2015 is Fast Approaching: Understanding the Pilot Program and What Happens in Case of Program Non-Renewal
The Immigrant Investor Pilot Program (“Immigrant Investor Program”), enacted in 1993, allows investors to invest in regional center projects, which is favorable to many investors because it allows for a less restrictive job creation requirement based on the creation of “indirect” and “direct jobs.” The goal of the Regional Center Program was to encourage business and economic development opportunities within designated regional centers. On September 28, 2012, President Obama signed a public law that extended the Immigrant Investor Program until September 30, 2015. Since the program’s expiration date is quickly approaching and the interest in the Immigrant Investor Program is not waning, many investors are concerned about the future of the program and their pending petitions. Given the termination of Canada’s immigrant investor program this past year, these fears are understandable.
Most signs point in the direction that the Immigrant Investor Program will likely be renewed. In fact, this program has been successfully renewed each time in the past twenty years. Additionally, with comprehensive immigration reform on everyone’s docket and the large advocacy efforts of various immigration groups, law firms, and attorneys, it is likely that the Regional Center Program will continue. Moreover, last year’s proposed Senate bill advised to make the Pilot Program permanent. Lastly, as stated in the May 2013 Memo issued by USCIS, Congress actually removed the word “Pilot” from the title, thereby making its official title “Immigrant Investor Program.” So, for the most part, signs point to the Immigrant Investor Program being made permanent, or at least renewed for a few more years.
However, what happens if there is a worst case scenario and the Pilot Program is not renewed? If that is the case, then the EB-5 Direct Investment Program still remains intact. Investors can still invest $500,000 USD or $1 million USD directly into a new commercial enterprise and create 10 new jobs to qualify for an EB-5 visa. The termination of the Immigrant Investor Program does not terminate the EB-5 visa category. As for the pending I-526 and I-829 petitions, the U.S. government has not indicated what will happen. This past year, Canada’s Immigrant Investor Program ended and subsequently pending applications, which were not adjudicated by February 11, 2014, were terminated. However, most EB-5 experts believe that filed and pending petitions will/should be grandfathered in. Truthfully speaking, we will not know what actually happens until the U.S. government releases a statement or passes a law. For now, the best course of action is to continue filing I-526 and I-829 petitions with the optimism that the program will likely continue.