EB-5 Investor Program to Receive USCIS Overhaul

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services on Tuesday announced reforms to its EB-5 Investment Program that will increase the minimum investment to qualify for the investor green card.

In addition to hikes in investment thresholds, USCIS announced reforms to Targeted Employment Area (TEA) designations and processing changes that could streamline the EB-5 process. The proposed changes are scheduled to take place on November 21, 2019.

USCIS acting director Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement that reforms will bring the program up to date.

“Nearly 30 years ago, Congress created the EB-5 program to benefit U.S. workers, boost the economy, and aid distressed communities by providing an incentive for foreign capital investment in the United States,” he said. “Since its inception, the EB-5 program has drifted away from Congress’ intent. Our reforms increase the investment level to account for inflation over the past three decades and substantially restrict the possibility of gerrymandering to ensure that the reduced investment amount is reserved for rural and high-unemployment areas most in need.”

Investment levels for the program will raise from $1 million to $1.8 million. In TEAs, investment levels increase from $500,000 to $900,000. Reforms also take control of TEA designation away from individual states, placing the responsibility on Department of Homeland Security. The TEA designation reform is meant to curb gerrymandering of areas by combining prosperous locations with nearby distressed communities.

Processing changes to the EB-5 could result in decreased processing times, as reforms look to clarify the adjudication process of family members of EB-5 investors. By requiring family members of EB-5 investors to independently file to remove conditions on their permanent resident status, USCIS hopes to provide flexibility in interview locations and adopt current USCIS process for issuing green cards. Reforms also create greater flexibility to EB-5 investors who need to refile petitions due to changes in their business or investment – these petitioners will be able to retain their previous priority date, with exceptions.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor program is a complicated program with protracted timelines and significant requirements. Reforms announced by USCIS could help to alleviate backlogs in the program, even as they increase fees significantly. We have found that many foreign investors who are drawn to the EB-5 program find the stipulations of the E-2 investor visa to be more flexible and friendly to entrepreneurs. Although E-2 visas do not provide a path to a U.S. green card, they allow visa holders to live and work in the United States for as long as they own and operate a business.

If you have questions about the EB-5 or E-2 investor programs, contact us today for a complimentary consultation.