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EB-5 Regional Center Designation: Starting a Regional Center

On June 24, 2022, the EB-5 Regional Center Program was reauthorized by a U.S. federal court ruling following a lapse of nearly a year. This meant that no new designated regional centers could be established, and EB-5 applicants were unable to invest via a regional center.

The lapse caused pent-up demand from businesses keen to apply for EB-5 funding through regional centers. However, applying for regional center designation isn’t easy.

It requires legal expertise, economic analyses, business plans, and an understanding of how United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicates Form I-956: Application for Regional Center Designation.

This article explains the benefits of gaining approved regional center designation and how to apply.

💡 Key terms

Direct investment: EB-5 investors can choose between investing directly or via a regional center. Direct investment involves investing straightaway in a commercial enterprise, and not through a regional center — it’s a good option for those who want to own a business in the U.S.

Target Employment Area (TEA): This is a rural area or area with unemployment levels at least 150% higher than the national average. Foreign investors who choose EB-5 projects in TEAs will benefit from their lower minimum investment amounts and flexible job creation requirements. A TEA can consist of a single census tract.

Form I-956: Businesses can apply to USCIS for regional center designation using Form I-956. USCIS designation allows them to receive capital from foreign nationals for EB-5 projects. Prior to the Reform and Integrity Act (RIA), businesses were required to submit Form I-924 to do this. However, Form I-924 has now been retired, and applicants should use I-956 instead.

Form I-526E: This proves to USCIS that an immigrant has made a qualifying investment in an EB-5 project. It is the first step in applying for a Green Card under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. Once this form has been submitted, the investment must carry a level of risk for two years. During this period, the invested-in project must generate 10 full-time jobs during this period.

The Reauthorization of the Regional Center Program

The EB-5 Regional Center Program was reauthorized as part of the wider EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act (RIA). This means USCIS is once again accepting I-526E visa petitions from regional center investors.

The RIA also put a new incentive into action. EB-5 applicants who invested in a project in a targeted employment area (TEA) are now eligible for set-aside EB-5 visas. This means investors from countries with a backlog of EB-5 visa applications (currently China and India) can potentially avoid years-long processing delays by obtaining a set-aside visa through a regional center project.

💡 Set Up a New EB-5 Regional Center with EB5AN

EB5AN offers consulting services to help businesses obtain regional center designation from USCIS. We provide turnkey consulting services for EB-5 regional center applications for a once-off fixed cost and guarantee a turnaround time of just weeks.

💡 Schedule a free consultation to find out more.

Benefits of EB-5 Regional Center Designation

The RIA included several reforms that make investing in new commercial enterprises through a regional center economic unit more attractive to investors and project developers. These include flexible job creation criteria and the ability to pool funds from multiple investors.

The added benefits have made regional center projects the preferred choice for EB-5 investors. In fact, a study conducted in September 2021 revealed that approximately 93.4% of EB-5 visas had been awarded to investors in regional center projects. To date, approved regional centers have overseen the flow of tens of billions of dollars in EB-5 investment funding into U.S. businesses.

Here’s a detailed look at some of the benefits:

Ability to pool investor funds

EB-5 projects not sponsored by a regional center can only raise funds from one EB-5 investor. Regional center designation enables a business to raise and administer funds from multiple EB-5 immigrant investors.

As a result, approved regional centers can support EB-5 projects that require greater capital to be raised. Projects across a wide variety of sectors are able to raise EB-5 funding through regional centers. Real estate developments are a typical example of this.

Relaxed job creation requirements

EB-5 investors must create 10 full-time jobs for U.S. citizens to qualify for permanent residence. For direct investments, each of the required 10 jobs must be directly generated by the job-creating entity the EB-5 applicant invested in.

These rules have been relaxed for regional center investors. They can count both indirect and induced employment toward the total number of jobs. The number of indirect and induced jobs are calculated by an EB-5 project’s positive economic impact through spending and revenue. This is called indirect job creation.

