U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) invites Stakeholders to participate in a new online tool called the USCIS Idea Community, where they can share ideas and opinions related to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. Stakeholders can visit the Idea Community until May 8 to provide ideas and feedback on potential regulatory changes and the future of the Program. USCIS officials invite individual feedback and input related to:
- Changes that could be made to EB-5 regulations and guidance to clarify eligibility requirements
- Changes that could be made to improve the program’s integrity, efficiency, predictability and consistency
- Changes that could be made to improve the services that are provide by USCIS
In order to participate in the USCIS Idea Community, you will need to register and create a profile on the website located here. You can use your profile to comment on existing ideas, vote on ideas, or submit your own idea. Any questions or issues relating to the registration process should be directed to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following ideas/suggestions were submitted by the Greenberg Traurig EB-5 Team to the USCIS Idea Community:
- Improvement of Processing Times. A decrease in processing times would increase confidence in the Program for foreign investors and U.S. organizations seeking capital. Current processing times as of March 31, 2014 are as follows: I-526 at 13.2 months, I-829 at 8.9 months, and I-924 at 10.6 months. These kinds of delays in processing cause problems for projects in need of financing and shakes investor confidence in the program.
- Provide Premium Processing for I-924 and/or I-526 Petitions. Premium processing fees would bring in additional revenue for USCIS that could be used to hire more processors, train processors to provide consistency in adjudications, and improve services. Premium processing could lead to a decrease in processing times overall.
- Train Adjudicators on Corporate and Financial Structure Issues. EB-5 financing is becoming more of a traditional way to finance large real estate projects. This is a positive for the program because sophisticated businesses and people will be using EB-5 financing in the future. However, large real estate projects typically utilize complex corporate structures in order to finance large developments. USCIS adjudicators will have to understand common industry ideas such as preferred equity, tiered corporate structures, mortgage positions, mezzanine loans, inter-creditor agreements, and the prevalence of senior financing in these complex structures.
- Provide Clarification on Geographic Expansion in May 30th Policy Memorandum. USCIS stated in its February 26, 2014 Public Engagement that expansions of the geographic scope of a regional center should be to areas which are contiguous to the current approved regional center area. However, USCIS did not define “contiguous” and it is still ambiguous whether this is contiguous counties or contiguous metropolitan areas. There appears to be much confusion on what is and is not permitted in terms of expansion and “contiguous” areas – clarification is needed.
- Improve Form I-924A. Form I-924A does not currently have the ability to accurately represent projects. Additionally, for indirect regional center investments it is very hard and in some cases, or impossible, to break down job creation by year. There is also no way to represent withdrawn I-526 petitions on the form. The form also does not provide enough space to list a regional center’s NAICS codes. In the past, three slots for NAICS codes may have been enough. However, the May 30th Memorandum did away with amendments which has increased the number of NAICS codes a regional center works operates in.
- Provide Up to Date Information for Regional Centers on Website. Currently, the USCIS page listing regional centers is a kin to a “data-dump” of information. For businesses and individuals interested in specific geographic areas, it is very difficult to find regional centers in those areas without browsing through pages and pages of Google search results. For this reason, and for transparency and compliance issues, USCIS should list general contact information for each regional center. USCIS should also provide up to date information on active and inactive regional centers, including approval/denial rates.
- Reconsider the 2.5 year Job Rule. For investments in regional centers, the regulations do not contain time constraints on the projected job creation, nor do they reference the time limits that are specifically stated in the regulations pertaining to direct EB-5 investment. Given the nature of many projects this guidance appears to be unworkable. For example, large cities such as New York City have construction timelines which far exceed 2.5 years.