ELIS I526 Update!

July 22nd, 2014

Dear Stakeholder,

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) invites you to participate in a stakeholder webinar on Wednesday, July 30, 2014, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. (Eastern) to learn more about the usability and functionality of the new USCIS Electronic Immigration System (USCIS ELIS) Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, and the document library.

During this webinar, USCIS will demonstrate this functionality and provide tips on using USCIS ELIS features.

The USCIS ELIS Form I-526 allows customers to:
Submit their petition electronically,
Upload evidence, and
Track case status in real-time.

The USCIS ELIS Document Library allows regional centers to provide immigrant investors in new commercial enterprises with electronic copies of their investment-related documents, including:
Transactional, and
Offering documents.

Form I-526 petitioners can:
Access electronic copies of documents pertaining to their investment,
Attest the documents are true and accurate copies, and
Supplement their electronic or paper-based Form I-526 petition with documents stored in the document library.

To Register for This Session:
The webinar is open to the public, but is limited to the first 100 registrants.

To register:
Email the Public Engagement Division at Public.Engagement@uscis.dhs.gov by July 28.
Reference “Document Library” in the subject line.
Provide your full name.
Provide the name of your organization, if applicable.

Once we process your registration, you will receive a confirmation email with additional instructions on how to participate in the webinar.

If you have any questions regarding the registration process, or if you have not received a confirmation email within two business days, please email us at Public.Engagement@uscis.dhs.gov.

We look forward to engaging with you!

2014 EB-5 Business and Investment Exploration Trade Mission announced

July 17th, 2014

Acquiring project funding can be a challenge, especially for new kids on the block. This is where we can help! The 2014 EB-5 Business and Investment Exploration Delegation organized by Artisan Business Group will be traveling to the cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou in Southern China to meet with our established business partners in the region October 5-12, 2014. The cornerstones of our past successes have always been thorough market research, almost 2 decades of business experience with the Chinese, and creating win-win scenarios with our business liaisons by aligning actions with values. Investing in a trade-mission trip gives one high-odds of finding a compatible investment and business partners while also providing a unique opportunity to experience Eastern culture from the comfort of the luxurious hotels we will be residing in while abroad. Our Trade Missions to China will continue to provide American businesses new access and comprehensive insight into the dynamic Chinese market – including its scale, diversity and potential. At the Artisan Business Group we promise expertise in identifying and setting appointments with business partners (including EB-5 emigration agents) that will meet your prospect criteria. We help our clients with developing insight into China’s business culture and social etiquette. We do this to better avoid misunderstandings that could scuttle deals and harm working relationships. Attending a Trade Mission with us also carries the benefits of pre-mission assessment of the Chinese market, in-country briefings, travel logistics, group transportation, interpreters, day-by-day itinerary, and hotel accommodations. For more information about our Explore Chinese Market now! – Join our China Trade Missions, please email us at artisanbusiness@gmail.com or call 217-899-6661 for details. Small group, sign up early! Discount rate for Wright Johnson clients.


July 9th, 2014

You can support entrepreneurs’ apps, gadgets, clothing creations, restaurants — you name it — through the exploding phenomenon of “crowdfunding.” But what can you show for your investment? A drawer full of T-shirts, tote bags and other tokens of appreciation.

Not the kind of rewards most serious investors are looking for.

For wealthy funders — so-called “accredited investors” — some crowdfunding platforms offer an ownership piece of the startup venture they are funding. If the concept becomes the next big thing rather than the next big flop, they could reap a giant return.

Increasingly, those wealthy crowdfunders are turning to a tried-and-true investment class they can see, feel and understand: real estate.

Before crowdfunding platforms came along, only a small fraction of the nine million U.S. accredited investors — those with a net worth of at least $1 million or $200,000 in annual income — had participated in private-investment opportunities, said Joanna Schwartz, CEO of EarlyShares.com, a Miami crowdfunding platform aimed at those very investors. Typically, she said, “they didn’t have access to them unless they knew someone [in the deal], and this is especially true in real estate. This really is about giving direct access to investors in ways they never had before.”

Crowdfunding started with wildly popular donation-based websites such as Kickstarter, where supporters can fund enterprises ranging from a company that makes mermaid outfits to a film about Churchill’s Pub in Little Haiti. In the past few years, crowdfunding has become increasingly popular for not-for-profit causes and micro-lending.

Equity-based crowdfunding is more complex — and more controversial.

Though the 2012 federal JOBS Act legalized crowdfunding as a means to raise funds for startups and other ventures, the rules governing such transactions have been released in waves. In September 2013, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission modified securities rules to allow advertising of such deals, which opened the door to crowdfunding platforms being used by more-sophisticated, accredited investors. The final rules governing ordinary investors are expected later this year, but an SEC spokesperson declined comment.

