What happens to EB-5 investors if a regional center’s designation is terminated depends on where investors are in the EB-5 process. I-526 petitions will be denied, but I-929 petitions might be approved. Either way, for most, the consequences will likely be severe.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) views the termination of a regional center as a material change. Investors who have not secured conditional permanent residency when the regional center is terminated will probably face denial of their I-526 petition.
Under the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act — which went into effect in March 2022 — investors can retain their priority dates even if the regional center associated with their project is terminated or disbarred from the EB5 program. This is possible if (i) the investor’s new commercial enterprise (NCE) associates with another regional center within 180 days or (ii) if the investor makes a qualifying investment in another new NCE.
On its Regional Center Terminations page, USCIS notes that if an EB-5 investor has secured conditional permanent resident status, that status does not end when the regional center is terminated. If the investor can show that they complied with EB-5 program requirements, they may still secure a permanent green card. Thus, if an investor has a pending I-829 petition that illustrates how the EB5 investment in the NCE associated with the terminated regional center created the required number of jobs, the petition may be approved.
EB-5 investors who have invested through regional centers that are pending termination or that have been terminated must consult immigration counsel that specializes in the EB-5 program immediately. In fact, an EB-5 immigration attorney can provide useful advice and guidance from the beginning of the EB-5 journey, starting with advice on choosing the right regional center.
Given the number of regional centers terminated since 2018, conducting due diligence before investing in a regional center project is crucial. Investors should work with regional centers and developers with impeccable records to avoid the problems caused by regional center termination.