The buzz at last month’s American Immigration Lawyers Association Annual Conference was that Congress will not renew the EB-5 regional centers visa program before it expires on September 30, 2016. Instead, new legislation is expected to continue the program with changes.
The EB-5 visa program allows a foreign national and her or his family to get green cards by investing $1 million in a regional center—or $500,000 in one located in a high unemployment or rural area—that creates at least 10 full-time jobs. A regional center is a business approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Good News & Bad News
The potential changes come with both good and bad news for foreign investors.
Changes to EB-5 regional centers program would attempt to stamp out the fraud and national security risks that have tainted the program. That’s good news for investors.
The bad news is the required investment will likely increase. Foreign investors may soon need to put up $1.2 million in a regional center or $800,000 in one in a rural or high unemployment area to get a green card. But this also presents an opportunity.
Investors who want to save $200,000 to $300,000 by participating under the current regional centers program, now is the time. Investing in the program now when there’s a chance it will be discontinued adds another layer of risk. However, the EB-5 regional centers program is inherently risky since all money invested must be “at risk” and subject to loss to meet USCIS requirements.
Investors can take steps to mitigate the risk of losing their funds if the regional centers program is discontinued. For instance, investors should look for a regional center willing to put their funds in escrow, as I mentioned in a previous post about the EB-5 program. Investors should also try to get in writing that all funds will be returned if Congress dismantles the program.