Visa Crunch

For now, no new EB-5 investors are being accepted through the regional center route, says USCIS

The EB-5 Regional Centre Program expired on June 30 at midnight. US Immigration and Citizenship (USCIS) has announced that new applications submitted on or after July 1 will be outright rejected, reversing its position from previous years when a gap in the program has emerged. 

It is worth noting that the EB-5 program is still available to individuals who make direct investments, start businesses, and employ at least 10 Americans. Nearly 90% of EB-5 investments, on the other hand, are made through regional centers, which pool investor funds and subsequently sponsor business activities. 

The EB-5 program is known as the ‘cash for green card’ scheme since it demands a significant investment; nevertheless, it guarantees a comparably faster path to permanent citizenship. RB-5 regional center stakeholders are now advocating for the program’s reauthorization and the introduction of a new legislative package.

Suresh Rajan, chairman, and founder of LCR Capital Partners said of the USCIS guideline letter, “We felt the tone to be quite favorable. We’re also optimistic about the program’s improvement and reauthorization. We anticipate having it in place by the end of the fiscal year (September 30).”

Form I-526 immigrant petitions (applications) received on or after July 1 will be denied if the applicant’s investment is linked to an approved regional center, according to USCIS. Any such applications pending with USCIS, on the contrary, will be put on hold until further notice.

“Intriguingly, the I-526 petition filings are being processed differently, as contrasted to the 2018 gap in the program,” says Mitch Wexler, a partner at Fragomen, a global immigration law company. The USCIS then accepted these applications but put them on hold until the program was reauthorized. As of July 1, they are rejecting such applications outright unless they are reauthorized.

He continues, “This basically puts a stop to the $500,000 fire drill since if and when the regional center program is reauthorized, it will very certainly be at $900,000.”

A US district court ruling had just been announced, resulting in investment rules being overturned to prior levels. The investment criteria for the EB-5 program have been increased to $1.8 million (up from $1 million before) starting on November 21, 2019.

The investment required for Targeted Employment Area (TEA) investments – in rural regions or areas with unemployment – was $900,000 (as opposed to $500,000 previously). As a result of the court ruling, investment limitations have been restored to the previous norms.

“Investors who applied and are waiting for clearance will need to be patient during the gap since I-526 adjudications will not be completed,” Rajan says.

Investors in the EB-5 program are first awarded conditional permanent residency (a conditional green card) for themselves, their spouses, and children under the age of 21. They must request for the ‘conditions’ to be lifted after two years. If they are granted a green card, they and their family will be able to live and work permanently in the US. It takes 7-10 years for Indians to acquire an unrestricted green card.

USCIS has clarified that it will continue to receive Form I-485 requests for adjustments of status, but they will be put on hold until further notice.

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