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EB-5 Question of the Week: What is a regional center?

A regional center is a private or public economic unit designated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with the goal of promoting economic growth in the United States.

Created by the U.S. Congress in 1990, the EB-5 program allows foreign investors to obtain U.S. Green Cards for themselves and their qualifying dependents (spouse and children under 21 years of age) with an investment of $800,000 in a new commercial enterprise in the United States. Easing the manner in which investors can satisfy the requirements of this government investment immigration scheme, the U.S. Congress introduced the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program in 1992. The regional center program allows investors to benefit from a passive investment in a project sponsored by a regional center and take advantage of indirect job creation.

To receive designation, a regional center must file Form I-956 (Application for Regional Center Designation) with USCIS. As of October 25, 2021, there are 632 approved regional centers, the names of which along with their locations of operation and regional center ID numbers are posted on the USCIS website. Additionally, a regional center must file Form I-956 (Application for Approval of an Investment in a Commercial Enterprise) with USCIS to request approval of each particular investment offering through an associated new commercial enterprise.

While direct investment is possible for EB-5 applicants, the regional center route is preferred as a regional center takes the burden off the shoulders of investors. Applying through a regional center is less burdensome for investors as they will only be responsible for presenting their own source of funds documentation and personal information to USCIS, rather than having to show information and documentation related to their investment in the United States. The regional center will provide all documentation including but not limited to business plan and job creation report to USCIS on behalf of the investor. Therefore, the EB-5 investor does not need to be actively involved in the management of the project through the regional center route.

With the passage of the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act (RIA) in March 2022, the U.S. government has increased oversight over regional center operations and heightened the security of the program for foreign investors. The RIA now requires regional centers to be audited by the Secretary of Homeland Security at least once every five years. Upon a regional center failing to satisfy the requirements of the audit, such regional center will lose its designation. This heightened government oversight has increased the security of regional center investments for foreign applicants.

With over 600 designated regional centers, it is important to find the right regional center for your investment. Some of these regional centers have sanctions from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) placed on them or are subjects of investigations not readily identifiable online. Therefore, it is crucial to invest with a regional center that has a stellar track record and vast experience in the EB-5 industry. Prospective EB-5 applicants must ask the right questions when it comes to investing in a regional center, such as the number of projects hosted by the regional center, their approval ratings, the percentage of successful projects, and the return of investor funds. Working with an inexperienced regional center may lead to immigration risk for EB-5 applicants. Therefore, given the importance of finding the right regional center, it is highly recommended to consult with industry leaders prior to making a decision.

With over ten years of experience in the EB-5 industry, we have developed strong relationships with top regional centers operating in the United States and we are ready to assist you with your migration journey to the United States. If you are interested in finding out more about the EB-5 program, contact our team today for a free consultation.

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