5/1 Stakeholder Non-Engagement

Here’s what came out of today’s hotly-anticipated in-person EB-5 stakeholder meeting at the California Service Center:

  • USCIS did not allow questions about and did not comment on the “tenant occupancy” issues.
  • USCIS did not provide a PowerPoint presentation, and did not address the stakeholder questions solicited and provided in advance of the meeting. (This may have been an error of organization, as it was announced at the beginning of the call that the panelists had prepared to answer the questions submitted in advance.)
  • Although quite a few senior staff were present at the meeting, they said little. Sasha Haskell of Service Center Operations did nearly all the talking.
  • USCIS acknowledged comments on but expressed no specific plan or goals to improve processing times.
  • USCIS acknowledged comments on but expressed no specific plan or goals to improve communication through the public engagement mailbox or through the I-924 applicant email lines.
  • USCIS acknowledged comments on but expressed no specific plan or goals to communicate expectations and standards in a more open manner.
  • USCIS provided the usual EB-5 statistics, and promised that stats will be published consistently in the future.
  • USCIS suggested that a new draft of the EB-5 policy memo will be emerging “in a few weeks,” and that the service is not currently deferring to the draft memo or implementing the “material change” guidance included.
  • USCIS confirmed that, as indicated in yesterday’s general email from the Office of Public Engagement, applicants who were issued a “tenant occupancy” RFE will be contacted with a notice that their deadline for response will be extended. However, there were no promises of forthcoming guidance related to the RFE.

I have uploaded my recording of the call, but I don’t recommend it, except for the eloquent appeals expressed by members of the EB-5 community. I approached this meeting full of sympathy for the USCIS panelists and their difficult task of engaging upset stakeholders on the complex and valid concerns that have recently arisen. But  as it turned out, I had no occasion for sympathy. Engagement hardly occurred.   After the moderator had ended the meeting, the mic caught a private comment that I interpret to be Sasha Haskell saying aside: “I think we’re doing fine, I don’t care what they say.” I’m almost certainly mishearing, but if Ms. Haskell did say that, it is consistent with the dense, unaccommodating attitude that was apparent throughout the meeting, and that bodes ill for future improvement.

I am sad. The EB-5 Regional Center program has so much promise, and yet this meeting highlighted management problems and points of confusion while giving no indication that they are being seriously addressed or will go away any time soon.  I spent the weekend at the IIUSA conference talking to people with proposals for  projects involving real job creation and significant economic development, and today’s “engagement” doesn’t leave us any closer to knowing whether it’s safe for business people to use EB-5 to support those plans.

7/03/2012 Update: USCIS has published a very informative Executive Summary covering questions not addressed at the meeting.

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

15 Responses to 5/1 Stakeholder Non-Engagement

  1. Yong Jin says:

    I like your tactful phrase: “I’m almost certainly mishearing”. 🙂 Good presentation at IIUSA. Food was kinda bad, except for munchies served by the poolside.

  2. Eloy A. says:

    Yet again…..we are left to wonder what is going on behind the doors at USCIS!!!!!

  3. Karen mentor says:

    Has anyone gotten an extension of the T/O rfe deadline??

  4. Is not this attitude, “I don’t care what they think” completely contrary to what the Director is trying to do through the Office of Public Engagement?

    What is the purpose of “engagement” if the agency brass don’t give a damn about what stakeholders have to say?

    I would expect to see broad based indignation among stakeholders at the singulary unhelpful attitude the agency displayed at the 5/1 “meeting.” I admire Ms. Lazicki’s tact, but think it’s pretty darn clear exactly who said what.

    The prevalence of this attitude is why CIS with its culture of “no” is simply unsuited to the task of implementing the “job creation” mandate of the EB-5 Program. I-924, I-526, and I-829 authority should be shifted to the Commerce Department. Let CIS handle the AOS and State the IV’s. where they can inflict only minimal damage.

    Bob

    • Zoe says:

      When regional centers and project developers stretch the EB-5 rules contrary to congressional intent of REAL job creation, what else USCIS can do? Is EB-5 just another form of visa lottary?

      • Exactly what “rules” are you talking about? Is not the purpose of these “engagements” to create an opportunity for the agency to enlighten stakeholders as to its interpretation of law and policy? That was entirely lacking at the 5/1 nonengagement. The lack of clarity on the part of the agency does indeed raise the spector of a visa lottery, with all of its uncertainties.
        “Guess right and you win. Guess wrong and you lose.” At the end of the day stakeholders can only guess what the rules are becuase the agency is apparently not going to tell them until they deny the application or petition.

      • Yong Jin says:

        Zoe, personally, I don’t really care what substantive policies USCIS issues, as long as they issue them clearly and in advance, because if people disagrees, they can sue in court or decide to forget about EB-5 cases altogether. The bigger problem is that USCIS often refuses to issue clear policies and then flip-flops on these issues and does not give stakeholders advance warning. USCIS then applies their changed policies retroactively. All this leads no absolutely zero predictability. I bet even CSC examiners don’t even know what is the current policy of USCIS on many EB-5 issues.

      • Zoe says:

        A dozen USCIS adjucators are unmatched with hundreds of regional center, developers and econonmists whose have amazing talents of interpreting EB-5 rules. I have read a dozen job studies of different regional center projects over last year at some individual investors’ requests and am shocked to find how those job studies create virtual jobs by inflating project revenues far beyond common sense to increase the numbers of investors allowed for each project. If USCIS allows I-526 approvals for these projects and the projects fail to deliver the expected revenue level at I-829 stage, will USCIS rejects I-829 petitions due to shortage of jobs.

      • Zoe says:

        Regional Center projects can count indirect jobs toward to EB-5 job creation requirement and USCIS should define clearly how “indirect” those jobs can be. I guess USCIS is trying to catch up by saying “indirect jobs” from tenant business can not be counted.

        The definition of “indirect job” is so vague and really needs clarification. The other EA model of “construction expenditure”is also point of debate. If direct construction jobs can not be counted, how indirect job from seasonal spending can be counted toward EB-5 job requirement?

  5. Yong Jin says:

    Whether USCIS lacks support staff or not, they have to set clear guidances in advance. This is their job. Let’s get away from this “vague” policies which raise more questions. No question that job methodologies inflate job numbers. However, to RCs’ defense, the same thing happens to jobs estimates issued by the govt for their own projects. This goes to show that EB-5 requirements on the creation of “full-time” positions is misplaced and cannot be calculated using any methodologies. Congress needs to take away the job-creation requirement from individual investors and then put that burden on the receiving govt agency. Have EB-5 investors just give interest free money to a govt agency for 5 years (like Canada Program) and then have that govt agency try to create jobs. One economic effect that many USCIS examiners do not think about is that EB-5 investors and families almost always purchase houses and assets in the US and spend a great deal of money. Therefore, in effect, EB-5 investors contribute a great deal to the US economy. Most Eb-5 investors I know purchase relatively expensive houses, cars and spend a great deal of money. No one gives them credit for this sort of effect.

  6. Pingback: 5/1 Engagement Mega Executive Summary! (Tenant Occupancy! TEAs! Bridge Financing! RC Sunset! More!) « EB-5 Updates

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