EarlyShares, founded in 2011, and dozens of other companies around the country took aim at accredited investors. By the end of last year, the company had launched its first online fund-raising campaign for the Miami-based peer-to-peer boating company Boatsetter, which has already has raised more than $1 million on the platform and is seeking $2.25 million. A dozen more campaigns are underway for technology, film and entertainment companies and other firms around the country.

And now, real estate deals.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that dozens of real-estate crowdfunding sites have popped up in the past year, including Fundrise and Realty Mogul. Already, these companies have raised more than $135 million in debt and equity for real-estate deals, according to The Journal’s calculations. While that is tiny compared to the more than $700 billion market value of publicly traded real-estate investment trusts, it is the fastest-growing category in the crowdfunding arena, according to Crowdnetic, a firm that tracks crowdfunding data.

That doesn’t surprise Schwartz. “Where else can investors go with a few clicks and get a potentially 7 or 9 percent return on a project that they understand? We’re not saying its riskless — nothing is riskless — but they get it,” said Schwartz, who has a background in commercial real estate finance as well as technology and e-commerce. “Real estate is intuitively understood in a much different way than startup companies are. Investors are chasing yield.”

What will probably prime the pump for real-estate campaigns on EarlyShares is its recent exclusive marketing partnership with Property.com. That’s one of the websites run by Miami-based eRealEstate Holdings, which also runs Condo.com, Houses.com and Location.com. With more than 5 million listings combined, they serve as a national real-estate marketplace for listing, searching, buying, selling and renting single-family homes, condos and commercial property.

“We think we can rapidly scale the crowdfunding platform on [Property.com],” said Richard Swerdlow, CEO of eRealEstate Holdings. Property.com now has 500,000 commercial listings and 150,000 monthly visitors.

Swerdlow’s company is shifting Property.com from its current mission as a search site to a one-stop shop for commercial real estate; the partnership with EarlyShares offers a service it wants to feature. Once the platforms are fully integrated later this summer, visitors will see a prominent “Invest” tab, where they can view and potentially participate in crowdfunding-powered real estate deals on the EarlyShares platform.

“We see [crowdfunded real estate development] as a growing market that is only going to get bigger,” said Swerdlow. “We also think there is a big opportunity in Latin America.”

Jay Massirman, a Miami real estate developer and investor in multifamily projects, is testing crowdfunding for an Orlando project, but admits he doesn’t know quite what to expect. “I’ve been very curious about how it will all work,” said Massirman of Rivergate Companies, who has been in real estate for almost 30 years.

Since he offered investment opportunities in an Orlando multifamily apartment community about a month ago on EarlyShares, he has had interest from 50 to 75 qualified investors. He also held a webinar session through EarlyShares to present the project and answer questions. He is trying to raise $2.7 million, with an investor minimum of $100,000.

“It’s bringing a new access point for capital,” said Massirman, who has fielded investor interest from surgeons from Texas, high net worth investors from the Midwest and busy businesspeople from both coasts. “Now with the advent of crowdfunding, you can log on to these sites and find sponsors like myself who have a track record, expertise. … It’s attracting yield-minded people who are looking for vetted investments.”

Atlas Real Estate Partners in New York is also placing a bet on crowdfunding as it develops a 13,353-square-foot mixed-use building in Miami’s Wynwood arts district. The company is using Washington-based Fundrise for its effort. Atlas managing principal Arvind Chary said this is the third deal Atlas has placed on crowdfunding sites, though it is its first Miami property and its first time using Fundrise.

“Crowdfunding is a creative approach to fund-raising, and Wynwood is a very creative area,” said Chary. “It lines up very well with our product.”

Whether crowdfunding platforms become the go-to dealmakers of the future is yet to be seen. New methods for doing business often come with a learning curve — much like the advent of online stock trading in the 1990s, said EarlyShares’ Schwartz.

“If you look back at online stock trading 20 years ago, all of the same kind of early adopter concerns people raised are the same here,” she said. “Will there be fraud? Will people know how do to it? Will they adopt it?’

Still, she expects the time-saving and financial advantages eventually will prevail. “Going direct, there are a lot of fees we are saving for both sides here.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/06/4221997/developers-turn-to-crowdfunding.html#storylink=cpy

USCIS Posts updated processing times

July 9th, 2014

The new processing times are

I924….. 5.4 months
I526….. 13.2 months
I829….. 8.7 months

Kevin Wright Principal of Wright Johnson Presents at Third Annual Southern California EB-5 Conference

July 9th, 2014

This unprecedented conference will feature a broad range of the most knowledgeable stakeholders in the EB-5 industry. The event will feature U.S. Congressmen Bob Goodlatte and Darrell Issa as keynote speakers. Kevin Wright will present with CanAM’s Tom Rosenfeld, Wailian’s Linda Ha, John Tishler of Shepard Mullin, and moderated by Elsie Arias of Stone & Grzegorek on the topic of “Does my project work for EB-5?”

