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Changes on the Horizon for EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program - June 11, 2011

The Immigrant Investor Program, commonly referred to as the EB-5 Program, makes green cards available to eligible immigrant investors and their family members who invest $1 million in commercial enterprises that create at least 10 U.S. jobs (or $500,000 investment in targeted employment areas). At long last, the EB-5 Program may be undergoing significant changes in the upcoming months that will make the program more attractive to prospective investors. First created in 1990, the program has been plagued by changing interpretations, uncertainty, and slow processing times, leading many to call for its complete review. In May, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) responded, and promulgated proposed rules offering three fundamental changes to the way it processes certain regional center filings, but stopped short of a total overhaul.

The first change is a fast-track for applications of enterprises that are fully developed and ready to be implemented, with an option for premium processing to further accelerate the review. Premium processing guarantees processing within 15 calendar days. Second, USCIS proposes the creation of specialized intake teams comprised of economists and subject-area experts to review proposals, communicate directly with applicants, and streamline the resolution of issues without the need for formal requests for additional evidence (RFEs). Third, USCIS proposes an "expert decision board" comprised of economists and adjudicators and supported by legal counsel, to make decisions on new EB-5 regional center applications.

The proposal is available for public comment until June 17, 2011. Those who are interested in the EB-5 program are encouraged to weigh in.