USCIS held an EB-5 stakeholder engagement call on November 7, 2017 and has published its talking points from the call on its website. Highlights from the call include discussions of the Regional Center Compliance Review Program, customer service, and how to avoid being a fraud victim. Additional topics included the use of “hybrid teams” to adjudicate I-526 petitions, and a new process for case management.
Regional Center Compliance Review Program
The objective of a compliance review is to verify the information provided in I-924 and I-924A filings to ensure continued eligibility for designation as a regional center. Currently, there are 876 approved regional centers and USCIS plans to “eventually conduct compliance reviews on approximately 5-10 percent of the regional center population per year.” Importantly, the compliance review site visits are different from the site visits to job creating enterprises that USCIS is currently conducting prior to adjudication of related I-829 applications.
To prepare for a compliance review, USCIS recommends designating a “point person” to interact with the review team. This person should be aware of EB-5 requirements and have the ability to quickly access documentation that verifies continued EB-5 compliance.
Transparency and Customer Service
USCIS is currently working on revisions to the Form I-924A filing instructions, and has mentioned that it finds explanatory cover letters “extremely helpful” in reviewing these applications. I-924 exemplar filers should continue to include cover letters that alert USCIS to related I-526 petitions. Additionally, USCIS has added helpful filing tips and regional center termination notices to its website.
How can foreign nationals avoid being defrauded?
A stakeholder submitted this question, and USCIS’s recommendations included seeking counsel before investing, or seeking information from their local US consulate. USCIS was careful to note that “approval” (of a regional center designation or I-526 petition) does not signal “endorsement” as it may in some countries. USCIS does not endorse any regional center.
Several key portions of USCIS’s website have been published in simplified Chinese to help potential investors access information. To further assist investors, USCIS published an investor alert in 2013, which is also available in Spanish, Korean, and traditional Chinese. Warning signs of fraud include:
- promises of a visa or becoming a permanent resident
- guaranteed investment returns or no investment risk
- overly consistent high investment returns
- layers of companies run by the same individuals
- unlicensed sellers
- unregistered investments
Hybrid Teams for I-526 Adjudication
During the previous stakeholder engagement in March 2017, USCIS announced that it had created “a division of Adjudicators and Economists” to focus on I-829 adjudications. As a result of the new hybrid team USCIS has noted a reduction in I-829 processing time. To build on this success USCIS has launched a similarly-composed team to focus on I-526 adjudication.
New Process for Case Management
In 2017 USCIS began a new process for case management. “Unworked” new commercial enterprises associated with a regional center are assigned to Adjudications Officer teams. A supervisor then assigns initial I-526 review to a lead officer. Once this review is complete, all remaining and future I-526 petitions associated with the same new commercial enterprise are placed in the general queue for adjudication.