Going into 2021, there are changes to anticipate regarding the EB-5 program. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the slowdown of many processes, but aspects of the EB-5 regional center program are progressing.
Some of the changes that people can expect to see include the reauthorization of the EB-5 regional center program, new processing fees, and increased collecting of biometrics.
What Is the EB-5 Program?
The EB-5 visa is a U.S. visa that enables eligible immigrant investors to establish lawful permanent residency in the U.S. by investing at least $900,000 in an American business that employs at least 10 workers. A majority of immigrant investors in the EB-5 program tend to invest in targeted employment areas (TEAs), which are areas with high unemployment rates or rural areas. The EB-5 visa was created in 1990 as a result of the introduction of the Immigration Act of 1990.
Investors in the EB-5 program can choose to invest via regional centers in large investor pools, or invest individually. Regional centers are typically for-profit private enterprises that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved.
New Processing Fees for EB-5 Visa Petitions
One of the biggest changes to the EB-5 program is the increased or decreased fees for all EB-5-related petitions. The following fees went into effect as of October 2, 2020:
- I-485 fees decreased to $1,130 from $1,140
- I-526 fees increased to $4,010 from $3,675
- I-829 fees increased to $3,900 from $3,750
- I-924 fees remained steady at $17,795
- I-924A fees increased to $4,465 from $3,035
The most notable of the fee changes is the 47% increase seen with the I-924A petition.
The Reauthorization of the EB-5 Regional Center Program
The EB-5 industry is anticipating another short-term reauthorization of the EB-5 regional center program, as the federal government has yet to provide a long-term reauthorization for longer than several months. The reauthorization is expected to offer several months’ worth of funds for the federal government while extending federal programs that are nearing expiration.
In an effort to ensure that a long-term reauthorization takes place at some point, CMB Regional Centers is cooperating with Invest in the USA (IIUSA) along with other EB-5 trade organizations. In the process, CMB and these organizations are working with members of Congress to reach a long-term reauthorization in the near future.
Changes to Biometrics
As of September 11, 2020, USCIS officially published a new proposed rule in the federal register that would permit an increase in biometric data collection from individuals in the EB-5 visa program. Specifically, the rule aims to increase the type of data collected along with the instances in which this data may be necessary to include.
How COVID-19 Impacted the EB-5 Program
Everyone in the U.S. has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic over the course of 2020, as the number of infections continues to increase and millions remain unemployed. With the suffering economy, the EB-5 program has the ability to help during these unprecedented times, particularly as it incentivizes investment in areas with high unemployment rates. Unfortunately, the existing TEA system setup doesn’t permit the EB-5 program to address the economic downturn that came with the pandemic.
The determined TEAs depend on unemployment averages from the previous year, which means that 2021 I-526 petitions will use figures from 2020. Subsequently, the unemployment figures in 2020 will factor into TEA designation in 2021, along with the duration of the pandemic, the number of permanently closed businesses, and the length of time it takes for the economy to recover.
The issue of relative employment may further impede the EB-5 program’s capacity for helping build the economy back up. In other words, if unemployment rates continue to increase in the U.S., the TEA program won’t incentivize many areas’ investments, regardless of their economic situation. The only areas to benefit from EB-5 TEA designation in 2021 will be those that were negatively affected the most.
As a result, only certain areas may benefit from the EB-5 program, but a majority of the country won’t see the benefits. However, the upside is that the previously mentioned changes to the EB-5 program could help better position the program to boost the American economy and secure a better future for the country coming out of the pandemic.
What all of this means is that if immigrant investors are considering filing EB-5 petitions, they’re better off filing now than waiting until a later date. The sooner individuals file for business immigrant visas, the more money they will save. While the new processing fees and other changes have been implemented, 2021 could bring about new changes that make the program even more expensive and difficult to navigate.