Prepare your EB-5 regional center application with a one-time cost and a guaranteed processing time.
On March 15th, 2022, the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 was signed into law. This law modified the existing regional center program and required all previously designated regional centers to reapply for certification.
Previously, regional centers seeking designation would file forms I-924 and I-924A. These forms are now obsolete, and are no longer accepted. Instead, Form I956 will now be used to obtain regional center designation. (Existing regional centers will not be decertified as a result of the Reform and Integrity Act. To retain their designation, existing regional centers must reapply by submitting Form I-956 by December 29th, 2022.)
Below is a summary of the content and the new requirements facing regional centers seeking to retain their designation with the new Form I956. New entities seeking regional center designation will also have to submit this form.
EB5AN is one of the leading EB-5 investment consulting firms for EB-5 investors, regional centers, and project developers.
EB5AN works with top-tier developers and has a proven track record of obtaining EB-5 regional center designation from USCIS. From 2013 to 2022, EB5AN created 100+ regional centers with a 100% USCIS approval rate.
Over the next several months, we will be working with many EB-5 industry regional center operators seeking redesignation of previously designated regional centers and new EB-5 program participants seeking completely new regional center designations.
Schedule a call with our team to learn about working with EB5AN to prepare a turnkey application with Form I-956 to redesignate your previously approved regional center, or to designate a completely new entity. Our services have a one-time fixed cost and a guaranteed turn-around time of just weeks.
What Is Form I-956?
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released Form I-956 and an accompanying application, Form I-956H:
- Form I-956, Application for Regional Center Designation
- Form I-956H, Bona Fides of Persons Involved with Regional Center Program
Form I-956 is used to apply for regional center designation, or to request an amendment to a previously approved regional center.
Form I-956H is a supplemental document to prove that each person involved in the regional center is qualified and eligible to participate in the EB-5 immigrant investor program. This form must be submitted by every person involved with a regional center.
Form I-956H must be filed along with Form I-956.
What Is An EB-5 Regional Center?
An EB-5 regional center is an “economic unit” in the United States designated by USCIS as having demonstrated commitment to the goals of the EB-5 program, namely, domestic job creation and increased investment in underserved areas.
In practice, a regional center is an agency that connects EB-5 investors with project developers and manages the flow of the investors’ funds.
Investors and project developers overwhelmingly choose to work within the regional center program. In fact, the benefits of regional center designation are so great for both developers and immigrants alike, that a staggering 93.4% of all EB-5 visas have gone to investors in regional center projects.
The Benefits of Regional Center Designation
Regional center designation allows businesses many advantages when raising and managing EB-5 capital from immigrant investors:
- Regional centers can pool funds from multiple EB-5 investors, allowing a much greater capital raise.
- Without regional center sponsorship, an EB-5 project can only raise funds from one EB-5 investor.
- With a regional center, an EB-5 investor can count both direct and indirect jobs towards their job creation requirement.
- Without a regional center, investors can only count jobs that are directly employed by their NCE, meaning those employed by the business under a standard W-2 tax form. This makes the job requirement more difficult to meet.
Work With EB5AN To Prepare Your EB-5 Regional Center Designation Application
The EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 requires all existing regional centers to submit Form I-956 in order to maintain their designation and continue to manage EB-5 investment funds. This is to allow the agency greater scrutiny of the program and to prevent policy abuse by potential bad actors.
If you are interested in preparing an I-956 petition., please schedule a call with our team. USCIS will require existing regional centers to submit Form I-956 by December 29th, 2022.
New Requirements for I-956 Applications
One-Time Filing Fee
The filing fee for Form I-956 is $17,795.
Previously-approved applicants seeking re-designation as a regional center under Form I-956 must also pay the one-time fee of $17,795.
Greater Scrutiny of the Regional Center’s Geographic Area
As with regional centers designated under the old program, new regional centers will have an approved geographic area. The design of Form I-956 suggests that a geographic area may be as large as multiple states or as small as a single census tract.
Whatever the size of the area, USCIS will require evidence that the regional center will create jobs throughout the region described in the applicant’s I-956 petition.
For example, a regional center proposed to cover a large area in California should have a credible business plan which describes EB-5 investment and resultant job creation.
According to USCIS:
A regional center must operate within a defined, contiguous, and limited geographic area. Please describe this area, consistent with the purpose of concentrating pooled investment within such area. If filing an amendment to expand the geographic area of a regional center, you must describe both the currently approved geographic area and the area of requested change.
The expert team at EB5AN can help you produce all the documentation required for a successful Form I-956 application.
