On August 14th, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) held a special stakeholder engagement teleconference with USCIS Director León Rodríguez to allow the new Director (Rodriguez was confirmed on June 26th) to officially introduce himself and his position on a range of immigration issues, including the EB-5 Program. The one-hour dialogue also featured a brief question and answer session which further illuminates Director Rodríguez’s position on EB-5 issues, including the staffing of the new Immigrant Investor Program Office, use of electronic processing of petitions, combating fraud, processing times and the backlog of EB-5 cases. To listen to a recording of the dialogue, click here (Basecamp Access Required).
On staffing the new Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) in Washington, D.C.
“Before I got here, critical steps were taken to improve the EB-5 Program. First, by centralizing the EB-5 Program office in Washington. And then by being very intentional about staffing the unit with individuals who are experts in transactional law, white collar investigations, economics to make sure that as we conduct reviews of increasingly complex transactions, we are doing so with the right personnel and skill sets. We are in the process of ensuring that we fully staff the EB-5 unit to effectively process applications to do in a way that most effectively the United States.”
On Shift to Automated Immigration Processing Systems (ELIS)
This is a multi-year process by moving from paper-based to automated processing. As we launch this automated program, we seek to do so in a way that gets it right. We look forward to discussing more of USCIS efforts in this area as time goes on.
On the Issue of Combating Fraud
This is a lot of concern about fraud and unauthorized practice of immigration law. We are working to ensure that immigration benefits are not granted to those who present a threat to national security or public safety, and we continue to develop our Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS).
On Processing Times Across All Visa Categories
One of our challenges is that we live in a dynamic environment. So as we do our best to predict and forecast workloads, but workloads shift as a result of pressures we do not foresee. This is a high priority for me, based on stakeholder input, that as we have new contingencies in nature of workload, we are always conscious of delivering our service as efficiently as we can. We have improved the efficiency in which we post processing times – from 45 days down to 30 days – I know we are exploring options to provide more meaningful processing times to customers.
On the Backlog of EB-5 Cases
We have seen dramatically increased workload from FY2007 to FY2013, when receipts of I-526 and I-829 petitions have increased by 700 percent and 500 percent respectively. With a fully staffed Investor Program Office with the right kinds of people, we continue to focus on reducing backlog. That the IPO is staffed in Washington gives USCIS the opportunity for direct management oversight.
July 29, 2014 – House Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on the Oversight of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)- Director Rodríguez statement on the EB-5 Program
“USCIS continues to enhance the EB-5 Immigrant Investor visa program, both to improve efficiency and service delivery and to provide greater security. USCIS has centralized EB-5 program operations in Washington, D.C. This unit, augmented with staff with expertise in economics and transactional law, are dedicated solely to the review and adjudication of EB-5 petitions and applications. In May 2013, USCIS published a comprehensive policy memorandum to guide EB-5 adjudications. On the security side of the program, USCIS has expanded security checks to cover Regional Centers and executives participating in the program, and has embedded Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) officers and intelligence professionals to work alongside EB-5 adjudications officers. In order to provide information to stakeholders, USCIS now hosts a series of quarterly stakeholder engagements.” (Read Full Written Testimony Here).