Info from 1/23 Stakeholder Engagement

The presentation from the 1/23 Stakeholder Engagement did not, this time, contain the written Q&A, so I’ve written up my notes on note-worthy points that emerged at this meeting. In case you’d like to review the entire conversation, you can download my recording of the call.

TEA Issues

  • Kevin of the Office of Policy and Strategy announced that, as indicated in the draft EB-5 guidance memo, “we are going to defer to the state agencies in regards to the geographic area of TEA designation.” However, USCIS is not yet saying whether it will allow a single census tract to qualify as a geographic area. Kevin specifically declined to state a position, saying that it “is a question that we’ll cover in the written questions/issues.”
  • Sasha Haskell said that they have consulted with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and determined that yes, it is appropriate to use newly-available five-year American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau as a base for estimates for TEA designation. (As an alternative to Census 2010 data.)
  • Question: When determining 150% of the national average for unemployment rate, which national unemployment rate should we use? Just the most current one? Sasha Haskell: In general the recommendations that we have received from the Bureau of Labor Statistics involve the analysis of 12-month or an annualized set of data. So I think in general that’s what we are looking for.

“Hold at headquarters” Issue for I-924 Regional Center applications

  • Sasha Haskell: “If I understood the question correctly, there is a concern raised about an issue that’s being examined across a number of applications and the question focuses on when there will be resolution, is that correct?… Okay, well, actually this is an issue that we’re dealing with regarding the economic analysis. We’ve had our contract economists online with us for several months now and we’ll be talking more about that in the staffing section of these presentation. They’ve been invaluable in terms of presenting their expertise in approaching these cases. This is all a growing period for us, incorporating their expertise into our adjudications. We want to make sure that we proceed very carefully. This is being discussed at the highest level in the agency. We expect to have some better clarity within the next couple of weeks on this issue. We appreciate all the patience that the applicants have displayed on this issue, but we’re really trying to proceed carefully.”
  • The leadership reiterated the hope (but not certainty) that a resolution on questions regarding the econ analysis would be reached in the next couple weeks, and that applicants would have the opportunity to provide supplemental information if needed.

Issues with I-924 applications generally

  • Common reasons for denial will be discussed at the next stakeholder meeting
  • A new I-924 Form is currently being prepared that will describe more fully what USCIS is looking for at the Regional Center application stage, and will that lay out standards for “shovel ready projects.” According to Sasha Haskell, generally “what we have found is the greater the specificity the better prepared the package is.”

Customer Service Issues

  • Email Communication: Sasha Haskell conceded that USCIS has had some growing pains with its EB-5 email-box, but assured stakeholders that the EB-5 mailbox is now administered full time by an EB-5 administrator and has a goal to respond to inquiries within 2-3 days.
  • CSC Staffing: It was reported that the CSC now has four teams of adjudicators working on EB-5 cases (versus one team in Summer 2010) and that the most recent training was conducted 12/2011.  The agency is working to incorporate economists into the review process. Each team has a supervisor and there is one supervisor in charge of work flow issues. They are trying to bundle filings for single Regional Centers for the sake of consistency while still adhering to the “first in first out” principle.
  • Processing Times: The leadership was not able to provide any current estimate on I-924 processing times, but said that time estimates will be available soon on the EB-5 page of the USCIS website.

Regional Center program sunset question

  • A stakeholder asked what procedures might be employed in the event that Congress does not extend the EB-5 Regional Center program past its current sunset date of 09/30/2012. Rachel Ellis quickly responded that this as a question that will just have to be addressed when and if it occurs, and that the Service does not have a response at this time.

Questions regarding amendments

  • Sasha Haskell and Kevin discussed at length the requirements for various types of Regional Center amendments (e.g. to industry code, geographic area, or economic impact modeling). To summarize, the applicant needs to follow I-924 relevant instructions and submit evidence that the change is warranted and appropriate, which usually involves submission of a business plan and economic analysis. Concurrent filing of an amendment and I-526 petitions dependent on approval of the amendment is not okay.

Questions regarding investment in real estate

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

3 Responses to Info from 1/23 Stakeholder Engagement

  1. Pingback: “On hold at USCIS headquarters” « EB-5 Updates

  2. John says:

    Does anyone know what the “economic issues” that are holding up all these I-924’s are?

  3. Pingback: Promises for the future, not today « EB-5 Updates

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