Regional Center Proposal Denials

People thinking about applying for regional center designation often ask me whether there’s any publically-available info about previously-filed applications. The answer is no, you can’t see someone else’s successful application. But you can learn something from failures. The USCIS website has a category of Administrative Appeals Office decisions for cases involving “Request for Participation as a Regional Center.” So far two cases have been posted, one from 2008 and one from 2009. I’ve summarized the key issues below.

12/22/2009 AAO decision: Regional Center Proposal Denial

The case dealt with a proposed regional center to cover fourteen counties in Maryland and invest in eleven types of projects: office buildings, lab sciences research space, biotechnology manufacturing, retail stores, restaurants, owner occupied and rental residences, hotels and short-term condominium rentals, recreational and sports activities, sports complexes, a bus station and parking garages. The proposal was denied by USCIS on 7/28/2009, and the AAO confirmed this denial on appeal on 12/22/2009. I take three key lessons from this case:

  1. Project detail is important. The regional center applicant chose not to comply with USCIS’s request, in a Request for Evidence, for a detailed business plan and more focused economic analysis for the sample projects. The applicant argued that such a level of detail isn’t required by the regulations, which only call for a “general prediction” of the projects in which it will invest. However the AAO judged that the regulations require the applicant 1) to provide whatever additional evidence the agency, in its discretion, might deem necessary, and 2) to provide “verifiable” detail as to how the jobs will be created, which could reasonably include focused economic analysis based on a detailed business plan.
  2. Details will be checked. This decision shows that the adjudicator and/or the AAO googled the proposed sample projects and found discrepancies with info provided in the application, judged the plausibility of economic predictions against publically available demographic statistics, and checked the economist’s math.
  3. Documentation is important. USCIS complained that the application didn’t include letters from developers of the proposed projects confirming that they’d work with the regional center, didn’t provide copies of industry reports cited in the economic analysis, and didn’t document the funds committed to regional center operations. The decision repeatedly states that “unsupported assertions of counsel do not constitute evidence.”

11/18/2008 AAO decision: Regional Center Proposal Denial

The case dealt with a proposal filed in 2006 and denied by USCIS out of hand, without issuing a Request for Evidence. The center proposed to cover several counties in Washington State and invest in activities that would “range from commercial real estate development to infrastructure/development financing for local utilities . . . from regional transportation to retail shops.” Some morals of this case:

  1. Don’t file prematurely. Before filing a proposal, the applicant must already exist as an entity and be able to prove it (ie by Articles of Incorporation). The applicant must already have specific potential investment projects to propose, or be able to demonstrate that it has already entered negotiations with entities interested in receiving loans. And USCIS won’t necessarily issue a Request for Evidence that allows making up deficiencies in the original proposal.
  2. Specific projects are important. It’s not enough to propose “broad investment types.” The service wants to see specific projects identified.

About Suzanne (www.lucidtext.com)
Lucid Professional Writing provides writing and editing services for businesses and scholars, and specializes in assisting clients to prepare business plans for filing with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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