With the continued emphasis on immigration reform, very few areas of immigration are immune from Congressional oversight. One particular visa program that has received harsh criticism from some Congressional members recently involves a program that grants visas to foreign investors. The program has also been the subject of lawsuits and allegations of abuse and fraud. Investors and others involved in the EB-5 Investor Visa Program may want to consult with a Virginia employment immigration attorney now to discuss how upcoming changes in the program could impact their plans to invest in U.S. businesses.

What is the EB-5 Investor Visa Program?

The EB-5 program was established in 1990 by Congress to encourage capital investment by foreign investors. The USCIS manages the program. The intent of the program was to stimulate the economy and create jobs for Americans through foreign investment.

Under the program, a foreign investor could obtain a green card by investing certain amounts in ventures located in the United States. The investment had to meet monetary requirements, but it also had to meet job creation requirements. The investor could apply for U.S. citizenship five years after receiving his or her green card. In addition to allegations of fraud and abuse, some critics have alleged that the current program raises serious risks to national security.

Congressional Oversight Hearings on EB-5 Program

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on the subject of the EB-5 program on June 19, 2018. The hearing was partially entitled “Citizenship for Sale,” which indicated one of the major concerns of the current visa program.

USCIS Director Cissna testified at the hearing and provided information about the steps the agency was taking now to help improve the EB-5 program while Congress continued to undertake legislative reform to address other issues related to the visa program. Some of the steps the USCIS have taken to decrease the possibility of abuse, fraud, and national security risks within the program include:

  • Expansion of security checks for individuals and regional center businesses;
  • A dedicated department to review yearly reports filed by regional centers and the identification of regional centers that fail to maintain eligibility requirements;
  • Hired additional officers whose primary job duty is to conduct EB-5 site visits;
  • Partnered with various federal agencies to strengthen the EB-5 program, including partnering with the SEC, ICE, and FBI;
  • Published revised forms to improve the vetting of regional centers, individual applicants, and regional center principals by enhanced data collection; and,
  • Promoted program transparency by publishing regional center termination notices in the USCIS electronic reading room.

Proposed Changes to the EB-5 Program

In addition to internal changes and revisions made by the USCIS to the EB-5 program, proposed changes to the program are pending review by the OMB. The proposed new rules could become effective very soon. Some of the anticipated changes according to the proposed new rules include:

  • Increasing the amount of the minimum investment required to obtain an EB-5 visa;
  • Changes to how targeted employment areas are designated; and,
  • Permitting older EB-5 priority dates for some applicants.

Expected Changes by the European Commission

The European Commission is also expected to assess the risks associated with similar citizenship-through-investment plans in the EU. The Commission shares some of the same concerns that some members of Congress have about the lack of oversight and other risks associated with programs that allow visas and citizenship for foreign investors based on capital investment. The EU programs provide European passports that allow for free movement throughout most of Europe in exchange for large investments.

Contact a Virginia Immigration Attorney if You Have Questions

Our Virginia immigration attorneys are monitoring the changes and the proposed changes to the EB-5 visa program carefully. If you have questions regarding the changes or a current application, please don’t hesitate to schedule a consult with a Virginia immigration attorney.

Posted in: Immigration