Articles Posted in Regional Centers

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DACA Renewal E-Filing is here!

Exciting news is on the horizon for those filing a renewal of their deferred action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)!

This week, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that applicants will now be able to file their applications online on Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Additionally, renewal applicants may also file applications to renew their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) online by filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and the Form I-765 Worksheet.

This move will now make it easier for applicants to obtain a renewal of their status faster and more efficiently.

While the agency hopes to expand the possibility of electronic filing to a broader pool of applicants in the future, the e-file option is currently only available for individuals who have been previously granted DACA.

The e-filing option is expected to help reduce the substantial backlogs at the USCIS level. Currently, USCIS receives nearly half a million Form I-821D DACA requests every fiscal year, and processes more than 8.8 million requests for immigration benefits. As time has gone on, the agency has allowed online filings to streamline the application process.

How can you file online?


DACA renewal applicants who wish to file Form I-821D and Form I-765 online, must first create a USCIS online account, to submit their forms, pay fees and track the status of any pending USCIS immigration request throughout the adjudication process. There is no cost to set up an account, and one of the added benefits is that applicants have the ability to communicate with USCIS through a secure inbox and respond online to Requests for Evidence received.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some long awaited and very happy news for EB-5 immigrant visa investors wishing to participate in the Regional Center program.

As you may know, the EB-5 Regional Center Program is a statutorily authorized program that must be extended by Congress in order to operate. Unfortunately, for months on end, members of Congress failed to pass a bill to reauthorize the Regional Center program leaving thousands of prospective applicants in limbo, and those waiting to file green cards with big worries. Following the program’s expiration at midnight on June 30, 2021, it remained in a period of lapse amid negotiations within Congress for a new government appropriations funding bill to be passed to extend the program.

As luck would have it on March 10, 2022, Congress reauthorized the EB-5 Regional Center Program through fiscal year 2027 in appropriations legislation passed by the government. While this is a big relief for many would-be Regional Center investors, the new legislation has also introduced some important changes to the program.

The EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022, as it is called has resurrected the EB-5 Regional Center Program until September 30, 2027, but introduces some new increases in the minimum EB-5 investments.

Once enacted, the new law will increase the new minimum investment amount to $1,050,000 for standard EB-5 investments (from the previous minimum investment of $1,000,000); $800,000 for investments in Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) (from the previous $500,000 investment); and $800,000 for minimum investment for infrastructure projects. New changes also allocate a portion of the EB-5 immigrant visa quota to investments in rural areas, high unemployment areas, and infrastructure projects.

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It is that time of the month again! In this blog post, we will cover the release of the April Visa Bulletin 2022 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the month of April 2022.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart April 2022


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, for all family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the Dates for Filing Chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for April 2022.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, except EB-5 Regional Center, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for April 2022.


April 2022 Visa Bulletin Final Action Cutoff Dates


Employment-Based Categories


FINAL ACTION DATES FOR EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES

According to the Department of State’s April 2022 Visa Bulletin, the following final cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

  • EB-1: All countries, including India and China, will remain current.
  • EB-2: India will advance by more than 2 months to July 8, 2013, and China will remain at March 1, 2019. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers: EB-3 India and China will remain unchanged from the previous month, at January 15, 2012, and March 22, 2018, respectively. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-5: The Non-Regional Center program will be current for all countries, including China. The Regional Center program has been reauthorized by recent legislation but is still listed as Unavailable in the April Visa Bulletin Final Action Date chart, given that certain provisions of the reauthorizing legislation have not yet taken effect.

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The bad news continues for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program. As our readers will know, the EB-5 Regional Center program has been in a period of lapse following Congressional failure to reauthorize the program after its expiration at midnight on June 30, 2021. Such reauthorization was expected to be included in the government’s appropriations funding bills, but no such action has yet taken place to extend the program.

In a glimmer of hope, on December 3, 2021, President Biden signed H.R. 6119 into law, “Further Extending Government Funding Act” which includes a short-term continuing resolution that funds the federal government through February 18, 2022. EB-5 Regional Center legislation extending the program is expected to be included in future appropriation bills.

With its hands tied on the matter, on October 4, 2021, USCIS updated its website to indicate that it would not be accepting new I-526 petitions based on a regional center investment, but would be placing all pending I-526 petitions based on the Regional Center program in “abeyance,” (a temporary hold), as well as placing all pending I-485 green card applications based on a Regional Center investment on hold at least through the end of 2021, pending further action from Congress. No acting is being taken on applications placed on hold.

I-829 Petitions filed by conditional permanent residents under the Regional Center program remain unaffected. USCIS has confirmed that such applications are being accepted and processed by the agency.

Acting upon the government lapse, for its part, the Department of State has stopped processing immigrant visa applications for EB-5 Program applicants altogether.

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The Trump administration is bringing about more changes to the world of immigration, this time targeting the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.

USCIS has just announced that it is planning to revise regulations governing the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.

Tomorrow, the agency will be publishing a final rule in the federal register outlining these changes. The final rule becomes effective on November 21, 2019.

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In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the coming months. Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State provides a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin including discussion of current trends and future projections for immigrant preference categories.

EB-1: The following categories are expected to experience some forward movement in the month of December, however it is not yet known how much advancement will take place: EB-1 Worldwide, EB-1 China, and EB-1 India. It is not expected for these categories to return to current during this calendar year. A cutoff date is expected for EB-1 Worldwide until the first half of the fiscal year.

EB-2 China: is expected to continue to experience forward movement

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In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the coming months. Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State provides a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin including discussion of current trends and future projections for immigrant preference categories.

