EB-5 reauthorization: “The lapse is criminal in my opinion”
Anthony Korda is an immigration attorney at the Korda Law Firm.
His firm can help businesses seeking to bring a foreign immigrant worker to the United States, an individual trying to immigrate to the United States or a temporary or permanent resident trying to get a family member to the United States.
“We are able to assist in trying to ensure that the immigration process runs smoothly and efficiently,” said Korda, who himself came over from England to United States on an EB-5 visa.
How and why did you get involved in the EB-5 industry?
In 2007 I brought my family to the U.S. using the EB-5 Investor Visa Program. In fact, my story was featured in your first magazine. Once I arrived in the U.S, I realized that there were not a lot of EB-5 practitioners and that there was a gap to be filled.
What are some current trends you are seeing in the EB-5 market?
Obviously, the big concern is the lapse in the Regional Center Program and whether or not congress will re-authorize or further extend the program. The lapse is criminal in my opinion as it leaves many thousands of investors who have invested between $500,000 and $900,000, high and dry. Prior to the lapse, the nature and level of Requests for Evidence was increasing and processing times verge on the ridiculous. USCIS is currently processing I-829's filed prior to May 2016 and I recently received an I-526 approval that took 5.5 years.
How do you think the pandemic has impacted the EB-5 industry?
It is difficult to say whether the pandemic has impacted the industry. It has clearly impacted all walks of life and USCIS is no exception. Backlogs that were already unacceptable have increased, but the industry saw a general decline in 2020 because of the increased investment amount and the change to TEA determination. The lapse will probably have more of an impact than the pandemic.
What are your top business goals this year?
To expand our non-EB-5 practice and to be ready to service all of our EB-5 clients, including Regional Center investors, if and when the program is re-authorized.
What achievement in this industry has been most rewarding? Why?
The number of I-526, I-829 and I-924 approvals and our impressive success rate. Successfully challenging USCIS decisions based on fraudulent and failed businesses that were beyond the control of innocent investors.
What are your thoughts about the redeployment situation and the best strategy to deal with it?
There was a certain amount of disingenuity about this. Delays are caused by USCIS processing times. Investors will, in many cases, have complied with EB-5 requirements even before their I-526's are approved. The fact that their investment must be artificially "maintained at risk" is another example of a regulation or interpretation by USCIS that does not advance the interests of the business or the investor and also creates problems for project administrators. The matter was further complicated by conflicting advice provided by USCIS when the need to redeploy first arose. If it is possible to try to incorporate redeployment investment options at the time of the initial investment, that would help, but that may be impractical, given the timescales involved.
What do you think needs to be reformed with the EB-5 program?
There needs to be a permanent Regional Center program, with clearly defined rules and regulations. USCIS interpretation of regulations should be consistent and clear, and the 10,000 annual visa allocation should be increased, or confined to the investor, with derivative visas being drawn from the general availability. Processing times must be improved, and the sheer waste of resources dealt with. For instance, in a regional center project with 200 investors, why is there a need to send 200 copies of the regional center documentation that is identical in each case. I would say that electronic filing should be permitted, but given the difficulty in other visa categories, I am not confident that this could be sensibly achieved.
What do you think will happen next?
Hopefully, the Regional Center program will be re-authorized by Congress with clear rules and regulations.
What would you change or do if you were president for a day?
I assume that this question is confined to the EB-5 industry. If so, I would try to ensure that the Regional Center program is re-authorized and ensure that USCIS employs sufficient officers to significantly improve processing times for I-526 and I-829 petitions, the cost of which is borne by the filing fees.
What is your favorite quote and why?
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere (MLK). I used to practice criminal law and believe that it is better that 10 guilty men go free, than for one innocent man to be convicted.
Why did you decide to join our verified EB-5 community and what has it done for your business?
I joined because the magazine is widely read within the industry and by prospective investors and because the verification is accepted as a badge of quality by potential clients.