In November 2014, President Obama announced he would take executive action to fix the immigration system and in conjunction with this action, issued a Presidential Memorandum, “Modernizing and Streamlining the U.S. Immigrant Visa System for the 21st Century.” In this Memorandum, the President directed the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) to lead an interagency effort to develop recommendations, in consultation with stakeholders and experts, to:
Reduce government costs, improve services for applicants, reduce burdens on employers, and combat waste, fraud, and abuse in the system;
Ensure that policies, practices, and systems use all of the visa numbers that Congress provides for and intends to be used, consistent with demand; and
Modernize the information technology infrastructure underlying the visa processing system with the goal to reduce redundant systems, improve the experience of applicants, and enable better oversight.
The report, released on July 16th, addresses several areas of the immigration system and EB-5 specifically on pages 30-31. From their research and communication, the following recommendations were made for improvements to the EB-5 Program:
Update standards for the EB-5 Program. By enhancing program integrity and updating eligibility requirements, this program can better serve our nation. DHS intends to pursue rulemaking to achieve those goals, including by requiring conflict-of-interest disclosures by Regional Center principals, enhancing background checks and public disclosure requirements, and increasing the minimum qualifying level of investment. DHS will also take steps to improve the adjudication and approval of Regional Center applications.
Clarify options for potential EB-5 investors to obtain visitor visas. State will amend its guidance in the Foreign Affairs Manual to clarify that potential EB-5 investors can 31 obtain visitor visas to examine or monitor potential qualifying investments if they otherwise qualify for the visitor visa.
The report recognizes the significant strides made in the recent past to improve the Program, including the creation of the Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) and move of operations from California to Washington, DC as well as the hiring of qualified economic and business experts to undertake the adjudication process. Additionally, the increase of interagency collaboration between USCIS and other relevant agencies contributed to the recent Program improvements.
These recommendations from the White House are an important reminder of the influence DHS can have on reforms of the Program as legislation is considered and policy changes seem imminent.
IIUSA continues to monitor the political climate pertaining to the Program and is actively engaging with key offices to ensure the Program is reauthorized ahead of the sunset date and, in line with the White House’s recommendations, is improved to enhance integrity and impact without stifling the economic viability.