The conference will be heald at the Balboa Bay Club & Resort in Newport Beach, CA on July 21, 2014 from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.

Click here for more information

BEA to release a new version of RIMS in 2015

July 3rd, 2014

The following is from the BEA regarding the release of RIMS in 2015….

The Bureau of Economic Analysis plans to release in 2015 a modified economic model to replace the original Regional Input-Output Modeling System (RIMS II). Cost savings will be realized because the modified model will be updated less frequently.

Much like RIMS II, the modified model will produce regional “multipliers” that can be used in economic impact studies to estimate the total economic impact of a project on a region.
However, the modified model will be updated with new input-output (I-O) data only for benchmark years. That is — years ending in two and seven. The modified model will become available to customers in 2015 and incorporate 2007 benchmark I-O data and 2012 regional economic data.

Last year, as a result of budget sequestration and reduced funding levels, BEA discontinued updates to RIMS II. Orders for RIMS II multipliers, however, have continued to be accepted because the cost of fulfilling these orders is covered by a nominal processing fee.

After investigating ways to continue to meet the analytical needs of our customers but do so at a lower cost to BEA, the bureau decided to make a modified economic model available. Until the modified model is available in 2015, customers may continue to buy RIMS II multipliers.

Developers Revive Condo-Hotel Concept

July 3rd, 2014

Developers revive condo-hotel concept
By: Bloomberg News July 2, 2014 3:48 pm 0

Rainer Viete, who visits Florida from Venezuela about once a month, said he’s buying an apartment at the Hyde Resort & Residences hotel-condo project near Miami so he can order a meal or rent out his apartment when he wants.
“I love the amenities the building will have — a restaurant that can provide room service, a concierge, maintenance, a person that can clean your place, valet parking,” said Viete, 25, who works for his family’s real estate company in Caracas. The $250 million project, scheduled to break ground in August, is already 85 percent sold.
Developers across the U.S. are reviving a concept that collapsed with the real estate crash in 2008: combining condos and hotels. In cities including Miami, New York and Los Angeles, a rebounding hospitality market is joining with rising demand for luxury homes, spurring developers to construct new full-service hotels and ask premium prices for residential units associated with a high-end brand.
“One plus one makes three,” said hotelier Ian Schrager, who is developing Miami Beach’s Edition, a luxury lodging-and-residential tower with Marriott International Inc., and a similar project on Manhattan’s Lower East Side with Witkoff Group. “When you add condos to a hotel, the sum of the parts is more than the value of each individual component alone. They complement each other.”
Beverly Hills
Also in Miami, Richard LeFrak, the billionaire chief executive officer of New York-based LeFrak Organization Inc., is developing 1Hotel & Homes South Beach with investor Barry Sternlicht. Demand has been so strong that LeFrak is considering another hotel with condos in Los Angeles, he said in an interview.
In nearby Beverly Hills, developer Beny Alagem is planning two Waldorf Astoria condominium towers, to be built after a luxury hotel is constructed adjacent to the Beverly Hilton. In Santa Monica, the city is evaluating a redevelopment plan under which a 16-story residential tower would be added to the existing Fairmont Miramar Hotel.
“You are seeing more and more condos that are associated with a hotel brand,” said LeFrak. Residents need only “make one phone call. ‘Change the linens, put food in my fridge, get my car ready.’ They don’t have to bother with organizing a lot of things. It’s a big draw.”
Steve Nagelberg, a 60-year-old orthopedic surgeon, said such amenities and a high-end brand name attracted him to the Ritz-Carlton Residences in downtown Los Angeles. He and his wife bought a 4,100-square-foot, three-bedroom unit with panoramic views in early 2012. The project was conceived before the current development wave as part of Anschutz Entertainment Group’s 4 million-square-foot L.A. Live entertainment complex.
Parking cash
“No matter how wealthy you are, you are always considering where to park your cash,” Nagelberg said in a telephone interview. “But when I saw the Ritz-Carlton name, I thought, you can depend on this. I knew this type of company would be here not just a year from now, but 20 years from now.”
For developers, adding condos to a hotel project can attract financing that may not otherwise be available, said Bruce Ford, senior vice president and director of business development at Lodging Econometrics Inc., a Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based consulting firm.
“Whenever you do mixed-use, different developers are awarded different phases with different time horizons,” Ford said in a telephone interview. “That provides for different types of income with different returns. That can help attract different types of investors, while it also diversifies your revenue stream.”
Lodging comeback
The U.S. hotel industry has recovered since the financial and property-market meltdown. Room rates in the first five months of this year reached a record, according to Jan Freitag, senior vice president at research firm STR Inc. Through May, the average price for a hotel stay nationwide jumped to $113.58 a night, up 4.1 percent from a year earlier, according to the Hendersonville, Tennessee-based company.
