EB-5 programme via regional centers further delayed; hope pinned on a proposed bill

EB-5 programme via regional centers further delayed; hope pinned on a proposed bill
© Provided by The Times of India

MUMBAI: The US Congress has recently passed a continuing resolution, delaying a government shutdown and extending the current government budget through February 18, 2022. This means that the prospects for EB-5 reauthorisation have been pushed back for those who opt for the investment-linked green card program via regional centres and for the industry stakeholders.

The cash for green card (as it is commonly referred to) programme is still open for direct investments, even as investments via regional centres was by far the more popular route before it lapsed as of midnight June 30, this year.

“Many industry stakeholders were hopeful that the EB-5 via regional centre programme would be reauthorised by being attached to this continuing resolution. Unfortunately, despite active engagement with multiple senators, it was not included as an amendment. In fact, this was a clean continuing resolution, meaning that only one amendment, the funding of Afghanistan refugee resettlement, was attached,” explains Suresh Rajan, Executive Chairman and Founder of LCR Capital Partners.

Stakeholders have largely expressed optimism about a reauthorisation in 2022. “There is a consensus draft bill for reauthorization already introduced in the Senate and more members have officially supported the Grassley-Leahy bill,” adds Rajan.

The draft of the Grassley and Leahy bill proposes to extend the EB-5 Regional Center Program through September 2024. It empowers government agencies to terminate applications where there is fraud, criminal misuse or on grounds of national security. Regional centres and projects into which investments flowed are to be subject to greater checks. The Bill also proposed the establishment of an ‘Integrity Fund’ to which regional centres and investors would contribute in terms of a fee. The funds collected would help government agencies to conduct site visits and investigate fraud.

However, the EB-5 direct investment route program is still available which requires employment generation for ten American workers and meeting the investment norms. Following a favourable US district court verdict in June, the investment requirements reverted to their original levels which is $ 1 million (as opposed to the revised $ 1.8 million). For Targeted Employment Area (TEA) investments – in rural areas or areas of high unemployment, the investment requirement now stands at $ 500,000 as opposed to the revised hike of $ 900,000. However, it is learnt that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has filed an appeal against this decision.

Read also: USCIS appeals against EB-5 regional center lawsuit, that reversed hike in investment norms

While immigration experts and investment pool managers have cited a notable spike in applications received and interest shown by potential investors under the direct route, concerns remain.

Naresh Gehi, Esq, Principal Attorney at Gehi’s International and Immigration Legal Services, advocates a wait and watch approach, till a clearer picture emerges.

“Investors should be very careful in investing under the direct investor program especially because of the unstable environment which currently persists. For example, an investor may directly invest $500,000 under the old law and in accordance with the US district court decision. Thereafter, if the Secretary of Homeland decides to increase the amount permanently to $900,000 then this can become a big obstacle for people who may have to invest an additional $400,000. In such an instance, if a direct investor does not have the additional funding, he can wind up in troubled waters,” explains Gehi.

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