1. Legislative Update on Efforts to Extend EB-5 Regional Center Program:
The EB-5 Regional Center Program, which allows investors to qualify for a green card based on an investment of $500,000 in an approved regional center, is set to expire on March 6, 2009. Due to the pending sunset date, many prospective investors are waiting to see whether the program will be extended before making a commitment. Recently, representatives of the Invest in the USA (IIUSA) trade association, headed by Steve Yale-Loehr (an attorney and EB-5 expert) met with Senate and House immigration staffers in Washington, D.C. They received word that another 6-month extension until September 30, 2009 will likely be approved by Congress as part of a new continuing resolution or an omnibus appropriations bill. But, it remains unclear whether Congress will permanently approve the EB-5 regional center program at this time.
2. EB-5 Premium Processing?
The USCIS authorizes “premium processing” in certain cases in which the USCIS will adjudicate an application within two weeks for an extra fee of $1,000. Premium processing has never been available before in the context of EB-5 adjudication, but that may change. In a recent conference call between USCIS, IIUSA and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the USCIS reported that it was transferred all adjudication of EB-5 applications to the California Service Center. 10 adjudicators there would be assigned to work on EB-5 cases. They reported that after the transition is complete, the USCIS may consider instituting premium processing. They did not indicate what stages of the application process this would apply to (stage 1: the I-526 petition, stage 2: adjustment of status or consular processing, and/or stage 3: I-829 removal of conditional status). Presumably it would just to the I-526 petition. The USCIS also stated that it was very unlikely that they would allow concurrent submission of stage 1 and stage 2 applications, which is allowed in some other green card categories.
3. New Regional Center Approved in Orlando Area:
Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa near Orlando was recently approved as Florida’s first EB-5 Regional Center:
Sam Sutton, managing member of the Lake Buena Vista Resort, currently has 500 condo-hotel units and wants to build another 1,300. To finance that, he wants to sell 70 existing condo-hotel units and then attract more investors through the EB-5 Program to finance the construction of a new 152-unit building at the resort.
He wants to attract 35 investors to contribute $1 million each to buy 70 units in the existing condo-hotel. The next phase calls for 35 additional investors to contribute $1 million each to build a new 152-unit building. In other words, there will be 70 total slots for investors and each will be required to invest $1 million.
Note that not all EB-5 Regional Centers permit an investment of $500,000. This is only allowed if the regional center is located in a “target employment area” (area of high unemployment or a rural area). The Orlando project is not in a targeted employment area, therefore the standard investment of $1 million is required.