Even with rising demand, few new hotels — particularly full-service ones with restaurants, bars and other amenities — have been built because construction financing has been difficult to obtain, Ford said. In the two highest lodging segments, 45 hotels were under construction as of December, compared with 130 at the end of 2007, according to STR.
“It’s still hard to finance a pure hotel play,” Ford said. In big cities, “it’s just very expensive to build. So until the hotel is completed and returns money, you can sell condos and finance the hospitality component. The hotel component in turn will provide you with long-term cash flow.”
Different structures
Condo developments with a hotel can be structured in several ways. In some cases, residences may be connected to the lodging segment only so that owners can take advantage of the hotel’s amenities and benefit from the brand’s prestige. That tends to put a premium on unit prices.
In other developments, known as condo-hotels, a portion of the condos are made available to the hotel when owners aren’t using them, producing revenue for residents.
During the last recession, some buyers of condo-hotel projects incorrectly assumed unlimited property-value appreciation and lodging demand that would supply lucrative returns. During the financial-market meltdown, many projects faltered, said Jim Butler, chairman of the global hospitality group at Los Angeles-based law firm Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP.
Stalled projects
Casualties included SB Hotel Associates’ Trump International Hotel & Tower in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The project stalled, and some residential buyers sued after Donald Trump pulled out in 2009. In Chicago, the Shangri-La hotel-condo development came to a halt in 2008 after reaching the 28th floor, and the property’s skeleton was unfinished until New York-based Related Cos. resumed construction in 2012.
“Residential and hotel are two very different and separate businesses,” said Neil Shah, president of Hersha Hospitality Trust, a real estate investment trust that owns hotels including the Rittenhouse in Philadelphia. “The differences require extra caution and expertise. In great times you can leverage them together, but the risk is not just financial but also operationally very significant.”
While financing of condo purchases in hotel projects may be less risky than during the last housing boom, other risks remain, including the potential for overbuilding, according to Butler, the hospitality attorney.
No restraint
“Developers will build whenever they can,” he said. “If construction financing comes in within months, there will be an explosion of new projects. That is what we’ve done for 100 years. The only discipline to be had is from the financing side. Developers won’t show any restraint.”
In Miami, Related Group of Florida has four projects under way that include a condo-hotel component, which will make some of the units available for hotel use when vacant. Much of the buyer demand is coming from South American investors, according to CEO Jorge Perez.
Perez, who had to restructure more than $1.5 billion in debt on mostly vacant Florida condos in 2010, is looking to protect himself from potential future downturns by requiring at least 50 percent equity from buyers.
Beachwalk Miami
The $150 million Beachwalk hotel-residential project in Hallandale Beach, Florida, which Perez expects to be completed in 2015, has 300 residential units. Eighty-four of them are purely for condo use, and the rest will be made available to the hotel when residents aren’t occupying them. The units sold out in two months, with an average price of $500,000, according to Perez.
“The money that is coming in from buyers from Latin America and Europe is unprecedented today,” he said in a telephone interview. “When we talked to some of these potential buyers, a lot of them said they were investors. But they also wanted to be able to enjoy their condos and at the same time maximize their income. That’s why we are creating a hybrid product.”
Viete, the Venezuelan buyer at the Hyde Resort — a Related development with Miami-based Fortune International Group — said the ease of renting out his condo was another reason he was attracted to the project. He also liked the property’s Hyde brand, by luxury entertainment company SBE.
“With that kind of name on top of a great project, you will have many interested people in the future if you want to sell,” he said.
That type of thinking is what makes condo and hotel properties so attractive for real estate investors, LeFrak said.
“If there is a high-end hotel brand associated with the condos, then people’s expectations about the quality of service and reliability are elevated,” he said. “The brand has some clout. And that in turn creates a premium and additional value for the developer.”

Read more: http://finance-commerce.com/2014/07/developers-revive-condo-hotel-concept/#ixzz36PLYqzfb

EB5 Workshop

June 24th, 2014

EB-5 workshop July 10th in Newark, NJ will provide a rare networking opportunity for EB-5 projects and regional centers professionals. The one-day workshop on July 10th in NYC/NJ will provide attendees an opportunity to meet and network with highly experienced emigration agents from China. Those in attendance will include Westlead Capital Group, Wailian Overseas Consulting Group, Join Group and China International Overseas Company.

Register today at http://nyeb5.eventbrite.com/.

