individual’s ability to read and understand English and an interpreter’s certification section, neither of which were present in the old forms. The new forms require the authorized individual to confirm either that he or she can read and understand English, and understands every question and instruction on the form and his or her answer thereto; or that he or she understood every question and instruction on the form as interpreted through a named interpreter. The interpreter must separately certify on the form that the authorized individual informed the interpreter that he or she understands every instruction, question, and answer on the form, including the Authorized Individual’s Declaration and Certification, and has verified the accuracy of every answer.
Both forms also include revised certifications by the preparer of the form (e.g., an attorney). Unlike the old preparer certifications, the new ones explicitly state that the authorized individual has reviewed the completed form and informed the preparer that all of the information in the form and the supporting documents is complete, true, and accurate. These explicit certifications send a clear message to regional center applicants and principals that they will be charged with actual knowledge of everything submitted to USCIS on their behalf, and will be held accountable for it.