DHS Seeks to Reform EB-5 Regional Center Program


Today, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") published advance notice on the Federal Register of proposed rule-making for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program. The notice states that DHS "is considering making regulatory changes to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program... to better reflect business realities..., to increase predictability and transparency in the adjudication process for stakeholders, to improve operational efficiency for the agency, and to enhance program integrity."

The Regional Center Program is a key component of the EB-5 investor visa program, which is designed to encourage foreign nationals to invest money into U.S. commercial enterprises and create U.S. jobs by offering foreign investors a path to U.S. permanent residency. Under the current program, foreign nationals must create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers and invest $1 million (or $500,000 in rural or high unemployment areas, known as targeted employment areas) in a U.S. commercial enterprise. In recent years, the program has come under fire amidst rapid program expansion and a series of high-profile controversies, including criminal charges against EB-5 regional program directors accused of fraud and misuse of funds.

Leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the EB-5 Regional Center Program, have opposed the straight reauthorization of the program, citing "rampant abuse". Congress, however, has maintained funding for the program without reform through continuing resolutions. DHS is now seeking public input on several issues affecting the EB-5 Regional Center Program prior to issuing a proposed rule, including:

1) Initial designation of regional centers and exemplar approval
2) Safeguards for monitoring and oversight
3) Requirements for continued participation in the program
4) Termination of regional center designations

DHS is requesting responses to specific questions by April 11, 2017.