The Accelerated EB-5 Capital Raising Workshop in NYC/NJ July 10

June 2nd, 2014

The Accelerated EB-5 Capital Raising Process Practical Workshop (NYC/NJ) is a one-day workshop presented by Artisan Business Group July 10, 2014 for new and experienced EB-5 regional center executives and project developers only. The goal is simple: to get your project funded! Everything you learn here is about raising EB-5 capital in the ever-changing markets. Venue in NYC/NJ area will be notified to attendees only. Clients of Wright Johnson will receive 20% off discount. Registration at http://www.EB5NewsBlog.org

The Accelerated EB-5 Capital Raising Process Practical W…
July 10, 2014 New York City Area(Newalk Airport Hotel) Guest Speakers: Jeff Carr, EconomistClem Turner, Securities Attorney Venue to be an…
View on nyeb5.eventbrite.com

Prepared Remarks of Nicholas Colucci

May 25th, 2014

Prepared Remarks of Nicholas Colucci, Chief, Immigrant Investor Program, USCIS
USCIS投资移民项目主任Nicholas Colucci发言稿

Prepared Remarks of Nicholas Colucci
Nicholas Colucci发言稿

Chief, Immigrant Investor Program
U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Association To Invest in the United States (IIUSA)
Eb-5 Regional Economic Development Advocacy Conference
May 8, 2014
Washington, D.C.
Good afternoon, and thank you to Executive Director Joseph, the Board of Directors, and the entire IIUSA membership for inviting me to your conference today. I read on your website that IIUSA represents more than 170 regional centers, which account for greater than 95 percent of all the capital formation associated with the Employment-Based Fifth Preference (EB-5 program), and over 195 associate members of the regional center industry, which include attorneys, broker-dealers, consultants, developers, economists, financial advisors, migration intermediaries, etc. Thus, our engagement with stakeholders such as IIUSA offers a unique opportunity for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to reach many of the stakeholders who have an interest in the program. But they’re not the only reason I’m here today. I’m here because I sincerely hope to continue the meaningful dialogue that exists within the EB-5 stakeholder community, of which we’re all a part.
下午好,感谢董事会执行董事Joseph及IIUSA全体成员邀请我参加今天的会议。 我从官方网站上了解到,美国投资协会(IIUSA)代表了170多处区域中心和超过195位区域中心产业会员。在第五类优先就业型移民签证(EB-5项目)相关的所有集资活动中,这些中心的占比达95%以上,而区域中心产业会员则包括律师、经纪交易商、顾问、开发商、经济学家、金融顾问和移民中介机构等。因此,我们联手IIUSA等相关者造就了独有的机遇,使美国公民及移民服务局(USCIS)能够接触到许多对EB-5项目感兴趣的利益相关者。但这并非是我今天在场的唯一原因。我来参加会议,是因为我真诚地希望能够延续我们EB-5利益相关者团体成员之间有意义的对话。
While I plan to provide a number of program-related updates here today, I also want to spend a little time discussing my background, as it has helped to shape how I plan to lead the program.
I’ve spent more than 20 years in federal government service, with three different Departments, and this experience has provided me with exposure to many geographic regions, business types, and government and non-government programs. It is through these experiences that I’ve developed a better understanding of the positive impacts of collaborative, constructive engagements.
One such example is when I served at ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. One of ATF’s main goals as the Federal regulator for several industries is to increase each industry’s rate of compliance with Federal laws and regulations. At ATF, I was associated with developing a program that concentrated on a subset of a particular regulated industry, whose rate of compliance had historically trailed that of other members of the industry.
第一例,就是我在美国枪炮及爆裂物管理局(ATF)任职时的深刻体会。ATF 作为面向众多行业的联邦监管机构,其主要目标之一就是提高各行业对联邦法律和法规的合规率。当时,某个特定管制行业分部的合规率历来都不及行业中的其它部门,而我在ATF的工作就是参与建立一个解决此问题的项目。
Specifically, the program called for ATF to do the following three things in an attempt to reach our goal of producing a measurable increase in compliance:
1. increase its proactive interaction with the industry subgroup;
2. promote transparency with respect to the types of violations being discovered during audits and the steps the industry could take to avoid these violations in the future; and
3. dedicate additional resources to auditing these industry members over the next three years.
The results we achieved were dramatic. However, we would not have been able to achieve these results without the involvement and engagement of the industry. At the end of two years, the compliance rates of this industry subgroup had increased significantly. I can confidently state that this could not have happened had ATF developed a program that did not involve that significant outreach component. Because we had an engaged stakeholder, and because we could have honest conversations between the two organizations, we changed the dynamic of the relationship and worked collaboratively towards achieving a common goal. I hope to establish a similar relationship with our stakeholders across the EB-5 community, as we must work together, and have honest conversations to build a stronger and more vibrant program.
我们最终取得了显著的成绩。 但是,如果没有行业的参与和配合,我们可能无法取得这些成果。两年后,该行业分部的合规率获得明显提高。我可以自信地说,如果ATF建立的项目没有业界的积极配合,可能就不会取得这样的成绩。正是因为有了利益相关者的参与,以及两个组织之间能够展开真诚的对话,我们改变了相互关系的发展动态,并且合力实现了共同的目标。我希望能与EB-5项目的利益相关者建立起类似的关系,因为我们必须通过合作和真诚的对话,才能运转一个更强大更有活力的项目。
