The extension of the reauthorization for the EB-5 Investor Visa Program may lapse on September 30, 2016. Whether lawmakers will invest time in EB-5 this coming month is an open question, but it is more probable than not that we will see no movement. Every day, it becomes less likely that EB-5 will be on the agenda of lawmakers. Despite inroads to advance legislation to introduce integrity measures to the Program, there is no indication that lawmakers will act. Anything is possible, and lawmakers could surprise us. But there is little time for reaching any consensus on changes to the Program in the coming weeks. With the presidential election looming in the background, EB-5 won’t be near center stage. For now, the status quo may continue for many months and into 2017. Continue Reading EB-5 Reauthorization Heading into Lame Duck Session of Congress

Several securities lawyers from several firms across the United States with a focus on EB-5 have organized a roundtable to discuss securities law issues.

The EB5 Securities Roundtable is an informal, independent group of EB-5 securities attorneys organized to facilitate best practices in the offerings of EB-5 securities. The EB5 Securities Roundtable is not affiliated with any EB-5 industry organization, regional center, offeror of EB-5 securities or job-creating recipient of EB-5 funds, and it receives no outside financial contributions, according to its website. Mintz Levin is one of the law firm participants.

Check out what’s new in the EB-5 world, where a team of securities lawyers are at work offering to help lawmakers understand complex legal provisions of proposed EB-5 integrity legislation. The group is called the EB-5 Securities Roundtable (the “Roundtable”) and is made up of securities attorneys (the author of this blog posting included) who represent a broad range of stakeholders in EB-5 deals such as regional centers, recipients of EB-5 funds and lenders.

Anticipating more action from lawmakers on the EB-5 integrity front, the Roundtable has proposed technical language solutions to securities law provisions that may come into any final version of an EB-5 integrity bill. The group is aiming not to lobby but to serve as a resource to help lawmakers line EB-5 reform efforts up with existing securities laws, regulations and policies. Securities law is a very complicated area with its own universe of terminology. We think the Roundtable’s resource will be welcome by lawmakers, industry groups and others who have a stake in EB-5 reform. 

One of the goals of the Roundtable, which Mintz Levin co-founded with several firms across the country, is to regularize EB-5 securities law practice. This is an important goal. EB-5 needs to be a more normative form of financing in the toolkit of lawyers. This starts with the securities lawyers in the field — gatekeepers of EB-5 in every sense of the word — giving sound advice to clients and promoting best practices.

Right now the EB-5 Program is still on the margins of the securities industry despite the fact that EB-5 financing benefits emerging businesses seeking capital across sectors, particularly in industries where construction and hard development costs are high. The Roundtable can have an impact as the EB-5 Program develops and becomes more institutionalized.

What is the future of EB-5?

We hope the EB-5 Program becomes established, permanent and normative. But Congress needs to act soon. We are about a month away from the Program lapsing.

Lawmakers are right on to insist on integrity reforms with any extension of the Program. The EB-5 Program has been plagued by bad actors, fraud and loose practices since it became more popularized in 2008. But lawmakers don’t need to reinvent a whole new legal structure to fix this.

Added integrity provisions are a sensible move by Congress. This is in step with current law. But changes to the law should be aligned with our existing securities laws, which are effective. Specifically, the United States has a very strong anti-fraud legal infrastructure in place when it comes to the purchase and sale of securities, including Section 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, and Rule 10b-5, codified at 17 C.F.R. 240.10b-5, which is one of the most important rules targeting securities fraud promulgated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. These laws work. Congress does not need to re-write our securities laws in an effort to make EB-5 more sound and secure. The core integrity provisions for EB-5 are for the most part already in place. The technical guidance from the Roundtable can help lawmakers ensure that integrity provisions do not inadvertently create confusion, or conflict with existing obligations of issuers of EB-5 securities.

The Securities Law Roundtable has offered lawmakers a technical resource in the EB-5 reform process

Hopefully lawmakers will consider comments of the Roundtable when finalizing a draft of any legislation.

