Congress Extends EB-5 Regional Center Program Until September 30, 2017 while Negotiations Continue
May 3, 2107
Congress has agreed to extend the EB-5 Regional Center program until September 30, 2017 with no changes. The extension of the EB-5 Regional Center program without changes is a significant step forward in the continuity of the program, and opens the door to continued negotiations among legislators over the future requirements of the program.
The extension of the EB-5 Regional Center program until September 30, 2017 was negotiated as part of the deal reached between congressional representatives in the Senate and House of Representatives to extend the current budget through a Continuing Resolution.
The extension will allow Congress to finalize negotiations to improve the EB-5 Regional Center program. At present, two draft pieces of legislation have been tabled in the U.S. Senate (the upper house of the U.S. Congress) for analysis and comment to industry representatives. Each draft bill seeks to update the program. On April 15, 2017, Senators Grassley (Republican from Iowa) and Leahy (Democrat from Vermont) distributed draft legislation to reform the EB-5 Regional Center program which mirrored draft legislation they tabled in December 2016. On April 30, 2017, Senator Cornyn from Texas circulated another draft bill that would also reform and improve the EB-5 Regional Center program.
The positions set out in the two draft bills being considered in the U.S. Senate show consensus among legislators to extend the EB-5 Regional Center program for five to six years, and to increase the minimum investment amount for high unemployment and rural areas to approximately $800,000. Both draft bills seek to require EB-5 Regional Centers to obtain prior approval of their project from USCIS before marketing projects to the public. Additionally, both draft bills seek to stringently regulate the operations and management of EB-5 Regional Centers approved to operate by USCIS under the program.
It is likely that the U.S. Senate will continue negotiations on these draft bills over the next 30 to 60 days. Most observers believe that an agreement is likely to be reached, and that final drafting of the new EB-5 Regional Center program will be finalized this summer.
At the same time, USCIS released new draft regulations for the EB-5 Regional Center program in January 2017 and accepted comments from the public until April 2017. While the White House has issued executive orders freezing most regulations, USCIS has not confirmed whether it will move forward with the process finalizing the draft EB-5 regulations. In fact, there are significant differences in the draft EB-5 regulations and the draft legislative bills under negotiation in the U.S. Senate. We expect, nevertheless, that USCIS will likely wait until after Congressional negotiations are over before taking concrete steps to finalize any proposed rules affecting the EB-5 program.
I.A. Donoso & Associates, based in Washington D.C., is uniquely positioned to monitor and report on developments in the U.S. Congress affecting the EB-5 Regional Center program.