A second experience that helped shape how I plan to administer the EB-5 program is an experience I had at FinCEN – the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which is the anti-money laundering regulator for US financial institutions. The same week I was appointed FinCEN’s associate director of the Analysis and Liaison Division, the Secretaries of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development held a press conference with the Attorney General to announce the Administration’s “Making Home Affordable” program, which would provide qualifying homeowners a lower interest rate to help them keep their home. They also announced that FinCEN, and specifically the Division that I was leading, would serve to coordinate the Government’s anti-fraud efforts associated with the program.
Through my work on this program, I learned two important things:
• One is the resources that can be brought to bear across the interagency community, particularly in coordination with not-for-profit and other private entities, can be extremely powerful when focused and coordinated; and
• two, that there are very bright individuals out there who spend a lot of time developing ingenious fraud schemes and that they will not hesitate to take advantage of others when they are at their most vulnerable.
With respect to interagency community coordination, at FinCEN we worked with members from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General, the Federal banking regulators, and a host of other Federal, state and local agencies. I met and worked with key players within each of these organizations, and throughout my time at FinCEN, I probably worked with two dozen more Federal agencies. Each agency, as you know, has a specific role and responsibility, and I was able to learn and understand the roles, tools, and sources of information that they could contribute to an effort.
关于跨部门合作,我们在FinCEN时的众多合作伙伴就来自联邦调查局、特勤局、住房和城市发展部监察长办公室、联邦银行监管机构,以及许多其它的联邦、州郡和各类地方机等构。 我曾和这些机构中的主力成员一同工作过,而在我任职于FinCEN的整个期间,我在工作中大概接触了二十多家联邦机构。正如大家知道的那样,每家机构都在发挥着特定的作用和承担相应的责任。我能够了解和领会这些机构在一项工作中的作用、掌握的工具和信息来源。
I have begun to develop this same depth of knowledge in the context of the EB-5 program as many agencies intersect with EB-5, whether it is the Securities and Exchange Commission, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or the Department of Commerce. One of the things I propose to do, and one of the reasons that the program was relocated to Washington, DC, is to facilitate greater interaction among the interagency community. Just as the EB-5 program cannot be successful without your support, we need to build strong partnerships with other Federal agencies who are likewise stakeholders in the program.
Now, with respect to those out there who take advantage of others: I learned quickly at FinCEN that where there is money, there will be fraudsters. In the context of mortgage fraud, I saw families who were struggling to save their homes only to be victimized by someone, usually a part of an organized group, who claimed they could help families remain in their home for an upfront fee of around $3,000. Of course, after the money was paid, help was not provided.
During my five years at FinCEN, we worked with law enforcement, regulators, and industry to combat not only mortgage fraud, but many other types of fraud including, but not limited to income tax refund fraud, health care fraud, and fraud against senior citizens. The one consistent theme is that organized groups follow the money, and when one source would dry up they would develop a fairly sophisticated scheme to go after the next one.
Given the amounts of monies involved in the projects undertaken in the EB-5 program, fraud is something against which we must all be vigilant. USCIS cannot do this on our own. Many times, you will be in the position to hear or see something suspicious or “too good to be true” before we do. In these cases, I ask that you share this information with us through our immigrant investor mailbox at USCIS.ImmigrantInvestorProgram@uscis.dhs.gov. When fraud does occur, as you know, the entire program suffers, so it is imperative to all of us to maintain and strengthen the integrity of the program.
So, to summarize, the three things from my past experience I hope to bring to the program include:
• an active and honest dialogue with our stakeholders;
• a coordinated effort within the interagency community; and
• with the assistance of our stakeholders, to guard against fraud and other transgressions that damage the integrity of the program.
Now, I’d like to take the remainder of the time to provide a few program updates. As I mentioned at my first stakeholder engagement in February, I plan to concentrate my time primarily in three areas:
• building the foundation;
• customer service and transparency;
• and performance and predictability.
With respect to building the foundation, by the end of this month, we hope to have upwards of 75 staff on board. This does not include those individuals from the Office of Chief Counsel and Fraud Detection and National Security, who work with the program. This is an almost 40 percent increase from where we were at the end of February. We also just had a few job announcements close, for experienced and entry-level adjudicators. It remains our goal to be at or exceed 100 staff members by the end of the fiscal year.
