Could Shared Agency Responsibility Improve the EB-5 Investor Visa Program?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - 8:45am

A recent study by the Brookings Institution proposes that, to improve the EB-5 investor visa program, USCIS should engage the assistance of the Department of Commerce and other agencies to oversee the programs of the over 400 Regional Centers within the US. The EB-5 investor visa program was created in 1990 to attract money from foreign investors to the U.S. and create jobs. While EB-5 investor visa petitions have increased exponentially each year since the program’s reinstatement in 2003, it still fails to attract enough investors to use its entire allotment of 10,000 immigrant visas (green cards). In comparison to overall foreign investment in the U.S. through other means, the foreign investment attracted through the EB-5 program is only a tiny fraction. As an example, the study sites that total foreign investment in the U.S. was over $200 billion in 2012, but the EB-5 program has raised only $5 billion in the entire 20 years of its existence.

The study concludes that “underutilization” of this program may be due to program deficiencies that force foreign investors to face a “complicated web of intermediaries” without appropriate data to evaluate the program. The study also notes the lack of oversight along with the program’s heavy compliance requirements as disadvantageous to foreign investors. The recent events that have led to the current investigation of Regional Centers in South Dakota and Texas, further underline the need for greater oversight by agencies with expertise to review business plans and enforce compliance to help protect investors.

The EB-5 program allows qualifying foreign investors making a capital investment of $1,000,000 (or $500,000 if investing through one of the now over 400 Regional Centers in the U.S.) and creating at least 10 U.S. jobs, to obtain U.S. permanent residence (green cards) for themselves, their spouse and their unmarried children under the age of 18. As demand for these green cards has not yet exceeded the number of green cards available under this program, the EB-5 investor visa program remains one of the fastest routes to obtain a U.S. green card for qualifying petitioners. The results of the study highlight the importance of significant due diligence for potential foreign investors as well as the need to partner with an experienced immigration attorney to help navigate the complex maze of current requirements for these visa applicants and the additional requirements that are sure to follow if that further scrutiny by additional agencies is added to the process.