The expiration of the EB-5 Regional Center Program has lasted longer than many industry members expected. As of December 4, 2021, regional center EB-5 investment has been suspended for more than five months.
This extended lapse in the program has inconvenienced regional center investors; United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is no longer processing I-526 petitions associated with regional centers. As a result, regional center investors may have to wait for several months for their I-526 petitions to be adjudicated, and they could eventually try to get their invested capital back.
Unfortunately, it has become clear that the regional center program will not be revalidated in 2021 because Congress failed to reach a consensus on the appropriations bill for the 2022 fiscal year. This spending bill could have included reform for the EB-5 program and reauthorized regional center EB-5 investment. To avoid a shutdown of the government, Congress instead passed a continuing resolution that will keep government agencies operating until February 18, 2022.
Once the February 2022 deadline arrives, the U.S. government will have two options: it can either use another temporary measure to keep the government running or finally pass the long-awaited appropriations bill. If the latter option is chosen, the appropriations bill could revalidate regional center investment—but this is only a possibility.
Regardless of whether Congress passes another continuing resolution or the appropriations bill, any modifications to the EB-5 program will need to be a part of a larger bill; the controversial nature of immigration legislation means that a standalone EB-5 reform bill is unlikely to succeed.
An Opportunity for Direct EB-5 Investment
While the future of the regional center program is shrouded in uncertainty, direct EB-5 investment has taken center stage in the EB-5 industry. Direct EB-5 investors could have their I-526 petitions processed faster than before since USCIS is no longer adjudicating such petitions from regional center investors. Moreover, direct EB-5 projects can accept investments at the reduced amount of $500,000, and this investment threshold could be raised by the time the regional center program is revalidated.
Foreign nationals and project developers interested in the EB5 investment program should also note that direct investment is an integral part of the EB-5 industry; it does not need to be revalidated by the U.S. government. Direct EB-5 investors will never find themselves in a situation similar to that of their regional center counterparts, whose I-526 petitions are currently in limbo. Interested foreign nationals can contact EB5 Affiliate Network (EB5AN), which offers personalized consulting services for EB-5 investors and business owners.