The 1993 Appropriations Act amended the EB-5 program to create the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, which allowed foreign nationals to invest in an economic unit called a regional center. Regional centers promote economic growth, "including increased export sales, improved regional productivity, job creation, or increased domestic capital investment". Investments within a regional center provide foreign nationals the added benefit of allowing them to count jobs created both directly and indirectly for purposes of meeting the 10-job creation requirement. Regional centers help EB-5 investors and project developers because they reduce the difficulty of meeting qualifying job creation requirements.
In 1994, the first two regional centers were established, and by 2007 there were sixteen. Because of the financial crisis, at the end of 2007, there were only 11 USCIS- approved regional centers. In 2008 the regional centers nearly doubled, and their numbers mushroomed since then. By May 1, 2017, there were 883 regional centers in the US. By 2015 the regional center program had generated billions of dollars for the government and created tens of thousands of jobs across the country. By 2015, regional center applications represented over 90% of all EB-5 investments.
Targeted Employment Area (TEA)
A Targeted Employment Area (TEA) is a region of the United States for which the threshold for investment for an investor to be eligible for the EB-5 visa is $500,000 (as opposed to the usual $1,000,000 limit for the US as a whole). There are two kinds of TEAs: high unemployment areas (defined as areas having unemployment more than 150% the national average calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and rural areas (defined as areas outside a Metropolitan Statistical Area).
Determining the scope of the regional center
The most important step in the review of the regional center is to determine the area and economic scope of the project. This includes determining the location, industry, the amount of investment required, and the business model of the regional center.
Organize an expert team
Before applying, be sure to contact industry experts to analyze the data and conditions of the regional center. These include economists, accountants, immigration lawyers, etc.
Submit I-924 form to USCIS
The I-924 form submitted to the USCIS is an application form for the regional center, usually submitted by an immigration attorney with the assistance of other experts.
Submit I-526 Petition
The I-526 petition will show detailed information on the EB-5 investment project and the corresponding regional center. After approval, EB-5 investors will be eligible for a green card to move to the US. The regional center can help manage some or all of the investment fund.
Manage, Supervise & Report
The regional center must monitor investment projects and document the progress of job creation. Moreover, the regional center is required to provide the US Immigration Service with an annual compliance report.
Submit I-829 Petition
The I-829 petition indicates that the applicant has met all EB-5 program requirements. After the approval, investors can obtain permanent residency status in the United States.