In terms of training, we are striving to ensure our staff continues to participate in professional development opportunities. In fact, just last week we provided our staff with a 3-hour block of instruction from the Securities and Exchange Commission. We are also providing two additional training courses in the next month or so – one on business organizations and documents, such as subscription agreements and private placement memorandums, and another on international banking and money laundering. Finally, we are customizing a decision writing course to assist our adjudicators and economists in drafting clear and concise requests for evidence (RFE) and decision letters. All of this will serve to expand the depth and breadth of the knowledge of our workforce and continue to strengthen the program.
在培训方面,我们努力确保工作人员能够持续拥有职业发展机会。 事实上,我们在上周为工作人员提供了长达3个小时的证券交易委员会指导培训。我们还将在下个月左右提供两门额外的培训课程—一是关于商业组织和文档,例如认购协议和募股说明书,另一门课程与国际银行业和洗钱有关。此外,我们还在定制一门决策写作课程,以协助我们的评定员和经济学家拟定清晰简明的补件通知(RFE)和决策信。所有这些安排都将有助于扩展工作团队知识面的深度和广度,以及持续增强项目的执行力。
With respect to customer service and transparency, we’ve spent a significant amount of time concentrating on this area in the last month or so. Specifically, we’ve begun to update the website each month with current processing times for each of the form types and we will continue to do this on a monthly basis.
We’ve also recently created a customer service team to respond to inquiries that come to us via the immigrant investor mailbox and service request management tickets, which stakeholders can create themselves online or have created for them by our customer help line. I am proud to state we are ahead of agency standards in our responses to these inquiries.
Finally, we are also seeking a new platform to receive and respond to customer service inquiries, as the mailbox does not lend itself to monitoring for trend and other types of analysis. With this type of information, I’m confident that we will be better able to determine what type of updates and suggestions we can provide to our stakeholders proactively, in an effort to reduce the number of inquiries we receive, thus freeing up more time to adjudicate cases, while providing the best possible service to our customers.
We recently held our second stakeholder engagement since the end of February. At this engagement we asked stakeholders to express their thoughts and input regarding potential EB-5 regulatory changes for USCIS to consider. More than 700 individuals participated and we were able to hear thoughts and feedback from a number of them. We also invited stakeholders to express their ideas and thoughts via a new online tool, called the USCIS Idea Community. More than two dozen individuals provided comments and greater than 200 votes were cast on these comments. We would like to thank those shared their thoughts through the Idea Community.
自2月底以来,我们最近又举行了第二次利益相关者会议。 在此次会议上,我们邀请利益相关者就关于EB-5监管法规的可能改变,提出自己的看法和建议以供参考。共有700多人参加了会议,我们也听到了其中一些人的看法和信息反馈。此外,我们还邀请利益相关者通过名为USCIS创意社区的全新在线工具来表达自己的意见和看法 。有20多名人士提出了自己的建议,200多名人士对这些意见进行了投票。我们在此感谢他们通过创意社区来分享意见。
Finally, in an effort to increase transparency, we are beginning to frame out an annual report beginning in fiscal year 14. My hope is to provide the report sometime around the end of this calendar year.
Now, to address performance and predictability. As I announced in February, I expected to start seeing reduced processing times for regional center applications. In fact, we are starting to see them trend this way. January’s processing time for Form I-924, Application for Regional Center Under the Immigrant Investor Program, was 12 months, and the most recent report, which is March, indicated it has been reduced to around 10 and a half. It is clear that our economists are becoming more efficient and I expect we will see additional improvements in processing times in the coming months.
现在,我来谈一下项目绩效和可预见性。 我在2月份就表示,预计区域中心申请的处理时间将开始缩短。事实上,我们已经看到了这种趋势。1月份的I-924申请(根据投资移民项目提出的区域中心申请)处理时间为12个月,而最近3月份的同类申请处理时间已经减少到约10个半月。显然,我们的经济学家工作效率变得更高效了,预计我们在未来数月内还将看到处理时间的更多改善之处。
Similarly, we are seeing progress in the area of Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions. Our processing time, as you may have seen in our website, has been reduced to about 9 months from more than 11 in January. As you may recall, Form I-829 will be worked in the California Service Center for the remainder of the fiscal year. We will begin to transition this workload to the Immigrant Investor Program Office in Washington, D.C. in July, with a complete handover expected to take place on October 1.
The news is not as good for FormI-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur. In January, we were around 10 months, and the latest data I have through March indicates we are at a little over 13 months. However, I believe we will soon begin to make progress in this workload as well. In recent weeks we’ve hired a number of adjudicators and we are in the process of hiring another round. We’ve also taken steps to increase the efficiency of our training program for new adjudicators who have previous USCIS experience. In fact, we’ve now begun to certify experienced adjudicators to work on 526s in a matter for 4 to 6 weeks, whereas in the past, it took longer than 2 months.
While ensuring quality, we are working diligently to have our actions equal or exceed the number of receipts each week, and this month I have set an office-wide goal to do this. I can assure you that we are committed to achieving additional efficiencies within the I-526 work and that our staff are aware of the fact that the number of pending petitions equals billions of dollars that will potentially be invested in in the American economy and create tens of thousands of jobs for qualified American workers. They are also aware that this means that thousands of families are checking their mailboxes each day waiting to see if their petition has been approved so they can participate in the American dream. Please know we take our responsibility seriously and we are working with a sense of urgency to move through these petitions.
