USCIS wants to prioritize some I-924 applications so that they are processed in as little as 15 days.
And that's just one suggestion included in a 3-page proposal the agency released this month, which seeks to streamline the process by which EB-5 investor and regional center applications are either approved or denied. The proposed changes were announced on The Beacon, the official blog of USCIS.
According to agency Director Alejandro Mayorkas, USCIS has identified issues within the complex application process, which involves scrutiny of what are often very sophisticated business projects. The overarching purpose of the proposed changes, of course, is to attract more investors and entrepreneurs to the EB-5 immigrant investor program.
Long story short: USCIS acknowledges that inefficient processing of regional center and investor documentation makes the EB-5 visa program less accessible to immigrant investors and more frustrating for practitioners and regional center operators. This proposal might even be seen as an olive branch of sorts ? a sign that the agency is willing to fix problems it knows are holding the program back.
In explaining some of the steps it wants to take, USCIS differentiates between "actual" and "exemplar" I-924 applications. The former refers to "shovel-ready" projects that are, as the agency defines it, "sufficiently developed to support the immediate filing of actual I-526 petitions." "Exemplar" I-924 applications, on the other hand, are those that outline feasible projects that are not yet "ready for takeoff," so to speak.
The first proposed step seeks to prioritize "actual" I-924 applications to meet a target processing time of two months. The current target processing time is four months, with actual processing times for the I-924 hovering around five months.
For an additional fee, the filing regional center can make its application eligible for the USCIS Premium Processing Service (PPS), which would ensure a target 15-day processing time. I-526 petitions associated with "actual" I-924 applications will also be eligible for processing through PPS.
Making this documentation subject to faster processing could mean big changes for old and new regional centers alike. In the actual proposal document, USCIS provides a chart outlining just how quickly it would process new applications and petitions. While processing times for "actual" project documents should improve, it looks like little will change for "exemplar" projects. The proposed processing time for those applications stands at five months, which is no different from the current target processing schedule.
Although not mentioned in the proposal itself, the I-829 also appears on the chart. Under the proposed guidelines, it could be processed in as little as three months.
How would USCIS implement such a speedy new process? The proposal's second step calls for the creation of "Specialized Intake Teams" ? economists, business analysts, and adjudicators who would handle all processing of I-924 applications. Each team, supported by legal counsel, would decide if the submitted application meets the filing guidelines for "actual" applications.
By the same token, the agency proposes that an expert "Decision Board" composed of an economist and adjudicators make the final call on all I-924 applications. Defined in the third and final proposed step, this board could approve the I-924, deny it, or send it back to the intake team with a Request for Evidence (RFE).
Invitation to Comment
In announcing the proposal, Mayorkas invited the EB-5 community to comment on the noted changes, noting the agency's "commitment to soliciting [community] ideas and input." Presumably, this invitation reflects a willingness to consider possible modifications to the proposal by those affected.
After last month's release of EB-5 adjudicator training materials, it would appear that USCIS has become more aware of concerns related to its processing of EB-5 documentation. Among immigration attorneys, reaction to the release of those materials has been largely positive. Perhaps this recent proposal is a step in the same direction.
Mayorkas's invitation to comment on the proposal expires on June 17.