Sarah Kendall, Chief of the Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO), addressed the EB-5 industry at the recent IIUSA forum. Her comments included: there is a congressional mandate for an investment “discount” for rural and high-unemployment areas; petitioners can make a partial investment before November 21, 2019, if they are “committed” to the full required capital; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has provided assistance to Congress on several recent EB-5 bills.
Sarah Kendal addressed several topical subjects during her speech, with a recurring theme being integrity. As the new rule is almost upon us, she spoke to the need for USCIS to have internal training for its adjudicators and economists to help interpret the new rule and apply it to future petitions.
Congress wants a “discount” investment level
Of note, Kendall began her section on TEAs with this statement: “Congress explicitly wanted a discount investment level for certain areas — to include a rural area or an area that has experienced high unemployment.” This is important to remember when one considers that the latest EB-5 greencard bill proposed, the “Immigrant Investor Program Relief Act,” would greatly reduce the separation in investment amounts between TEA and non-TEA investments.
Partial investment before Nov. 21, 2019
Kendall also made a point of clarifying that certain investors may file their petition and invest a partial amount of their full requirement before November 21 — so long as they are “actively in the process of investing the remaining amount of capital.” This requires proof of a commitment to investing that full amount. She uses the example of an investor who filed their I-526 in June 2018: this petitioner meets all other program requirements, including citing the investment capital and its lawful source. They have invested $100,000 and are actively in the process of investing the other $400,000, with that $400,000 in an escrow account. As this petitioner filed before November 21, 2019, and is actively in the process of investing the remaining $400,000, they are eligible to be approved.
Kendall reminded the forum that in the past she and the IPO have declared their commitment to protecting EB-5 from “bad actors” and fraud. The last year saw more work with law-enforcement agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) than in all the years past. She went on to state that Congress is actively concerned with fraud issues in EB-5 industry. USCIS was requested to provide “technical assistance” for several EB-5 bills this past year. She alluded to bipartisan bills that would “make strides towards addressing issues” regarding fraud and non-compliance. She also referred to proposals in recent bills to collect extra fees from investors and regional centers; these extra fees would go towards audits and site inspections and help the EB-5 industry. It’s worth noting the recent Immigrant Investor Program Relief Act has proposed these extra fees.
Regional Center Annual Certification
Regional centers approved as of September 30, 2019 must file their I-924 Annual Certification form by December 29, 2019. Kendall stated that in the fiscal year 2018, 106 EB5 regional centers did not file their I-924 and were served with a Notice of Intent to Terminate. She offered some tips to regional centers:
Questions & Answers
Would USCIS consider premium expedited processing? Not at this time.
Will there be regular stakeholder meetings? IPO will host two public meetings a year to engage the community.
What are reasons for the slower processing times? Training, coordination with enforcement agencies, quality control programs, and the EB-5 stoppage (December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019) were all factors.
When an investor has been the victim of fraud but takes corrective action (investing more money, finding a new developer, etc.), can USCIS have a policy that supports them rather than punishes them? Petitioners must be eligible from the time of filing through adjudication until they achieve status. This doesn’t seem to be the ideal answer, but Kendall reminded stakeholders that the new rule gives certain investors who were defrauded (if they have not yet obtained status) the chance to preserve their earlier priority date if they file a new I-526.
See Sarah Kendall’s complete IIUSA forum remarks
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