On April 12, 2016, the United States Department of Homeland Security – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), posted an update to their Immigrant Investor Processing Times bulletin.
The United States Department of State- Bureau of Consular affairs, recently posted the April Visa Bulletin. The most encouraging news is that Consular Processing dates for Mainland-China born I-526 investors has been moved up one week to February 1, 2014 (from January 22, 2014). That means that investors with an approved I-526 before February 1, 2014 will now be able to schedule interviews with their U.S. Consular offices and receive their conditional green card and temporary visa for entrance to the U.S., or apply for adjustment of status if they currently reside in the U.S. All other countries remain current.
If you are a client with an approved I-526 before February 1, 2014, please contact our office to learn how this impact’s your family.
On March 16, 2016 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) formally announced the open acceptance period for H-1B petitions under the Fiscal Year (“FY”) 2017 cap. The period, commonly referred to as Cap Season, will begin on April 1st, 2016. The H-1B program is employed by U.S. businesses seeking to engage foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering, and computer programing.
USCIS is expecting over 65,000 petitions in the first five business days alone – more than the congressionally set FY2017 cap of 65,000. 20,000 of which are set aside for individuals possessing a U.S. master’s degree or higher and are exempt from the 65,000 cap. Due to the increased likelihood that the number of petitions filed will exceed the cap, USCIS will implement a computer generated lottery system to ensure fairness. USCIS will reject all unselected petitions and petitions received after the cap has closed. Additionally, USCIS will continue to accept H-1B petitions via Premium Processing, but has created an estimated processing date beginning May 16, 2016. As always, cases will be deemed accepted on the date in which a full application is receive, including proper filing fees.
If your business is interested in pursuing an H-1B visa for a highly skilled foreign national, please contact our office for a comprehensive evaluation.
The United States Department of State, the agency charged with issuing passports, is currently anticipating a surge in demand through the end of calendar year 2016. The estimated total of new and renewed passports is projected at 17 million, an increase of roughly 1.5 million.
The cause of this surge is two-fold. First, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (“WHTI”) went in to full effect in 2007, requiring Americans travelling via air to present valid passports when returning from countries such as Mexico and those in the Caribbean. All of the 10-year passports issued in 2006 and 2007 are set to expire in 2016-2017. The State Department was overwhelmed when WHTI went into effect leaving many travelers stranded. By issuing this advisory, it is hoping to avoid the same problems this time around. Second, the Real ID Act, passed in 2008 and extensively implemented as of February 2016, limits the use of non-compliant state issued drivers licenses for air travel. Many people are rushing to process new passports and renew imminently expiring passports for this reason as well.
In consequence, we encourage anyone with a passport issued in 2006 and 2007 to apply for a renewal as soon as possible. For more information about passport issuance, and to learn how to apply for a passport and see real time processing times, please visit the U.S. Passports and International Travel Page on the Department of State’s website located here.
Should you have any questions or concerns about the validity of your passport, or how to acquire a passport please contact our office.
We have just received notification that the National Visa Center (NVC) has created a dedicated email box for questions related to approved EB-5 cases at the NVC:
As of February 22, 2016, investors with questions related to an approved I-526 petition will be able to correspond with the National Visa Center (NVC) using a dedicated e-mail address:NVCeb5@state.gov. This newly created EB-5 Investor Assistance Desk is part of NVC’s continuing efforts to improve customer service. Upon receipt of an approved petition from USCIS, the Investor Assistance Desk will oversee the addition of potential derivative applicants and creation of fee bills. Customers may e-mail their derivative’s relationship documents to NVCeb5@state.gov, which can also be used for inquiries on derivatives, the Child Status Protection Act, and general case status.
The Investor Assistance Desk does not change NVC’s process for documentarily qualifying an immigrant visa case and scheduling an interview overseas. All visa applicants, including those in the EB-5 category, should submit their financial, civil, and supporting documents to NVC in one package following the instructions on http://nvc.state.gov/submit. The goal of NVC’s Investor Assistance Desk is to provide more transparent and effective customer service through a team specially trained in the I-526 petition.
The U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin for the month of February 2016 shows cutoff date January 15, 2014 for Mainland-China born visa applicants, moving up from December 13, 2013 in the December bulletin. The January Visa Bulletin showed that all EB-5 Visa Categories were unauthorized for issuance as a result of pending legislation to extend the EB-5 Regional Center Program. This issue has since been resolved with the extension of the EB-5 program through September 20, 2016.
As of February 1, Chinese investors who filed their I-526 petitions before January 15, 2014 will be eligible to schedule interviews with Department of State Consular offices and be issued immigrant visas to enter the U.S. or apply for adjustment of status if they are already in the U.S.
Since May 1, 2015 Chinese investors have been subject to a cutoff date due to high demand for EB-5 category visas. This is only an issue form Mainland Chinese investors. Investors from other countries are not subject to a cut-off date, and in consequence, they may move immediately forward with obtaining their EB-5 based immigrant visas.
After more than six months of negotiations aimed at reforming the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program, Congress failed to reach a compromise and instead opted for a nine-month extension without any change.
Until December 15, 2015, it seemed as if Congress were ready to pass a reform package. The latest draft of the proposed legislation would have increased the minimum investment amount from $500,000 to $800,000 for investments in a Targeted Employment Area (“TEA”) and $1 million for investments not in a TEA. It would have revised the definition of a TEA to include rural areas, priority urban investment areas, areas of not more than 12 contiguous census tracts with an unemployment rate at least 150% of the national average and closed military bases. The bill also provided that investors in manufacturing and infrastructure projects could invest at the minimum investment amount.
In the end, Congress decided that the bill was not ready. Many of the provisions had not been fully vetted and there were valid concerns that some of the bill’s revisions would have done more damage than good.
There are pros and cons to Congress’ failure to pass reform legislation. Project developers can continue to promote their projects and raise funds under the current rules. Investors can invest at the $500,000 level. But the market is nervous about the new September 30, 2016 expiration date and concerned that needed reforms may be pushed off again given that 2016 is a presidential election year in the United States. Many overseas investors are disappointed by Congress’ failure to act. They had already adjusted to the new reality and were looking forward to long term re-authorization and new provisions that would have been enacted to protect investors.
On September 30, 2015 Congress passed a Continuing Resolution that includes a temporary extension of the EB-5 Regional Center Program (the “Program”) which was due to sunset on September 30 absent re-authorization. This extension allows the program to continue as usual through December 11. The extension also provides additional time for Congress to consider a long-term re-authorization bill that would include reform measures designed to strengthen federal oversight and the integrity of the program. Members of Congress from both parties and both the House and Senate are negotiating in good faith, and interested parties should weigh in during the next few months to ensure that reform proposals are will thought through, balanced and do not unintentionally diminish the program’s positive economic impact.
Since its inception, the EB-5 Regional Center program has enjoyed bipartisan support. According to Invest In the USA (IIUSA), the trade association of regional centers, EB-5 has generated approximately $12 billion in foreign direct investment since 2008. From 2010-2013 alone, the program contributed $9.62 billion to gross domestic product while supporting an average of 29,300 jobs per year. More than 95 percent of all EB-5 investments flow through EB-5 Regional Centers.
For more information on EB-5 Regional Center Program, please contact JULIE C FERGUSON, EB-5 attorney, today by calling 305.358.0155. Or stop by our office located at 200 S. Biscayne Blvd #3150 Miami, Florida 33131. Visit our website at www.JCFImmigration.com
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