…Continued (Read Part 1 of this blog post)
In general, AILA and other industry stakeholders are finding strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate for the EB-5 program. And yes, Congress has extended the Regional Center (RC) program numerous times since 1992.
But, and this is important, the current legislative atmosphere is uncertain and complex – especially involving immigration issues. Many legislators, from both parties, want to address all immigration issues as part of a larger comprehensive reform package. Extending just the EB-5 program and other sunset immigration programs could be viewed as piecemeal and diluting a comprehensive approach favored by many.
In the past, all of the sunset programs received a clean extension – meaning they were extended without any changes to the program rules. But the EB-5 program has received significant negative criticism over the past several years; many believe the program needs major changes including increasing the minimum investment, addition of integrity provisions, and redefining the TEA provisions, among others.
Today, parallel efforts to extend the program are underway in both chambers of Congress. The goal is that these efforts will combine to fast track an extension which is critical given the shrinking time window.
In the U.S. House, Representatives Mark Amodei (R-NV) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced H.R. 616, the “American Entrepreneurship and Investment Act of 2015.” If enacted in its present form, this bill would, in part:
- Make the RC program permanent;
- Require EB-5 petition adjudication within 180 days;
- Exempt spouses and children of EB-5 immigrants from EB-5 admissions limits (This will save visa numbers and eliminate the China retrogression);
- Authorize concurrent I-526 and I-485 filing;
- Eliminate the per-country limit for employment-based immigrants and increase the per-country limit for family-based immigrants.
On July 30, 2015, U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) introduced The EB-JOBS Act of 2015 which if enacted would:
- Extend and reform the EB-5 program;
- Create a new green card category for entrepreneurs who establish start-up businesses;
- Create a new green card category for certain treaty investors who have maintained their status for 10 years;
- Create a renewable reserve of 10,000 EB-5 visas upon exhaustion of the initial 10,000.
In the U.S. Senate, bipartisan legislation was introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) through S. 1501, a bill called the “American Job Creation and Investment Promotion Reform Act of 2015.” If enacted in its present form, this bill would, in part:
- Reauthorize RC program for just 5 years;
- Increase minimum TEA investment from $500,000 to $800,000 and non-TEA minimum investment from $1 million to $1.2 million;
- Eliminate state authority to certify TEAs;
- Limit high unemployment areas/TEA to a single census tract; and
- Create several different restrictions on indirect job creation calculations.
Together, these three bills provide a critical first step forward in the campaign to extend the EB-5 program. Despite Congress now being on summer recess, legislative efforts continue and we expect there will continue to be significant progress made to find common ground. A wildcard to the legislative effort is the imminent release of a report auditing the EB-5 program published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). AILA’s EB-5 Committee met with the GAO investigators and we shared our technical expertise.
AILA continues to meet with industry stakeholders and Congressional delegations to share our unique technical expertise in the EB-5 program and to analyze the impacts of any proposed legislation. Led by Co-Chair Carolyn S. Lee, AILA’s EB-5 Committee issued comprehensive comments to proposed EB-5 program legislation; these reports have been well-received by Congressional staff members by helping them understand the potential impacts of a bill’s language and, in several cases, identify language that creates unintended consequences.
Over the next 60 days and beyond, we will continue our engagement in this complex and fluid legislative process, and we will keep our membership updated.
Written by David Morris and Carolyn Lee, AILA EB-5 Liaison Committee Co-Chairs
Read Part One of this blog post and also check out this useful side-by-side chart comparing the reauthorization bills in the House.
Looking to learn more about the EB-5 program? Registration is still open for the EB-5 Investors Summit: Representing EB-5 Investors & Regional Centers August 27-28 in Las Vegas, NV!