Demonstrate a Significant Economic Impact
As with the previous I-924 application, I-956 applications for regional center designations must prove that the proposed regional center will have a positive economic impact throughout the regional center’s requested geographic area.
Form I-956 specifically requires applicants to describe the kinds of commercial enterprises that will receive EB-5 investment, provide details of the jobs that will be created (directly or indirectly), and describe the other positive economic effects.
According to USCIS, demonstrating this substantive economic impact must include reasonable predictions, supported by economically and statistically valid forecasting tools, concerning:
- The amount of investment that will be pooled
- The kinds of commercial enterprises that will receive such investments
- Details of the jobs that will be created directly or indirectly as a result of such investments
- Other positive economic effects EB-5 investments will have
EB5AN recommends including one or more complete business plans and economic impact reports with Form I-956. The blank form and instructions can seem deceptively simple.
The adjudicators at USCIS will want to see a credible business plan which meets all the requirements described in the Matter of Ho ruling, along with an economic study that calculates direct and jobs using a valid methodology.
Strict New EB-5 Rules for Regional Centers
As anticipated, applicants for regional center designation must have a policies and procedures manual which explains how the proposed regional center will comply with the existing EB-5 program rules and the new requirements set forth in the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022.
According to USCIS:
Applicants must describe the policies and procedures in place reasonably designed to monitor new commercial enterprises and any associated job-creating entity to seek to ensure compliance with all applicable laws, regulations, and Executive orders of the United States, including immigration, criminal, and securities laws, as well as all securities laws of the state where any securities offerings will be conducted, investment advice will be given, or the offerors or offerees reside.
Documentation of the regional center’s policies and procedures may include the following:
- Policy Manuals
- Standard Operating Procedures
- Internal controls
- Fraud detection and/or deterrence
- Risk management and assessment
Biometrics and Background Checks for All Individuals Involved
The new EB-5 law requires owners, officers, general partners, and other persons in positions of “substantive authority” to be identified in the I-956 petition and to each submit Form I-956H, Bona Fides of Persons Involved with Regional Center Program.
Moreover, anyone with the ability to make managerial decisions regarding securitization, investment, pooling, release, acceptance, control, or use of any EB-5 capital must file Form I-956H.
This includes all of the regional center’s owners, officers, board members, executives, administrators, managers, general partners, principals, agents, representatives, fiduciaries, or anyone in a similar position at a regional center.
EB5AN recommends submitting Form I-956H for all persons who might be covered by this policy. Failure to include a person who is in a position of substantive authority, if later discovered by USCIS, could result in severe penalties, including termination of the regional center.
Anyone considering a new regional center application should keep in mind that the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 restricts participation in both regional centers and new commercial enterprises to U.S. citizens and lawfully admitted permanent residents. Form I-956H asks for the identified person’s status, but the Instructions to Form I-956H do not state the eligibility standard set forth in the law.
How Long Will It Take to Approve Form I-956?
There is reason to be hopeful that USCIS will move quickly.
Recent EB5AN experience with the new Form I-956 tells us that the turn-around could be as short as a matter of months—EB5AN received the first-ever Form I-956 approval only five months after submission. We were also the very first to submit Form I-956—only one day after it was released.
At the same time, to the sunset of the previous regional center program, the processing time for Form I-924 was on average between 12 to 24 months.
Normally, USCIS publishes processing time data for most immigration forms on its website, with updates every six months. However, Forms I-956 and I-956H were only introduced with the passage of the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022. As such, USCIS has not yet had time to gather data on processing times on those forms.
USCIS has not given any indication of how long it will take to approve I-956 petitions. The speed of processing will depend in part on the resources USCIS devotes to new regional center applications.
EB5AN recommends submitting Form I-956 to USCIS as soon as possible.
Conclusion: A Clean Slate
USCIS is restarting the EB-5 regional center program with a clean slate. This means new rules, new forms, and new processes.
Form I-956 is not simply an updated Form I-924. The form’s design and instructions indicate that USCIS wants new regional centers to be focused on, and committed to, compliance with the myriad of regulations for the EB-5 program.
These forms also require regional center applicants to more rigorously demonstrate the clear economic impact that an influx of EB-5 capital will have within the regional center’s geographic coverage area.
The team at EB5AN stands ready to help you navigate the new regulatory landscape and get approved quickly as a new EB-5 regional center with Form I-956.
Schedule a call with our team to learn about working with EB5AN to prepare a turnkey application with Form I-956 with a one-time fixed cost and a guaranteed turn-around time in just weeks.