Every year, thousands of foreign nationals and millions in foreign EB-5 investment capital enter the United States through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. The deal is simple: the foreign investor makes an EB-5 investment in a qualifying project, which invigorates the local economy and gives rise to new jobs for U.S. workers. In return, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants the investor U.S. permanent resident status, allowing them and their family to live in the United States indefinitely. Foreign nationals can make an EB5 investment in one of two ways: directly investing in an EB-5 project or investing via an EB-5 regional center.
Both direct investment and regional center investment offer advantages, but for the most part, EB-5 investors prefer regional center investment. A key motivator is the easier job creation requirements: those who make their EB-5 investment through a regional center are permitted to calculate indirect and induced jobs and count them toward the 10 jobs they are required to create to be eligible for permanent resident status under the EB-5 program. But that’s not all: EB-5 regional center investors generally don’t have to deeply involve themselves in the daily managerial tasks of the new commercial enterprise (NCE), either. This frees them from the location-based constraints that direct investors typically face, allowing an EB-5 applicant to invest in an EB-5 project in Florida while setting up home in Texas.
Even though the Regional Center Program accounts for the majority of EB5 investments, the U.S. government has not made it a permanent program. Therefore, the program must be continuously reauthorized by the government, generally in conjunction with government funding bills. The reauthorization periods can vary from years to months or even weeks.
The EB-5 Regional Center Program faced an expiry date on September 30, 2020, but Congress extended it at the last minute. The new expiry date was December 11, 2020, giving the program an authorization period of just two and a half months. When December 11 arrived, Congress had not yet determined the funding and legislation details for 2021, so they extended the Regional Center Program until December 18, 2020, giving themselves one more week to deliberate legislative issues. News of reauthorization is expected on or before December 18, but the length of the reauthorization period cannot be predicted.
Given the Regional Center Program’s positive role in stimulating the U.S. economy through EB-5 investment and creating new jobs in high-unemployment or rural targeted employment areas (TEAs), it is expected to remain in place for the foreseeable future. As the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has shown us, however, the unpredictable can strike at any time. For a more stable future, the EB-5 industry should push to make the EB-5 Regional Center Program permanent.