Finally, before I close, one of the other things we are doing to help increase productivity and predictability is analyzing the RFEs we’ve issued. By sharing this information with all of you, likely via our annual report, our hope is that it will assist you in avoiding potential RFEs as you assemble new applications and petitions.
I’d like to share one such topic to begin this dialogue. As you know, USCIS has and will continue to rely on a variety of economic models and reasonable methodologies (like feasibility studies) to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that a project of a job creating entity will create a sufficient number of indirect jobs for the immigrant investors in that project. USCIS currently reviews economic impact analyses that use the results of economic modeling software such as IMPLAN, REMI, and REDYN to establish the number of indirect jobs created by the job creating entity. And while USCIS recognizes that these modeling platforms are valid economic modeling systems for estimating job creation, as you know, the burden of proof is on the applicant or petitioner to clearly explain the inputs used in the model and to demonstrate the mechanism of job creation.
Please note that jobs with a duration of less than 24 months are not eligible to be counted for EB-5 purposes. Nor are jobs from transactional expenses, for example attorney’s fees for closing costs. Also, please note that transfers or transfer payments are not eligible expenses for job creation. Transfer payments like taxes, insurance premiums, permits and fees are classified by economists as redistributions and not activities that create output. So, while EB-5 investor funds can be used to pay all legitimate business expenses, not all business expenses can be used in job creation calculations. Therefore, the economic models should provide an explanation of the inputs used and show that ineligible expenses and transfers are not included in job creation calculations.
One common reason for an RFE relating to the economic modeling analysis relates to direct versus indirect jobs. As you know, USCIS regulations refer to direct jobs as those at the new commercial enterprise; however, economic models distinguish direct job and indirect jobs differently. With respect to the economic models, direct jobs refer to jobs directly related to the project. For example, construction jobs for a project are often considered “direct jobs” in the economic analysis and may be credited toward the EB-5 requirement if the jobs are expected to last at least 2 years.
Any economic analysis based upon models such as IMPLAN, REMI, or REDYN must be sufficiently transparent to allow USCIS to distinguish between the model’s calculation of direct and indirect jobs. If the model used in an economic impact analysis aggregates direct and indirect jobs, the economist preparing the analysis for the regional center should demonstrate how the model’s result can be disaggregated into its direct and indirect jobs components. This may involve running the model twice: once to calculate direct effects and once to calculate the indirect and induced effects. In most cases a narrative by the economist preparing the analysis that explains how direct and indirect jobs can be derived from the aggregate job total is sufficient.
Additionally, the economist preparing the analysis for the regional center should provide the number of direct and indirect jobs created that is attributable to each of the model’s inputs. For example, differentiating the jobs created from construction expenditures from those created from the ongoing operations of the property constructed. In addition, USCIS recognizes that indirect jobs that are estimated through use of an economic model and are located outside of the geographical boundaries of a regional center may qualify if the economic methodology is reasonable.
I hope that by sharing this example, which will be included with the rest of my comments on our website, we can begin to inform you how we evaluate economic models and the steps that you can take to make the models more transparent so that an RFE can be avoided, which will obviously increase our efficiency for that particular application or petition, as well as others in line behind it.
Finally, in closing, I want to again express my appreciation for the invitation to speak to you today. I very much look forward to our dialogue in the coming months and I encourage all of you to provide us with ongoing constructive feedback with respect to how we are administering the program. We can only continue to improve the program so long as you, as our stakeholders, are willing to share your thoughts and concerns with us and we can have that open and honest dialogue I discussed at the beginning of my comments. EB-5 is not simply a government or USCIS program, it is a program of the entire EB-5 stakeholder community and it is through our combined efforts that the program provides the greatest possible benefit to the U.S. economy, job-seekers, and the immigrant entrepreneurs and investors. Thank you all for your time and attention today.