EB-1 Worldwide: this category is not expected to advance until January 2019. Time will tell whether this category will become current during the next year.

EB-1 China and EB-1 India: Also expected to experience forward movement until January 2019. A cutoff date for this category will continue through the next 12 months.

EB-2 Worldwide: This category is expected to remain current until at least the foreseeable future.

EB-2 China: is two months behind EB-3 China, which may prompt EB-2 applicants to downgrade.

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On December 6, 2016 Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund government programs through April 28, 2017. Among the programs that qualified to receive additional government funding was the EB-5 Regional Center Investor Program, a program made possible by a Congressional statute. The Continuing Resolution effectively extended the EB-5 Regional Center program through April 28, 2017 with no changes to the program’s policy. With time running out, Congress must either extend the statutory deadline once again to September 30, 2017, or pass reforms to the program. The government is currently holding Congressional hearings to make changes to the EB-5 Regional Center Program. It appears that legislators are contemplating overhauling the EB-5 program altogether, instead of extending the validity period of the program. At this stage, however, it is not likely that a major overhaul of the EB-5 program will take place by April 28th.

Proposed Rule EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program

For their part, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has already introduced a series of proposals in the Federal Register to modernize the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. The comment period for the proposed rule closed on April 11, 2017.

Among its major provisions the Department’s proposed rule would authorize:

  • Priority date retention for EB–5 petitioners;
  • Increases the minimum investment amount for targeted employment areas (TEAs) and nonTEAs to $1.8 million;
  • For investors seeking to invest in a new commercial enterprise that will be principally doing business in a targeted employment area (TEA), DHS proposes to increase the minimum investment amount from $500,000 to $1.35 million;
  • DHS is proposing to make regular CPI–U-based adjustments in the standard minimum investment amount, and conforming adjustments to the TEA minimum investment amount, every 5 years, beginning 5 years from the effective date of these regulations;
  • Revisions to the TEA designation process, including the elimination of state designation of high unemployment areas as a method of TEA designation;
  • DHS proposes to allow any city or town with high unemployment 4 and a population of 20,000 or more to qualify as a TEA;
  • DHS proposes to eliminate the ability of a state to designate certain geographic and political subdivisions as highunemployment areas; instead, DHS would make such designations directly;
  • Revisions to the filing and interview process for removal of conditions on lawful permanent residence.

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Today, October 24, 2016 the Department of Homeland Security published the final rule increasing fees for certain immigration and naturalization petitions processed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Overall the Department of Homeland Security increased filing fees for certain petitions by an average of 21 percent. The new fees will be enforced by USCIS beginning December 23, 2016. The fee schedule has been adjusted following the agency’s decision to conduct a comprehensive review of filing fees for fiscal year 2016/2017. USCIS determined that an adjustment in the filing fees would be necessary in order for USCIS to recover costs for services expended and maintain adequate service. The proposed fee schedule was first published on May 4, 2016. The final rule clarifies that all persons applying for immigration benefits may be required to appear for biometrics services or an interview, and thus must pay the biometrics services fee accordingly.

EB-5 Investor Visa Program

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program will be most heavily impacted by the new fee schedule. The new filing fee for Form I-924, Application for Regional Center under the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, will increase by a rate of 186% requiring Regional Centers seeking designation under the program, to pay a filing fee of $17,795 instead of the current rate of $6,230. Regional Centers will be required to pay a $3,035 annual fee to certify their continued eligibility for the designation.

The filing fee for the I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, an application associated with the EB-5 visa program, will increase to $3,675, a 145% increase up from the current rate of $1,500. The filing fee for an investor’s petition to remove conditions on residence remains unchanged.

Naturalization

USCIS has established a three-tiered fee schedule for naturalization applicants filing Form N-400 Application for Naturalization. First, the fee schedule includes a standard filing fee for most applicants, from a rate of $595 to $640. Second, DHS has established a reduced fee of $320 for naturalization applicants whose household income is greater than 150% but less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Third, there will be no filing fee for naturalization applicants who are members of the military, applicants with approved fee waivers, and others who may qualify for a fee waiver according to sections 328 or 329 of the Immigration and nationality Act (INA).

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By the end of this month the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program will be up for renewal before Congress. The EB-5 program was first established by Congress in 1990 in an effort to increase the amount of foreign capital investment in the United States, and to create new jobs for Americans. In 1992 Congress expanded the program and created the Immigrant Investor Visa Program as we know it today, which allows foreign investors to invest in an EB-5 Regional Center project. A regional center is an authorized organization, entity, or agency that is designated by USCIS to sponsor capital investment projects within a specific geographic area including areas of high-unemployment or rural areas.  Section 203(b)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. Section 1153(b)(5) limits the number of immigrant visas that may be issued to EB-5 investors to 10,000 immigrant visas per fiscal year, provided the qualified investor is seeking permanent resident status on the basis of the creation of a new commercial enterprise. Half of these visas are allocated to EB-5 investors participating in a regional center pilot program. The required investment amount in a new commercial enterprise is $1,000,000 or $500,000 if the investment is being made in a targeted employment area experiencing a high unemployment rate of 150% relative to the national average, or a designated rural area as established by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Despite its promise to increase economic growth, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program has been the subject of much criticism due to an increase in fraud on behalf of investors and regional centers, as well as the continued use of unlawful funds. This month, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report that will be reviewed by Congress and USCIS, in consideration of new measures that may be implemented by Congress as part of the program’s renewal process. The report outlines the inherent weaknesses of the EB-5 program and areas of concern.

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