Trying to Save the EB-5 Employment Creation Visa

July 1, 2009

Because we are a law firm devoted exclusively to the practice of immigration law, Law Offices of J Craig Fong of Los Angeles gets calls frequently about the so-called "millionaire green card." The more accurate name for this would be the EB-5 Employment Creation Immigrant Visa, or just "EB-5." This sometimes controversial visa provides for conditional legal permanent resident status for persons who, after November 1990, invest $1 million (or in some cases $500,000) in a new business that employs ten US citizens (or certain other authorized workers) full-time and engage in that business through day-to-day management.

There has been much criticism of the EB-5 visa; however, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials declared in February 2009 their firm commitment to the success of the EB-5 program, acknowledging the value of the program to the US economy. The USCIS Ombudsman's office has made the following recommendations for the EB-5 program:

1. Quickly finalize the Special Legislative Regulations, to alleviate the so-called "stuck" EB-5 investors who have been in limbo since 1995. Improperly documented cases can drag on for years.

2. Adjudicators should be instructed not to continually readjudicate or re-examine the validity of previously approved economic methodologies and reports. Additionally, USCIS should strive for consistency in and among adjudicators for the EB-5 cases, so that outcomes can be more predictable.

3. USCIS should issue more EB-5 published decisions, to provide guidance and predictability for attorneys and investors.

4. Better rulemaking is critical, so that rules that have been developed to date can be memorialized.

5. There should be an advisory panel to discuss issues affecting the EB-5 program. Participants should include representatives from Departments of Commerce, Treasury, State, Labor, and possibly the Small Business Administration.

6. USCIS should create and offer an operationally-sound special handling option, similar to premium processing.

7. USCIS should prioritize processing of Regional Center filings. Due to the amplified economic benefit of pooled investments for the Regional Center cases, an expedited track could be important during this economic downturn.

8. There should be more active promotion of the EB-5 program.

The EB-5 employment creation visa is a complex animal. If you are interested in applying for the EB-5 visa, please contact our office. --jcf