USCIS has officially announced that the statutory authorization related to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program expired at midnight on June 30, 2021. This is because Congress did not pass a law to extend the EB-5 Regional Center program from lapsing.
What happens now?
Due to the lapse in authorization related to the Regional Center Program, USCIS will reject the following forms received on or after July 1, 2021:
- Form I-924, Application for Regional Center Designation Under the Immigrant Investor Program, except when the application type indicates that it is an amendment to the regional center’s name, organizational structure, ownership, or administration; and
- Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor, when it indicates that the petitioner’s investment is associated with an approved regional center.
USCIS will begin rejecting all Forms I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and any associated Forms I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and Forms I-131, Application for Travel Document, based on an approved Regional Center Form I-526.
USCIS will not act on any pending petition or application of these form types that is dependent on the lapsed statutory authority until further notice.
USCIS continue to accept and review Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status, in the normal course, including those filed on or after July 1, 2021.
What is a Regional Center?
In 1992, Congress created the Immigrant Investor Program, also known as the Regional Center Program, which sets aside EB-5 visas for participants who invest in commercial enterprises associated with regional centers approved by USCIS based on proposals for promoting economic growth. An EB-5 regional center is an economic unit, public or private, in the United States that is involved with promoting economic growth. Regional centers are designated by USCIS for participation in the Immigrant Investor Program. As of As of Jan, 2021, there are 673 approved regional centers.
The popularity of pinnacle of the RC program reached all time high in 2014–2015, since then EB-5 program had been regularly reauthorized and extended by the US Congress. The Act allocates 9,940 immigrant visas each fiscal year to foreign nationals participating in the EB-5 program, and at least 3,000 of the visas must be reserved for persons investing in TEAs. A successful application usually produces about 2.5 visas
Unless there is new legislation to reauthorize or extend it in future by Sep 30, 2021, it will be a sunset for EB-5 Regional Center program.
According to USCIS data, for 2021 year to date,
- I-924 applications – 25 approved and 152 pending.
- I-526 petitions – 1756 approved and 13,044 pending
According to the latest update by USCIS the EB-4 processing times by Immigrant Investor Program Office takes years.
- I-526 Petitions – 35 to 78 months
65 Months to 83.5 Months -> China – mainland born
31 Months to 49.5 Months -> All other areas – For use by an investor who wishes to immigrate to the United States
- Form I-924 Petitions – 20 to 32 months.
EB-5 Back to $500,000?
A court ruling on June 22, 2021, Behring Regional Center, LLC v. Chad Wolf, the US Northern District Court of California, The Final Rule is VACATED and the matter is REMANDED to the Agency for further action. This means any EB-5 filings after this date, requires $900k investments rolled back to $500,000 at previous level.
Nothing is certain at this moment, we have to wait for USCIS will provide updates on this.
E-2 investor visas are very popular among foreign investors. Probably the best alternative for EB-5 with few weeks waiting times, cheaper investment. One disadvantage is only few country nationals with a treaty are eligible for this visa.
For those who dont qualify, there is also a possibility to apply for E-2 visa through CBI programs (eg. Grenada)