Congress introduced the EB-5 Program in 1990 to stimulate the US economy through capital investments by foreign investors and job creation. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa allows qualified foreign investors and their immediate families to receive permanent residency in the US by investing $500,000 or $1,000,000 in the US that creates jobs.
In 1992, Congress introduced the Immigrant Investor Program, popularly known as the Regional Center Program. This Program sets aside EB-5 visas for applicants willing to invest in commercial enterprises in regional centers approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to promote economic growth.
EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa: The Two Programs
The Regional Center EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program permits pooled investments that allow investors the option to apply for an EB-5 visa through an investment in a fund. This investment finances a job-creating development project.
While the direct EB-5 Program is permanent, the indirect EB-5 investment through the Regional Center Program is not. However, 95% of EB-5 applicants apply through Regional Center EB-5 program.
Until the Program reached its pinnacle in 2014–2015, the US Congress regularly reauthorised and extended the Regional Center EB-5 Program without any changes.
However, during the last Congress (2019-2020), there was a significant change in the legislation that reauthorised the EB-5 Regional Center Program. In January 2021, the Regional Center Program was uncoupled from the US budgetary extension. Given this change in the legislative process for EB-5, the deadline to renew the program was June 30, 2021. Since the program was not renewed, it closed on June 30, 2021.
If the EB-5 Program is not reauthorised, it could either result in a temporary lapse or would be permanently discontinued.
Regional Center EB-5 Program: The Two Key Changes
From the creation of the EB-5 visa in 1990 until November 2019, the minimum investment amount for investors willing to invest in targeted employment areas was $500,000. In November 2019, inflation since 1990 was taken into account, and the minimum investment amount was increased to $900,000.
In June 2021, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program witnessed two key developments:
- On June 22, 2021, a federal court ruling lifted the regulations, bringing the minimum investment back to $500,000. However, the Regional Center route was near its sunset date (June 30). This left investors an opportunity window of fewer than 10 days to take advantage of making indirect investments at a lower amount.
- Due to the legislative change failure, the Regional Center Program is now closed. However, the Direct EB-5 Program is open and valid.
Reinstatement of the EB-5 Regional Center Program:
The Two Possibilities
Two things can happen: The regional centre EB-5 program may be renewed either through new legislation OR an extension is attached with a budgetary extension of the US government budget.
- If a new legislative bill with new rules is passed, the investment amount is likely to go up, somewhere between $500,000 and $900,000.
- If the Regional Center Program is reattached to the Continuing Resolution (CR) budgetary extension of the US government spending (this is more likely to happen), then the Regional Center Program will be back at the $500,000 level.
The Minimum Investment amount of $500,000 may be increased to $900,000 by the US Govt. from February 18, 2022.
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What can you, a potential investor do?
Since the USCIS no longer accepts new applications under the Regional Center Program, you will have to wait for a few months until the Program is reinstated. However, this doesn’t mean that you cannot do anything during this interim period.
Experts have been speculating an opening of a short window, where investors can file at $500,000 in case the Regional Center Program gets reauthorised before the regulations are updated.
If you want to take advantage of such an opportunity, you’ll need to do the pre-filing work well in advance. The pre-work should typically include two things:
- Selecting a Regional Centre
- Selecting a good quality EB-5 project to invest in
Your planning and documentation process should start after consulting with an immigrant consultant. The immigration consultancy firms like Nysa Global that specialises in EB-5 investments, can prove to be quite beneficial to you at this point in time.
All in all, there are a lot of speculations and optimism associated with the future of the Regional Center EB-5 Program. Whatever the future holds, your application process needs to be handled with a healthy amount of prudence and patience. And this is where Nysa Global can help.