USCIS to start auditing of EB-5 regional centers on Apr. 23 -

USCIS to start auditing of EB-5 regional centers on Apr. 23 Staff

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that the auditing of designated EB-5 regional centers will begin on Apr. 23.

This process must take place at least once every five years, according to section 203(b)(5)(E)(vii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The USCIS said in a statement on Apr. 9 that “regional center audits enhance the integrity of the EB-5 program by helping us verify information in regional center applications and annual certifications as well as associated investor petitions.”

The EB-5 industry welcomes the auditing process as a measure that will increase transparency and trust in this U.S. visa program.

“Our hope is that the audits provide investor confidence by ensuring that regional centers are operating in compliance with the law,” said Ishaan Khanna, the president of the American Immigrant Investor Alliance (AIIA).

“By scrutinizing applications, certifications, financial documentation, internal controls, and investor capital flow, audits protect investors’ interests. This can give current and future investors confidence that their investments are being managed appropriately. We hope that USCIS may also consider regularly publishing some of the data or findings concerning these audits so as to improve the general program transparency and foster a greater level of trust between investors and EB-5 stakeholders.”

Meanwhile, Invest in the USA (IIUSA) welcomed the agency’s notice and efforts to increase transparency in EB-5. “IUSA was a strong champion of the RIA and welcomes all efforts to increase transparency and enhance Program integrity. We are pleased to see the agency publishing these important updates as they roll out this new process,” the organization said in its blog.

Standards and process USCIS will follow to audit EB-5 regional centers

During the process, the regional centers must provide all information and updates requested for verification by the USCIS, such as books, ledgers, records, and any other documentation kept under the INA.

Meanwhile, the agency will use Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS) to ensure uniformity. “Previously, we performed compliance reviews, which were at the discretion of the reviewer,” the USCIS said. “An audit generally using GAGAS will help us assess a regional center’s compliance with applicable laws and authorities so that we can determine whether the regional center remains eligible” for its designation. 

USCIS representatives will also conduct site visits. If any RC expresses unwillingness to participate, “we will cancel the visit. We will complete the audit report using the data available and indicate that we canceled the site visit at the request of the regional center.”

The results will become part of the regional center’s record. “If the results contain any indicators of fraud, we will assess whether further investigation is warranted,” the agency cautioned.

Any deliberate dissent or obstruction to the process could result in the USCIS terminating the regional center’s designation. “We may consider noncompliance with a site visit to mean nonconsenting to an audit,” the agency noted.

Also, the USCIS does not expect negative consequences “solely because of a negative audit result. However, we may use our findings to evaluate a regional center’s continuing eligibility to remain designated as well as compliance of associated applications, petitions, or other filings with applicable requirements.”

The U.S. immigration agency is also “developing procedures for selecting regional centers for audit each fiscal year.”

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