USCIS Rolls Out EB-5 Regional Center Audit Program

USCIS Rolls Out EB-5 Regional Center Audit Program

EB-5 Visa, EB5 Visa, EB-5 Investment

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Tuesday unveiled the start of an EB-5 regional center audit program, which will involve audit teams examining documents and interviewing staffers, with the move coming roughly a month before the visa program’s regional center aspect is set to expire. 

In an overview on its website, USCIS said the regional center audits will be another way to boost the EB-5 visa program’s “integrity” and double-check information in the centers’ applications and certifications.

“These audits will verify compliance with applicable laws and authorities to ensure continued eligibility for the regional center designation,” USCIS said in a statement.

The EB-5 program currently provides green cards to foreign nationals who invest at least $500,000 in a U.S. project that creates at least 10 jobs, but the program has been plagued by a spate of fraud suits, including a high-profile case involving a Vermont ski resort.

Regional centers are a major part of the EB-5 visa program and are used to pool the investor funds. Notably, the EB-5 regional center program is due to expire in April, but while the House Judiciary Committee has been making noise about EB-5 reforms, it remains to be seen whether the program will receive another clean extension.

In explaining the EB-5 regional center audit program, USCIS said the audit team, will reviews applications, records, certifications and other information about a regional center, verify “supporting documents,” perform site visits, and interview staff members.

A USCIS representative said the agency expects the audits to “begin shortly,” and that the audits are voluntary. Additionally, regional centers will generally be provided with advance notice, the representative said.

“If a regional center declines to participate in a compliance audit, USCIS has other mechanisms available to follow-up regarding compliance with program requirements,” the spokesperson said.

Dawn Lurie, an attorney with Seyfarth Shaw LLP, told Law360 that while there have been site visits before now, which she characterized as more project-based, the audits are a new development.

“Provided that the Service does it in such a way that they have trained professionals doing these, I think it will be really good for the industry. I think it’s going to increase transparency,” Lurie said. She noted that it’s now time to “dust off the operational plans” that regional centers submitted to the immigration agency.

And in terms of the scale of the audits, the USCIS told Law360 on Wednesday that for this year, the agency plans on conducting “a limited number of compliance audits,” on top of “visiting project sites for around 250 new commercial enterprises and job creating entities around the country.”

The development comes after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released an early notice of possible regulatory updates to the EB-5 visa program’s regional center component earlier this year, asking for comments on everything from monitoring measures to issues involved with terminating regional centers.



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