It looks like the EB-5 community will have to keep waiting for most of USCIS' proposed reforms.
According to a memo released by the USCIS Office of Public Engagement on September 13, the agency is now allowing direct email communication between USCIS adjudicators and regional center applicants filing Form I-924. This reform was just one of several the agency posited this summer.
For the time being, however, sending email to applicants is all USCIS is prepared to accomplish. Many EB-5 attorneys and regional center operators were ecstatic to learn that the agency was suggesting drastic changes to the way it handles program administration. So-called "premium" processing for exemplar investor petitions was one of the more popular suggestions, and several prominent voices in the EB-5 community thought that reform might come to pass as early as this month.
Unfortunately, it's not going to happen for some time. During last week's "Conversation with Director Mayorkas," the director made it clear that premium processing is months away from becoming reality. That's largely due to the fact that USCIS would have to create and approve a completely new form for the streamlined investor petitions.
Another popular measure being discussed in EB-5 circles was the addition of a "Decision Board" that would render the ultimate decisions in EB-5 adjudications. That reform is still a ways off as well. According to Director Mayorkas, several economists are currently being interviewed for positions on the board.
Although some industry insiders believed the reforms were coming sooner rather than later, the fact that they are coming hasn't changed. It's just that nobody knows when.
The congressional hearing: a step forward?
|Venture capitalist Jason Mendelson testifying before the House Judiciary Committee|
As if to add to last week's anti-climactic EB-5 reform announcements, the September 14 House Judiciary Committee hearing on the EB-5 immigrant investor program yielded few significant breakthroughs.
But members of Congress did get to hear about the success of the program and how the EB-5 visa makes it possible to create jobs without taxpayers spending a dime.
Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) praised the EB-5 program, stating that it "plays a part" in creating jobs for Americans. Both Democratic and Republican members of the committee seemed to support the program, although it's not clear whether Congress is prepared to extend it.
Another initiative raised before the committee was the prospect of an entrepreneur visa, a visa category that would finally exploit the thousands of EB-5 visas that remain unused year after year.
It appears that the House's latest legislative incarnation of an entrepreneur visa comes from Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). Presumably, it's nearly identical to the StartUp Act currently before the Senate.
Testifying before the committee were venture capitalists Jason Mendelson and Shervin Pishevar. According to Mendelson, a Managing Director at the Foundry Group, an IT-focused venture capital firm, the StartUp Act is "the only guaranteed job creation tactic" that he's aware of.
Mendelson also created and published a written version of his Congressional testimony.
Although the committee reached no real consensus about either visa program, it should be reassuring to the EB-5 community that both categories of visa seem to enjoy "surface-level" ? if not "formal" ? support among members of both parties.
Commenting on the entrepreneur visa, Congressman Smith expressed worry that such a program might be subject to "fraud and abuse."