By Anayat Durrani
The USCIS is reaching out to EB-5 industry and stakeholders. The outreach is seen as a welcoming gesture against a backdrop of backlogs, longer processing times and lapse in authorization of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center program that set the program in disarray. The deadline to submit comments and questions is Thursday, Sept. 23.
“While it's too early to speculate about USCIS and IPO's motives for soliciting questions from the EB-5 industry, it's certainly an encouraging indicator that perhaps this administration will be more open to working alongside the EB-5 industry versus walling themselves off,” says Phuong Le, partner at KLD LLP in Los Angeles.
The USCIS is interested in hearing from those with questions about the EB-5 program, stating the feedback will be used to help “plan future engagement events, update program content on our website and prepare communications materials.”
"USCIS has requested questions from the public in order to help develop topics for future communications materials and public engagements," a USCIS spokesperson told EB5 Investors Magazine. "Customer service is of utmost importance to USCIS, and by engaging the public early on we are better able to address questions, clarify any confusion, and provide full transparency. This is not the first time that USCIS has sought input from the public in this manner."
Reactions from EB-5 professionals in light of the failed reauthorization
Edward Beshara, attorney and managing partner at Beshara Global Migration Law Firm, says the actions by USCIS after the sun setting or non-reauthorization of the regional center program “has been disastrous for the image of the USCIS and the administration.”
He says not only did investors rely on representation by the USCIS and administration to achieve residency for themselves and family by investing in a regional center program, but they also paid the government filing fees to the USCIS. “All investors paid their fees and investments in good faith, but now is it lost?” says Beshara.
He says before the June 30, 2021 sun setting, the EB-5 regional center projects, investors and service providers were under the belief that all filed I-526 petitions and applications for conditional permanent residency, in process before the expiration, would continue.
“However, 80,000 plus investors petitions and application processes have been stopped by USCIS and state department directives,” says Beshara.
It appears the USCIS is trying to address some of those concerns. Le says the USCIS outreach is a welcome opportunity to engage and address major concerns. He says for the past few years, the EB-5 industry and USCIS and IPO “have basically been running on parallel tracks without any opportunities to sit down and discuss issues and problems that each side sees, and more importantly, suggest pragmatic solutions.”
USCIS outreach offers hope that change with the EB-5 program will happen
The USCIS in their outreach acknowledged that the authorization of the Regional Center Program expired at midnight on June 30, 2021, and encouraged sending questions about the EB-5 program, the sunset of the Regional Center Program, or any non-case-specific concerns.
Beshara says he hopes the USCIS and possibly the administration will address the need for all petitions and applications filed before the sun setting of the EB-5 Regional Center Program to continue by “grandfathering in,” either through a new law or regulation immediately.
“The main question is when will grandfathering take place and to solve the problem for new investors. Why cannot the EB-5 regional center program be authorized permanently?” says Beshara.
Le has compiled several questions that he sent to the USCIS public engagement email. He says he hopes his questions not only address some concerns and problems but also propose possible solutions to start an “open dialogue for EB-5 stakeholders and USCIS/IPO to work together and come up with pragmatic solutions and tackle tough situations.”
EB-5 professionals send questions to USCIS
Some of the questions Le has submitted focus on TEA designations, RFE response times, path of funds/currency swaps, troubled businesses as well as I-829 receipt notices and extension of CPR status. For example, Le reached out to ask for guidance on RFE response times and options to follow up with case inquiries if cases have been pending too long. He also addressed the increasing I-829 processing times, adding that it would be “more practical to simply extend CPR status as "duration of status" (D/S) since it would prevent extra administrative work for local field offices to schedule appointments just to issue an I-551 stamp to repeatedly extend CPR status until the I-829 is adjudicated.”
Those interested in sending in questions can email: [email protected] by Sept. 23 at 4 p.m. Eastern, and include “EB-5 Question” in the subject line. The email is for questions only and case-specific questions will not be addressed.
“The EB-5 industry works best when we have a collaborative relationship with USCIS and IPO, versus each side being locked away in their own silos. Hopefully this is the beginning of an open dialogue again,” says Le.