EB-5 to move from CA to DC
5/10/2013 Update: As of 4/29/2013, the Washington DC EB-5 office is open, hiring is underway, and cases are beginning to be transitioned to the new office. There has not yet been an official public announcement or instructions to change the filing process. Details on the progress of the transition were given by Rob Silvers in a presentation to AILA on May 2. USCIS Director Mayorkas sent an email last July announcing that USCIS would create a new office to oversee administration of the EB-5 program, and he discussed the proposal with stakeholders in December. I didn’t comment much at the time because the talk sounded preliminary and I didn’t expect to see action any time soon. But there has been action, as well as more talk, and I’m taking the plan seriously. Here are notes on what I know so far about the proposal. The details come from the 07/18/2012 Public Engagement email, the 12/03/2012 Conversation with the Director, and the 01/15/2013 National Stakeholder Engagement.
- USCIS proposes a “realignment of responsibilities” for administration of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program to a new EB-5 Program Office to be located in Washington DC.
- Once operational, the office will deal with I-924 applications and I-526 and I-829 petitions. Only the I-485 will be handled elsewhere.
- The agency intends to accomplish the realignment very swiftly, with the goal to have the new EB-5 program office up and running and evaluating cases by June 2013. Applicants and petitioners will continue to work with the California Service Center until the shift occurs.
- The new office will be led by a new Chief of Immigrant Investor Programs. The program chief will have significant experience in the business world and will assume responsibility for ensuring that the program is administered efficiently, with integrity, with predictability, and with an understanding of today’s business realities. The chief of new EB-5 program office will report directly to Deputy Director of the agency. Robert Cox of the USCIS Office of Chief Counsel has been named as acting chief of the immigrant investor program during the bridge period.
- The new EB-5 program office will be staffed with personnel with economic, business, and legal expertise and experience. This includes the adjudicators themselves as well as policy personnel.
- The staff will include dedicated staff drawn from other components within agency, including full-time public engagement resources, legislative affairs resources, and personnel from fraud protection and national security.
- It hasn’t been decided yet whether there will be there be specialized adjudicators, counterparts to “the economist,” the “lawyer,” the “business specialist” and so on. Director Mayorkas likes the idea of a team specializing in project-eligibility and another team specializing in client eligibility. The question is how precisely to divide the specializations, and which areas of the adjudication process would most benefit from dedicated specialists. (The EB-5 team at the CSC currently has over 50 dedicated staff, including 40 service officers and supervisors, eight economists, and two securities attorneys.)
- The new program office will incorporate channels of direct communication with the review board team. Email is expected to be the primary channel. The hope is “to divorce ourselves from the static institutional model of communication” between adjudicators and applicants and to achieve a greater fluidity of communication.
- Director Mayorkas has in mind a goal of reaching 90-120 day processing times, including for I-924 applications. The Ombudsman’s office is holding an engagement on March 5th that will discuss the “new EB-5 adjudication unit in Washington, D.C.” among other matters. Stakeholders are invited to submit written comments by February 15th. With comprehensive immigration reform on the table, the EB-5 program may be up for changes even beyond the realignment of responsibilities to Washington DC.