The sensational EB-5 stories proliferating on the Internet inspire Ms. Boring Verifiable Detail here to get back in gear. IIUSA has issued a notice reacting to the hype funded by opposition to President Obama’s nomination for DHS deputy secretary, and I encourage you to read the IIUSA Member Alert here. I’ll leave you to the Washington Post if you want spicy whispers suggesting that EB-5 is an unchecked den of iniquity, but if you want the dull details of what actually happens to people who try to game the EB-5 system, note that USCIS has uploaded more AAO decisions on I-526 cases. (The February, May, September, and October decisions in the Decisions Issued in 2013 folder are new since last time I checked.) The decisions give a behind-the-scenes look at USCIS’s efforts to scrutinize and challenge EB-5 petition detail, and to deny any filings that don’t toe the line of clean money fully invested in business activities that can create qualifying jobs. I’m particularly interested in MAY072013_01B7203, which discusses investment and job creation timing and nexus; MAY172013_01B7203, a decision on a New Orleans RC case that overturns challenge to a state TEA designation but confirms the need for a portfolio investment to identify specific fund uses at the I-526 stage; and SEP052013_03B7203, which explains the options for an I-526 petition when the sponsoring RC has been terminated. The later decisions include an opening reminder that: “This is a non-precedent decision. The AAO does not announce new constructions of law nor establish agency policy through non-precedent decisions.” Nevertheless, we get so few official policy announcements that I take what I can get of hints, and am quoting below a whole section from the 5/7/2013 decision’s discussion of what has the burden to create jobs: the “new commercial enterprise” or the individual EB-5 investment. This is the theoretical issue at the heart of the extremely significant question of which job creation an investor can claim, and how the timing of capital release affects job counts. The 5/7 AAO decision emphasizes the individual investment, and treats investment/job creation nexus as “before/after” issue rather than allowing a “but for” argument. We often see RFEs from adjudicators struggling to see any factors in causation besides chronology, but this is the first time I remember seeing the AAO wax theoretical on the matter. Any thoughts from the attorneys out there?
Section quoted from MAY072013_01B7203, AAO decision on an I-526 petition for direct investment.
…On November 7, 2012, the petitioner filed an appeal with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). On appeal, counsel asserts: (1) the three jobs created prior to the petitioner’s initial investment should be attributed to the petitioner; (2) the two jobs created between the petitioner’s initial investment and the maturation of the NCE’s certificate of deposit should be attributed to the petitioner…
1. Employees Hired Prior to Investment
Regarding the three employees hired prior to the petitioner’s initial investment, counsel’s appellate brief asserts that these individuals’ jobs should be considered to have been created due to the petitioner’s investment. Counsel characterizes the hiring of personnel prior to an investor’s infusion of capital as common and a business reality. At issue, however, is not whether the order of events constitutes a normal business-related process, but whether, by following this order of events, the petitioner has established that his investment is responsible for any earlier job creation. Counsel’s appellate brief also states: ”The Regulations merely state that to qualify, it must be shown that the new commercial enterprise (not ‘the investment’) will create full-time employment for not fewer than 10 qualifying employees.” Counsel further asserts that had Congress intended to “require that employment creation strictly follow the date of an alien investor’s investment transfer, it would have specifically required proof that ‘the investment will create not fewer than ten (10) full-time positions …. ‘ But as written, the statutory language focuses on the ‘new commercial enterprise’ instead.” The language counsel quotes does not specifically address situations involving multiple investors. The regulation at 8 C.F.R. § 204.6(g), however, does specifically addresses businesses for which there are multiple investors. Significantly, 8 C.F.R. § 204.6(g)(l) allows for a pooled investment with other EB5 investors “provided … each individual investment results in the creation of at least ten full-time positions for qualifying employees.” (Emphasis added.) Thus, in situations involving multiple investments, the regulatory language focuses on the “investment” as creating the jobs rather than the NCE. Furthermore, under the initial evidence requirements, the regulation at 8 C.F.R. § 204.6(j) states: “A petition submitted for classification as an alien entrepreneur must be accompanied by evidence that the alien has invested or is actively in the process of investing lawfully obtained capital in a new commercial • enterprise in the United States which “Will create full-time positions for not fewer than 1 0 qualifying employees;” (Emphasis added.) The emphasized language implies that an alien has already invested or committed capital to the NCE, and that subsequent to this investment the required employment creation will result. Significantly, the regulations do allow for job preservation, but only where the petitioner invests in a troubled business. 8 C.F.R. §§ 204.6(e) (definition of troubled business), (j)(4)(ii). The petitioner does not claim to have invested in a troubled business. Counsel also references proposed policy guidance which states that an immigrant investor is not required to have already invested his or her capital in the NCE, as long as the investor establishes that he or she is actively in the process of investing the required capital. To be actively in the process of investing the required capital, the investor must demonstrate that his or her funds are actually committed to the NCE. 8 C.F.R. § 204.6(j)(2). The petitioner has not demonstrated any actual commitment of his funds prior to September 1, 2011. Regardless, the issue of whether the petitioner is actively in the process of investing is a separate question from whether USCIS will credit the petitioner with jobs in existence at a business other than a troubled business when the petitioner began investing. In light of the above, USCIS will not credit the petitioner with the employees hired prior to his investment. …
ii. Subsequently Hired Employees
Regarding the two jobs created after the petitioner’s initial investment but before the certificate of deposit matured, the AAO does recognize these jobs as being attributable to the petitioner’s investment as he had relinquished control of the funds to the NCE. It was the NCE that elected to invest the funds rather than to allow them to sit dormant in a bank account.
Also, a belated updated on new Regional Centers. In 2013 USCIS has approved about 205 new RCs, by my count, bringing the total number of RCs to 417 as of 12/11. I look forward to being able to link to the USCIS approval letters for each of these centers. In these days of rumors and misinformation, we really need basic transparency about the identity and mandate of all Regional Centers.
New RCs added to the USCIS list 11/18/2013 to 12/11/2013
New Orleans & Gulf Coast Regional Center, LLC (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi)
American California Regional Center (California)
North America Wind Power LLC (California)
San Diego Regional Investment Center, LLC (California)
American Builders Regional Center (Florida)
Florida Gateway Regional Center, LLC (Florida)
Live in America – Florida, LLC (Florida)
Eight Islands Regional Center, LLC (Hawaii)
Liberty Nebraska Regional Center, LLC (Iowa, Nebraska)
Ohio Regional Center, LLC (Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky) Approval Notice
Live in America – Northwest Regional Center, LLC (Oregon, Washington)
Global City Regional Center, LLC (New Jersey, Pennsylvania)
Related New York City Metro Regional Center, LLC (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania)
Birch North Carolina Regional Center (North Carolina)
Southeastern Higher Education Regional Center (South Carolina)
Civitas Laredo Regional Center, LLC (Texas)
Houston EB 5 Regional Center (Texas)
ACIC Management, Inc. Regional Center (Washington)
UPDATE: The name “Midwest EB-5 Regional Center LLC” was changed on the USCIS list to add a comma, not removed from this list as I previously reported in error.