We’d like to continue to have EB-5 financing as an option in our toolkit to help clients. Many of our firm’s clients have been the recipients of EB-5 financing for projects ranging from the creation of a small media business to large-scale hotels, resorts and mixed-use real estate development. Congress making strategic moves to bring an increased level of integrity to the Program will benefit all. The Roundtable’s contribution to this broader effort is an important step forward, and will ensure that securities provisions in any new law are informed and workable. 

On August 11, 2016, USCIS published new processing times for I-829 petitions. The news is not good for EB-5 investors. USCIS is now taking in excess of 21 months to adjudicate I-829 petitions. This means that EB-5 investors may wait more than one or even two years for final approval of an I-829 from USCIS. The delays are unconscionable.

For those less familiar with EB-5 terminology, the term I-829 refers to the form number of the petition that an EB-5 investor files within 90 days of the expiration of his or her conditional green card status. An investor’s I-829 is supported by proof that, among other things, there has been sufficient job creation to support his or her green card case. At the I-829 stage of the process, an investor must also evidence that his or her investment has been sustained. For thousands of investors, what should be a relatively ministerial process of verifying facts has turned into a bottleneck. Continue Reading I-829 Delays Reach All-Time Record: Thousands of EB-5 Investors in Limbo at USCIS

According to data recently supplied by USCIS, there are more than 20,000 I-526 petitions pending adjudication as of the end of March 2016. This is a massive backlog of cases. What are the implications of this backlog to investors, and will processing times improve?

What does this backlog mean for EB-5 investors?

The current I-526 backlog translates into long delays for I-526 decisions by USCIS. In other words, many if not most investors may wait close to or beyond 16 months for their I-526 cases to be approved.

This backlog of I-526 petitions is unprecedented in the short history of the EB-5 Investor Visa Program. If you contrast the current statistics with the data supplied for past fiscal years, the increase in the number of pending EB-5 cases at USCIS is striking. At the end of fiscal year 2015, there were more than 17,000 pending EB-5 petitions at USCIS. Fiscal year 2012 closed with just 5,000 pending EB-5 petitions in the hands of adjudicators. That is a massive increase in a compressed period of time.

USCIS simply isn’t properly staffed to manage this increase in the agency’s EB-5 caseload. The agency’s backlog has quadrupled since 2012. In light of this shift in I-526 backlogs, EB-5 investors need to be prepared to wait well beyond one year for a petition to even be assigned to an officer at USCIS. Continue Reading I-526 Processing Delays Expected to Continue into 2017

EB-5 deals present risk for regional centers, issuers and investors.

With the uptick in EB-5 litigation, risk mitigation could not be more important for all stakeholders in an EB-5 transaction.

Hear from Adam Sisitsky, a member of Mintz Levin’s Securities Litigation Practice, on the three D’s of EB-5 risk mitigation: Continue Reading The Three D’s of EB-5 Risk Mitigation [VIDEO]

The EB-5 regional center program is set to expire today. But the program will get a temporary reprieve through December 11 if, as expected, Congress passes a Continuing Resolution today to fund the government through that date. Read our Client Alert for the latest. While the extension is good news, be prepared for change on the EB-5 legislative front. We expect Congress to press for broad-sweeping reforms of the EB-5 program. My prediction is more regulation by USCIS, higher fees for regional centers to combat fraud, a crack-down on so-called gerrymandering or tailoring of targeted employment areas, an increase in investment amounts and more interagency cooperation.

 

 

There is speculation on the Hill that lawmakers will not take on reforming or improving the EB-5 Program until January 2016. But don’t think for a second that lawmakers will simply pass an extension of the Program and indefinitely shelve refashioning EB-5. Last month, the General Accounting Office (GAO) published a report on the Program (Immigrant Investor Program: Additional Actions Needed to Better Assess Fraud Risks and Report Economic Benefits). Congress is reading this report, which is a 58 page “gotcha” on EB-5. With recent SEC actions targeting EB-5 fraud, the EB-5 industry is at a point of inflection. Continue Reading GAO Report on EB-5 a Possible Blueprint for Lawmakers and New Legislation