By Marie Ekberg Padilla
A comprehensive EB-5 modernization bill was introduced in the Senate Tuesday by three Republican senators on a mission to improve the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, including offering an alternative solution to the decade-long backlog for many Asian investors, aging out protection for investors’ children and a lower increase of the investment amount. Senators Graham (R-SC), Rounds (R-SD) and Cornyn (R-TX) are the trio behind the Immigrant Investor Program Reform Act (S. 2778), which would also extend the regional center program until 2025.
“After 30 years, this bill is the perfect solution to reform the EB-5 program,” said immigration attorney Bernard Wolfsdorf, who is past president of AILA. “It will not only re-invigorate the backlogged countries of China, Vietnam and India, but it also provides solutions for those stuck in the waiting line, protects children from aging out and provides benefits including travel, employment and study to applicants after three years.”
The proposed legislation comes with enforced integrity measures and due diligence steps for both regional centers and investors. It also sets the investment amount to $1.1 million unless the project is in a TEA, when the required amount would be $1 million. The act would provide backlog relief for thousands of investors who have been waiting for more than three years. Pending applicants with an approved form I-526 can pay a $50,000 fee to get their application processed within 120 days. The funds would go into a special program improvement fund.
Targeted Employment Areas would include rural areas and census tracts that meet the designations of Qualified Opportunity Zones, created under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Thirty percent of visas would each year be reserved for applicants who invest in TEAs of which half are reserved for rural areas.
“My overall impression is very positive, especially for an industry that is on life support,” said Scott W. Barnhart of Barnhard Economic Services. “This bill addresses the backlog and the pricing and has positives for both.”