9/15 Stakeholder Meeting

In case you missed the 9/15/11 stakeholder meeting with USCIS, you can get a copy of the presentation here, and listen to audio that I recorded today by clicking on the media player at the base of this post.

The Q&A period included a number of interesting technical points. The panelists gave advice and made statements more generously then they usually do, but keep in mind that “it depends” is probably really the correct answer to most of the questions, even if the panel was too nice this time to fall back on that response. I’d caution everyone to keep context in mind and not latch on to sentences from a conference call as the final word on any issue. For example, I doubt you can file an I-829 showing that not all EB-5 investment in a new commercial enterprise has been actually put to use in any project, with the argument “remember that call when Kevin Cummins said…” Or count on “but that one time Sasha Haskell said…” when you file an amendment to industries by “just filling out the form”  and then get an RFE pointing out that you failed to provide sufficient detail to show in verifiable detail how capital investment offerings in the requested industry will create jobs.

The presentation includes one extremely useful section: a list of the common reasons for Requests For Evidence and denials on I-924 cases. You can find this on slides 14-17 of the presentation, and I’ve also reproduced the content on my page of advice for applicants.  The list really captures the few points I see repeated over and over on RFEs.  It’s not hard to avoid an RFE; read this list and get your application right the first time.

Also note the topic of appropriate geographic areas for Regional Centers. The current I-924 form doesn’t really ask for anything on geographic area beyond a map with borders marked, and nothing prevents applicants from doing what, in fact, they do: apply for the location of their proposed project(s) plus as many surrounding counties as they dare — either because they might ever do something in those areas or (usually) to look big and assist marketing efforts. And a review of recently-approved centers shows that applicants are increasingly ambitious, with more and more full state and even multi-state centers approved. Probably this doesn’t matter since RC areas aren’t exclusive, but it isn’t what Congress had in mind when it specified that “A Regional Center may be granted jurisdiction over a limited geographic area for the purpose of concentrating pooled investment in defined economic zones.” I haven’t heard the issue raised much before, but now USCIS may be planning to crack down in this area.  According to slide 35 of the presentation:
–A Regional Center must demonstrate in the Form I-924 that its activities will focus on the requested geographic region, and not simply on isolated and unrelated areas within the region
–It may be more appropriate for the Regional Center to initially request a geographic area that is in keeping with the economic impacts of the existing project, and then subsequently file an amendment request for an expanded geographic area as the details and location of future projects become known
I’m hoping that the forth-coming revised I-924 Form will offer more guidance on appropriate geographic areas and how exactly USCIS wants applicants to demonstrate the geographic focus of their activities.

This conference call also impressed me that the leadership at least is serious about receiving feedback through the EB-5 inquiry mailbox (for case-specific issues outside the new direct email communication) and the Office of Public Engagement email address (for policy issues).  It seems that problems reported (and documented) in emails to OPE have actually been reviewed even by Director Mayorkas and used in training adjudicators, and that problems (for example in Regional Center approval letters) have actually been dealt with following emails to the EB-5 inquiry email address. And of course there’s the new direct email communication for all pending I-924 cases.

Audio recording of the 9/15 stakeholder meeting:

About Suzanne (www.lucidtext.com)
Suzanne Lazicki is a business plan writer, EB-5 expert, and founder of Lucid Professional Writing.

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