The U.S. EB-5 Regional Center program has faced a series of challenges in recent years, leading to a decline in foreign investor confidence. Various factors have contributed to this situation. Firstly, the renewal process for the regional center EB-5 program was separated from the regular Congressional budgetary procedures, making it more challenging to secure program extensions. The COVID-19 pandemic further complicated matters, hindering capital-raising efforts and causing delays in case processing. President Trump raised the minimum investment threshold to $900,000. Subsequently, the Behring case disrupted the regulatory changes implemented during Trump’s tenure. Most significantly, Congress allowed the regional center program to expire on June 30, 2021, resulting in a nine-month suspension of the EB-5 regional center program. Finally, on March 15, 2022, Congress passed the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022, establishing May 15, 2022, as the new effective date for the regional center program’s reinstatement.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) recently released a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) outlining a new policy related to the regional center’s EB-5 program. This policy has received mixed reactions within the investor immigration community. It stipulates, “Entities seeking regional center designation must submit Form I-956, Application for Regional Center Designation. USCIS will release this new form, along with instructions and provide additional information on the filing process by May 14, 2022.” Notably, the regional center program was slated to resume on May 15, 2022. The incorporation of this new step into the Act has raised concerns among stakeholders.
USCIS’s position is that previously designated regional centers cannot maintain their designation without submitting the new Form I-956. They argue that the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 effectively repealed the legacy Regional Center Program, necessitating prior regional centers to reapply for designation. This stance introduces delays for individuals seeking immigrant investor status, as the regional center must complete the I-956 filing, obtain approval, and subsequently file a project application with a receipt number before investors can initiate their green card applications.