Despite worry and bitterness over Standard & Poor's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, there's one small corner of the nation's investment community that's all abuzz with excitement – positive excitement.
For EB5 visa program stakeholders, hopes are high that a press release issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers promises that will make business much easier to conduct. On August 2, the department declared its intention to implement administrative reforms across various visa categories, the purpose of which is "to fuel the nation's economy and stimulate investment by attracting foreign entrepreneurial talent of exceptional ability or who otherwise can create jobs, form startup companies, and invest capital in areas of high unemployment."
To meet those ends, DHS will begin implementing changes it proposed last May that would streamline the processing of EB5 investor petitions and offer "premium" processing to investors in "shovel ready" EB5 projects.
For years, slow petition processing has delayed the flow of foreign capital into job-hungry regions of the U.S. It has also led to intense frustration on behalf of those who utilize the program and may even have made EB5 a less attractive option to foreign investors than similar programs in Canada and Australia.
USCIS is aware of these issues. Beginning in April, the agency took the first in a succession of steps indicating its recognition of EB5 practitioners' frustrations and concerns by releasing nearly 500 pages of materials used to train EB5 adjudicators.
It was during the following month that USCIS proposed a premium processing arrangement and even invited EB5 stakeholders' suggestions about approving the petitioning process.
We now "expect that USCIS will begin phased implementation of the proposal to make the EB-5 process more expeditious and user friendly no later than September," said attorney Ron Klasko in a recent blog entry. The agency is "changing the adversarial process to a consultative process, with regional center developers being afforded the right to a hearing with expert economists and business analysts to resolve any issues."
Klasko also made note of an upcoming congressional hearing by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
It seems that on September 8, Congressman Smith will use the hearing to discuss conversion of the EB5 program from a pilot program to a permanent one, something IIUSA has lobbied hard for these last few months. As Klasko observed, the congressman will almost certainly "be a key figure" in the push for EB5 permanency.
Whatever the outcome, September is poised to be an exciting month for the EB5 visa community. As attorney Jose Latour stated so emphatically on his blog last week, "USCIS, you have a very supportive EB-5 bar ready to help you pave the road through these positive changes and we are at your service!".
Faster processing means more immigrant investor dollars will create jobs in our communities. And that's a good thing not just for EB5 visa stakeholders, but for the nation at large