Regional center projects fulfill the job creation requirement for their EB-5 investors simply by documenting their revenue and construction expenditures. This means projects sponsored by a regional center are more likely to attract EB-5 investors.

Improved transparency and oversight

The EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 included transparency and financial reporting requirements. Regional center investors now receive yearly reports on how their funds are being used, along with other periodic updates.

As part of the RIA, USCIS also oversees regional center operators and their projects more carefully than they used to. Investors’ confidence in regional center-sponsored offerings will likely increase in the wake of these new regulations.

This helps generate trust in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program and its participants. It also helps investors see that their capital is being used wisely and is generating jobs.

Obtaining EB-5 Regional Center Designation

Your business needs to submit Form I-956 to apply to become a licensed EB-5 regional center. The process you’ll need to follow is outlined below:

1. Determine your regional center’s scope

You must prove to USCIS that your proposed regional center can accomplish the EB-5 program’s goals of promoting economic growth and creating employment. This involves creating detailed business plans, economic projections, and submitting other required documentation.

It usually requires months of research, and regional center visa applicants must work with EB-5 immigration attorneys, economists, and other industry experts during the application process. You’ll need to prove that:

  • Jobs will be created throughout the regional center’s geographic area
  • The projects sponsored by the EB-5 regional center will promote economic growth in the covered area

2. Prepare supporting documentation

Next, you’ll need to prepare supporting documents, including:

  • Operational business plan
  • Corporate structure agreement
  • Sample project business plan
  • Economic report for the project
  • Legal securities documents
  • Legal immigration documents
  • Sample management agreement between regional center and project

Your documentation should:

  • Show that your EB-5 regional center’s policies will comply with the reporting and transparency requirements introduced in the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022, including annual reports to investors and audited financial statements
  • Identify all individuals with “substantive authority” in the regional center. They must also submit additional personal background information using Form I-956H

3. Submit Form I-956

Once your documentation is prepared, you can submit Form I-956 to USCIS for approval. Your submission should include:

✔️ Your completed Form I-956
✔️ Hard copies of all documentation in binders
✔️ A check for the filing fee of $17,795 (raised to $47,695 as of April 1, 2024)

All signatures should be made in ink.

You should mail it to:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
California Service Center
Attn: EB-5 Processing Unit
24000 Avila Road, 2nd Floor
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

⚠️ I-956 processing times

No data on estimated processing times for Form I-956 is currently available. The processing period could potentially take several months, as USCIS scrutinizes each applicant’s documentation carefully to ensure compliance with all EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program regulations.

Set Up Your Regional Center With EB5AN

Our consulting services significantly reduce the time and expenses involved in setting up a regional center. As an industry-leading regional center operator, we submitted one of the first Form I-956 applications shortly after the petition was first released in May 2022. This application included detailed business plans, economic impact reports, and our very own policies and procedures manual showing our compliance with the latest integrity measures.

We are committed to helping our clients submit their I-956 applications in the most timely and cost-effective way possible. Our team has significant experience in structuring EB-5 investment projects and creating high-quality business plans and economic impact reports for regional center projects.

Why choose EB5AN?

✔️ 10+ approved regional centers whose geographic coverage area spans multiple states
✔️ 100+ designated regional centers supported, all with a 100% USCIS approval rate
✔️ 100+ USCIS-compliant business plans and economic impact studies created for regional center applications

Many EB-5 industry members have succeeded in raising EB-5 investment funding via a designated regional center, thanks to our consulting services.

🖱️ View our official EB-5 regional center approvals listed on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
🖱️ Schedule a free consultation to learn more about the EB-5 regional center designation process and how we can work with you to get your regional center approved quickly by USCIS.
🖱️ Read about Twin Lakes Georgia—a good example of a successful investment project in a TEA that we have generated EB-5 funding for.

Further reading

Steps to Apply for an EB-5 Regional Center
Establishing an EB-5 Regional Center
How to Create and Operate an EB-5 Regional Center