USCIS Launches New Fee for EB-5 Regional Centers in April
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has revealed that starting this April, an annual fee will be charged to all designated regional centers, with the aim of financing the EB-5 Integrity Fund.
The Department of Homeland Security published a Federal Register notice informing those interested in the EB-5 Program that USCIS will begin raising funds for the EB-5 Integrity Fund to administer the EB-5 Regional Center Program, as required by the Reform and Integrity Law enacted last year.
“As long as the collection of this fee achieves its intended purpose, it will be welcomed by all EB-5 stakeholders,” said Marko Issever, CEO of America EB5 Visa, LLC.
This means that beginning March 2, 2023, USCIS will collect an annual fee from each designated regional center to fund the EB-5 Integrity Fund. The annual fee, due April 1, 2023 for the current year, is $10,000 for EB-5 regional centers with 20 or fewer investors and $20,000 for regional centers with more than 20 investors.
EB-5 Regional Centers have until this April for the first payment
Beginning with fiscal year 2024, the fee will be due at the beginning of each fiscal year, which would be between October 1 and October 31 (of 2023).
The alert indicated that the filing fee for Form I-526E (Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor) increased by $1,000 on October 1, 2022, to include Integrity Fund fees.
This news did not go down too well among those who work in the industry. Bernie Wolfsdorf, WR Immigration Managing Partner, stated that “this is in addition to the recently imposed $1,000 filing fee increase for the I-526E, and the proposed massive increase in filing fees for visa applicants. What’s worse is that award times are getting longer despite all the fees collected, which makes one wonder what all this money is being used for.”
The alert said the agency could use the EB-5 Integrity Fund fees “to detect and investigate fraud and other immigration crimes.” There will be no penalty for payments due in fiscal year 2023.
However, USCIS warned that they will begin charging late fees starting in October 2023 for payments more than 30 days late on the due date.
EB-5 regional centers could face termination if fee is not paid
In relation to the termination of regional centers, the USCIS established that they have the obligation to terminate a regional center, according to the RIA law, that does not execute the payment of the fee within the first 3 months after its expiration.
Before sending a termination notice, the agency will send a notice of intent to terminate and the opportunity to provide proof that the fee was paid on time, according to the alert.
Marko Issever, for his part, doesn’t think charging the fee will discourage new EB-5 filings. However, he claimed that long processing times and increased scrutiny on the source of funds is the biggest complaint from investors his company is receiving.
“We all know that USCIS is understaffed to process the current backlog. The RIA also requires much faster awards. Since they cannot redirect these fees to resolve the other pressing issues, we must find a way to remove the backlog,” Issever explained.
While the RIA brought increased oversight requirements, many in the EB-5 community have felt that the agency’s staffing problems have prevented it from doing more.
“The least USCIS could do is require that Form I-956K be filed only by unregulated foreign immigration agents and exempt US stockbrokers, lightening some of their workload,” Issever concluded.
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