For the second straight year the EB-5 visa program, was nearly allowed to expire. The EB-5 visa program is a means through which certain entrepreneurs who make a minimum qualifying investment and satisfy certain job creation requirements can receive a green card. The program was initially authorized in the early 1990s and was intended to attract job-creating investment into the United States. However, the program was little-used in its first two decades of existence and only began to attract attention following the global financial crisis in 2007. After the financial crisis, interest in the program skyrocketed as investors from China, Brazil, and other nations sought safe investments that could lead to a better life for themselves and their qualifying family members.
And thus, demand for the EB-5 program exploded and by the early 2010s, the supply of EB-5 visas was routinely being exhausted by Chinese applicants. However, with this surge in demand came concerns in Congress about whether EB-5 was providing the American public the job creation and other benefits it is intended to create. Now, seemingly on an annual basis, uncertainty exists regarding the future of the program and potential reform measures.
EB-5 Extended Until December 2016
For the second straight year, last-minute concerns that the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program would be allowed to die without a chance for additional reform proved unfounded. In both 2015 and 2016, EB-5 was slated to expire on September 30th unless Congress reauthorized the program. While many people expected Congress to hammer out a reform bill to provide long-term certainty for investors, stakeholders, regional centers, and other interested parties a comprehensive reform bill has not yet been achieved.
Like in 2015, the EB-5 program was reauthorized in 2016 through the use of a continuing resolution. The reauthorization of the visa program was signed into law by President Obama roughly 36 hours before the program was set to expire. This level of uncertainty is having an impact on the program. According to USCIS statistics, fewer applications were filed over the Oct. 1 to June 30 window this year compared to last year.
While the program is still popular, this slowdown is concerning for developers in South Florida. Many recent and upcoming developments in Miami and South Florida were financed through EB-5. This includes projects like Metropica, Skyrise Miami, Paramount Miami Worldcenter, Panorama Tower, Tap 42, and the Highlands. Uncertainty in the EB-5 program reduces the likelihood
What Can Investors Expect Before the EB-5 Program Expires in December 2016?
Investors and program stakeholders have expected reform measures to be implemented for several years now. However, all reform efforts have stalled. In many cases, an inability to reach consensus was aggravated by numerous Senators presenting rival reform plans. In other instances, disagreement regarding how to go about addressing perceived abuses of targeted employment areas (TEAs) have scuttled reform efforts.
However, the roadmap for several of the reform plans can provide investors and stakeholders with some insight into potential program changes. For example, in August 2016, Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte introduced a bill that would significantly increase minimum investment levels required to participate in EB-5. As currently drafted, the increased minimum investment levels are retroactive and would apply to all EB-5 applicants after June 2015. While these details are still yet to be decided, this bill shows how a protective filing can protect your ability to utilize the current and more favorable program rules.
Additional efforts at reform also exist. For instance, the Leahy reform measure would reauthorize the program for five years contingent upon acceptance certain reform measures. Some expect this bill to serve as a template for expected negotiations in December 2016. Senator Grassley has also introduced a competing reform bill that seeks to balance the perceived inequities in the EB-5 benefits received by rural and urban communities.
A Protective EB-5 Filing May Protect You From Expected December 2016 Reforms
While the immediate concern of EB-5’s expiration has been addressed by Congress, the program still faces an impending December reform deadline. While the exact details of the reform must still be negotiated, there exists a likelihood that certain filers may be able to “grandfather in” under the current program rules. This may provide for reduced levels of investment and other more favorable treatment.
The immigration attorneys of Colombo & Hurd can help entrepreneurs considering an EB-5 investment. We can handle all aspects of the application process to increase the likelihood that you and your qualifying family members receive the immigration benefits of the EB-5 program. To schedule a confidential consultation at our Orlando or Miami law offices, call 305-455-0590 to speak with an Orlando investor visa lawyer today. We can also arrange for a consultation by phone or VOIP.