Congress recently extended the EB-5 Regional Center Program rather than letting it expire or making proposed changes to it. The program, which would have expired on December 16, 2015, will now run through September 30, 2016. Congress made the decision on December 15 in order to provide more time for lawmakers to come up with proposed changes to the program, including a possible comprehensive reform bill.
Since Congress did not reform the EB-5 program, it will continue to operate under its current requirements. Changes that were part of the proposed reform bill included a possible increased minimum investment amount of at least $800,000 for investments located in targeted employment areas (TEAs) and at least $1.2 million for investments that were not located in TEAs. Thus, TEA investments will still have a minimum investment amount of $500,000, while non-TEA investments will have a minimum investment amount of $1 million.
The proposed reform bill also would have introduced additional requirements for reporting and heightened compliance for regional centers and offered new protections for EB-5 investors. Unless Congress reforms the EB-5 program next year, investors with pending petitions will not have the benefit of these new protections, such as protection for those with petitions in regional centers that end up being shut down.
The extension of the EB-5 program is expected to result in a significant increase in the number of petitions filed before the September 30, 2016 deadline. This would add to a sizable backlog of more than 17,000 petitions that already exist. As the new deadline approaches, Congress could decide to issue another extension without enacting any reforms. Another possibility is Congress introducing a new EB-5 reform bill or including reforms in a more general immigration bill. For now, investors can continue the current process of obtaining a visa with assistance from an EB-5 attorney.