I was heartened by the remarks of Director Rodriguez at the recent EB-5 stakeholders engagement in which he extolled the virtues of the EB-5 program and emphasized the importance of USCIS’s role in maximizing the benefits to the U.S. economy as Congress envisioned when it created the EB-5 program.
At the same time, I was struck by the inconsistency between these laudable goals and the continuation of procedures that do not further these goals but rather, in many ways, thwart the efficient processing of EB-5 petitions.
I have on many occasions suggested changes in policy and in legal interpretation that would improve the EB-5 program. That is not the purpose of this letter. Rather, the purpose of this letter is to suggest purely procedural processing improvements that could, without expending additional resources, significantly improve the EB-5 program in ways that would benefit investors, regional centers, project developers and the U.S. economy. Indeed, I would venture to say that the suggestions below would be beneficial to all parties, including USCIS, and detrimental to none. As such, I sincerely hope that you would reconsider implementing some, if not all, of the below suggestions.
Here is my list:
The most time consuming aspect of the I-526 processing is the adjudication of the qualification of the project. Once this is completed, a separate dedicated staff of adjudicators whose only role is to adjudicate source and path of funds should be able to complete the adjudication in 3 to 4 months. It only makes sense that these petitions should have a prompter processing time than petitions that require full project adjudication. In fact, if the only issue is source and path of funds, USCIS should be able to reconsider the availability of premium processing for such petitions. Premium processing, in turn, would increase fee revenue, which could produce funds for more adjudicators. This procedure would put EB-5 in line with other family-based and employment-based petition processing since employer I‑140 petitions and family I-130 petitions are adjudicated separately from permanent residence applications of alien beneficiaries.
More recently, it appears that this laudable objective has fallen by the wayside in favor of a strict FIFO processing objective. This has resulted in processing inefficiencies whereby adjudicators are looking at investors in a project over a period of many months or sometimes even more than a year. This is also detrimental to many projects which require approval of a certain number of investors before any money can be released to the project. The result is that projects may be held in abeyance until it becomes clear that a minimum number of investors have been approved and their funds released from escrow.
Investors not subject to quota retrogression would also win because their petitions could be adjudicated far more expeditiously, and they can actually benefit from the adjudications of the petitions by being able to immigrate to the U.S. sooner.
USCIS would benefit by devoting its resources in a manner that maximizes benefits to its stakeholders without any need to expand its resources. Such a procedure would not be novel since USCIS has long delayed processing of family-based I-130 petitions in categories with long quota backlogs simply as a matter of allocation of resources.
There is another reason why direct EB-5 investors should be in a separate – and shorter – queue. Unlike regional center investors, whose presence in the U.S. is not necessary for the development of the investment project, often the direct EB-5 investor is the hands-on manager of the investment project. As such, his presence in the U.S. is critical on a far more expeditious basis.
Of course, this result would be obviated if USCIS adopts the earlier suggestions in this letter that would result in project issues being dealt with at the I-924 stage – a petition for which the developer’s attorney has filed a G-28. However, unless and until that happens, USCIS should act consistently with other employment-based petitions. In all of the employment-based petitions, USCIS recognizes that the employer may have different counsel than the employee. The I-526 petition is the only example in which USCIS forces two completely independent parties to have the same attorney, to the detriment of everyone.
If USCIS recognizes the project developer as a separate party in the I-526 process, it would only be required to issue one RFE for the project instead of, for example, one hundred RFEs for one hundred investors in the project. This is clearly lose‑lose.
Take a project with 100 investors. 100 different petitions with possibly 100 different attorneys are filed containing documentation of which the investors and their attorneys know very little and cannot certify the veracity. Virtually 100% of the I-829 petition involves documentation that is only available to the regional center and the project developer. Hopefully – but not definitely – all 100 I-829 petitions will contain the same information about the project and its job creation. If USCIS has questions about the job creation or the issue of whether the investors have sustained their investments, USCIS would need to issue 100 Requests for Evidence. Is all of this necessary? Does it really make any sense?
This writer believes that the answer to both questions is in the negative. What makes more sense is to have an I-829 exemplar process whereby USCIS can adjudicate all issues relating to the project. This would be filed by the project and its attorney. Any issues specific to the investor could be filed on the I-829 by the investor’s attorney when his filing window is reached. Any issues relating to the project should be adjudicated before most investors file their I-829 petitions.
Of course, there may be some instances in which there are enough jobs for the early investors at the time they file their I-829 petitions and then more jobs are created by the time later investors file their I-829 petitions. This can be dealt with through a procedure to update or supplement the I-829 exemplar petition.
I appreciate your consideration of these suggestions to make the EB-5 program a more efficient one, a more user-friendly one and a program that is more responsive to the public policy goals of Congress when it enacted the program, all without sacrificing any of USCIS’ important anti-fraud and national security concerns.
H. Ronald Klasko
For questions or comments relating to this open letter, please contact H. Ronald Klasko at firstname.lastname@example.org. For the latest information, visit our EB-5 Resource Center at www.eb5immigration.com.