The Continued Need for
in the EB-5 Regional
Center Pilot Program
by Laura Foote Reiff
The EB-5 Program presents foreign national investor-entrepreneurs, and their qualifying dependents, with an attractive
opportunity to live and work permanently in the United States
through investment and participation in a new U.S. commercial enterprise, an existing “troubled” U.S. business, or a
specially designated public or private economic unit called a
Congress created the Immigrant Investor Program in 1990 to
stimulate the U.S. economy and create, or save, jobs by allowing
foreign investors to obtain permanent residence in the United
States in exchange for capital investment. The Immigrant
Investor Program, also known as the EB-5 Program, sets aside
10,000 green cards per year for participating foreign nationals.
To qualify for an EB-5 visa, a foreign national must invest at
least $1,000,000 in the United States (or at least $500,000 if
he or she invests in a rural or high unemployment area) and
demonstrate that the investment created or saved at least 10
jobs for U.S. workers. The EB-5 Program is overseen by the
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
In 1993, Congress expanded the EB-5 Program by creating
the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, or Regional Center
Program, which permits foreign investors to pool their investments with other investors through designated Regional
Centers. The program has continually been reauthorized since
its inception, and in 2012, there was a serious bipartisan effort
to make the program permanent as it approached its Sept. 30,
2012 sunset. As the deadline drew closer, Congress passed and
President Obama signed into law S. 3245, extending the EB5 Regional Center Pilot Program for an additional three year
period (until Sept. 30, 2015).
“For many interested EB-5 Regional Center
participants and those already vested in
Regional Center projects, all eyes are
again turned to Congress to see if the
Sept. 30, 2015 expiration date of the pilot
program will be met with a resolution to
permanently reauthorize the program.”
For many interested EB-5 Regional Center participants and
those already vested in Regional Center projects, all eyes are
again turned to Congress to see if the Sept. 30, 2015 expiration date of the pilot program will be met with a resolution to
permanently reauthorize the program.
The efforts of crafting a Comprehensive Immigration Reform
(CIR) bill — to overhaul the broken U.S. immigration system
— were reborn in January of 2013. This effort will undoubtedly include ways to improve and expand the EB-5 Program.
President Obama included EB-5 reform in his outline for immigration reform by calling for permanent authorization and
an expansion of the Regional Center Program. The Gang of
Eight Senators working on immigration reform has also made
it clear that reform of the existing legal immigration system is a
top priority to be included in their comprehensive immigration
The push for CIR offers opportunities to change and improve
the substance and administration of the EB-5 Program, as well
as the Regional Center Program. Some of the proposed changes
being contemplated include:
• Immigrant visa quotas: Eliminating the per
country quotas for all immigrant visas. This would
especially alleviate the potential for a backlog
in the Chinese visa category, as it is expected to
oversubscribe sometime in the spring of 2013.
• Immigrant visa numbers: Provide additional
visa numbers for the EB-5 category and/or
allow exemptions from the immigrant visa
numbers in certain circumstances.
• Make the Regional Center Program permanent.
• Overhaul the program administration: This would
include a review of agency oversight and an attempt to
make the program more user- and business-friendly.
• Change the definition of Regional Center: This would
allow program participants to satisfy the program
requirements by showing the benefits to the U.S.
economy as a whole, rather than a local economy.
• Revise the definition of Targeted Employment
and Rural Areas to lower the investment
amount to $500,000 from $1,000,000.
E B 5 I n v e s to r s M ag a z i n e