A scathing lawsuit filed in September against the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accuses the federal immigration agency of squandering the opportunity to create tens of thousands of American jobs and infuse hundreds of millions of investment dollars into the struggling U.S. economy by critically mismanaging the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program.
The EB-5 Visa Program affords foreign citizens the opportunity to earn green cards if they invest $500,000 or $1 million in a U.S. business project that leads to the creation of 10 fulltime jobs for American workers.
The program has experienced a recent increase in popularity with both American businesses in need of financing and with foreign investors. For the 2012 fiscal year, the program had been on pace to create over 42,000 U.S. jobs and spur over $2.1 billion in U.S. investment, all at no cost whatsoever to taxpayers.
But now American Life, Inc.—one of the oldest and most successful participants in the EB-5 program— contends in a recent lawsuit that the program’s huge job creating potential is in jeopardy because the USCIS is now contradicting its previous approvals, is ignoring applicable regulations, and is dragging its feet in the regulatory process.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on September 13th, asserts that the USCIS inconsistently denied EB-5 visas to investors in a Riverside, CA renovation project because it invalidated the methodologies used to demonstrate that the project met job creation requirements.
These applications were denied even though American Life had successfully completed the same types of EB-5 projects that relied on similar job creation methodologies for over 15 years.
“The decisions by USCIS run counter to normal business practices, are irrational, arbitrary and capricious, would prevent businesses from operating in a rational manner to protect their financial interests, deprive plaintiffs of due process, and would subvert […] foreign investors to place their funds in the United States to create jobs for qualifying American workers,” states the complaint.
This inexplicable changes in USCIS adjudication have now put a complete halt on other major EB-5 projects across the nation, such as the case with a Marriot Hotel project in Los Angeles that is already in construction phase and which could create nearly 3,400 American jobs and infuse $172 million into a suffering economy.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villarigosa stressed the importance that this development project has for Los Angeles, which currently suffers from a hotel room shortage, as he voiced concern over the nearly year-long hold up that has resulted from the USCIS.
“This is an important employment generating project for the City of Los Angeles. We urge you to approve the visa petitions promptly,” said Mayor Villarigosa in a draft letter in support of the project.
In an age when fierce partisan debate over the economy seems to be the norm, the EB-5 Program has received overwhelming praise from U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The House of Representatives passed an extension of a key aspect of the program in a 412-3 vote on September 13, which is expected to be ratified by President Obama.
“Rather than adhere to consistent and practical EB-5 rulings—as had been done in past adjudications—USCIS has potentially introduced contradictory, impractical, and costly judgments in the midst of one of the biggest economic downturns in U.S. history when they should be strengthening a program that could significantly improve the American job market,” said Ali Jahangiri, Founder and CEO of EB5Investors.com which serves as an online community for professionals involved in the EB-5 visa community.