EB-5移民提案之生效时间及其影响分析-Peng & Weber律所版

今天,我们再回到EB-5变法,EB-5新提案。最近有个问题越来越突出,虽然参议院6月3日推出的新提案,各方争议特别大,但是毕竟是重量级议员提出来的,通过的可能性(或者说在妥协修改之后)还是比较大的。

美国移民涨价

那问题来了,这份新提案,对于项目、区域中心和投资者有几个关键的变化,在9月30日之前,乃至9月30日之后,将带来哪些影响。从现有的律师们的分析,以及提案条文来看,一旦提案通过并生效,那么就立即对于几个关键变革,如:就业创造条款、TEA(目标就业区)的认定、最低投资额和资金来源,发生至关重要的变化,而在这4个重大变革中,TEA和最低投资额,可能会因Grandfather(延用旧律)条款而继续沿用老的法案。

今天,EB5Sir找来了两篇文章,分别是业内朋友Vanessa转来的本篇Peng & Weber律所的文章,以及另一篇Ronald Klasko律师的文章。就这两篇解读而言,Peng & Weber律所的文章更加简洁明了易于理解,Ronald Klasko律师的解读更加专业细致,朋友们可以参考阅读。事先申明下,如果越读越糊涂,别发愁,毕竟立法者自己没有说话,USCIS(移民局)没有发声,都是律师们的个人解读。当然,对于投资者来说,早点递案,避免不确定因素,也是唯一可以控制的。

S.1501提案建议的EB-5最低投资额增加和TEA限制

S.1501提案的第四部分包括两个改变,这两个改变会影响EB-5最低投资额并且会对投资者有直接影响:

1. EB-5最低投资额增加到120万美元(TEA地区增加到80万美元)。目前,低就业地区(TEA)的最低投资标准是50万美元,非TEA地区最低投资标准是100万美元。新的提案将TEA的最低投资标准增加到了80万美元,非TEA地区最低投资标准增加到了120万美元。

2. TEA“高失业地区”的重新定义,使之仅包括一个人口普查区——这使得项目所在地更难 成为TEA,从而使得投资者更难使用较低额投资标准。目前,EB-5的管理条例授权每个州 可以指定“一个特定的地理或者政治细分区域”作为高失业地区,假如这个指定地区的失业率是全国平均失业率的150%或者更高的话。根据这些管理条例,美国移民局允许包括该投资项目的几个连续的人口普查区的合并来定义一个高失业地区。另外,美国移民局的现有政策是顺从州政府所做的有关高失业地区的决定。然而,S.1501提案限制“高失业地区”的地理范围到“一个【单独】的人口普查区”——即只涵盖该项目所在地的人口普查区 ——并且说明国土安全部会自行划定高失业地区而不受到其他联邦或者州立实体的决定的 限制。

最低投资额和TEA改变的生效日期

以上两个条例将会同时适用于标准EB-5投资和区域中心项目投资,并且会在该提案颁布后生效 (最迟2015年9月30日一定会颁布)。生效日期有一个重要的例外情况:如果区域中心项目在该法案成为法律之前就已经递交或者获得“商业计划批准申请”的预批,与这些区域中心项目相关的I-526/I-829申请将不受到新的最低投资额和TEA规则的影响。这些申请会得到“延用旧 律”的权利,仍然使用现有的100万美元和50万美元的最低投资额,以及现有的TEA定义。但是非区域中心项目的投资则不会得到“延用旧律”的好处。

区域中心投资者获得“延用旧律 - grandfather条款”权利的关键:递交“商业计划批准申请”

S.1501提案的第四部分没有解释“商业计划批准申请”的定义,但是看起来它指现有I-526预批申请过程,因为这是目前区域中心的实际项目文件获得预批的唯一方法。换句话说,S.1501提案似乎说明如果要使一个项目(以及该项目的未来投资者)获得“延用旧律”的权利从而继续使用现有的最低投资额和现有的TEA规则,区域中心必须要在该提案颁布前递交I-526范本申请。 投资者自己在该法案颁布前递交I-526申请是不足以获得“延用旧律”权的,但是看起来区域中心递交I-526范本申请可以。

EB5Sir注:在提案中的条文是要求向USCIS递交“商业计划批准申请“,不过没有详细解释。在这里,律师将其解释为:I-526预审批(或者叫I-924预审批,或叫范本认证)。

I-526示范申请预批程序的背景

当USCIS在2009年宣布预批程序的时候,区域中心对此举是非常欢迎的。该预批程序允许区域中心获得一个“I-526示范申请”的预批准书,“I-526示范申请” 包括I-526投资者将会向移民局递交的所有实际项目文件。因为USCIS的特惠政策(在此政策下它通常不会推翻此前做出的决定),预批申请的批准对于项目和投资者都有重大好处。项目方可以期待USCIS审理员对他们的I-526申请给予一致性的批准,同时USCIS“预批”也可以在在市场上带来很好的信誉。投资者也有一个办法来评估项目的EB-5可信度,也增加他们对自己的I-526申请批准的信心。

一开始,预批申请是不收费用的,并且可以在短短几个月内就可以获得批准。2010年11月开始,预批申请要和I-924表格一起递交,并且要交昂贵的申请费用6,230美元。同时,EB-5项目 的爆发式增长导致了处理时间的延长。万事具备的项目的预批申请一般都需要一年以上的时间才 能到达审理员面前,这极大地限制了示范申请的有效性。2013年5月,USCIS宣布,示范申请批准之后项目的重要变化会导致项目无法享受特惠政策,这更进一步地降低了示范申请的有利作用——同时USCIS并没有给“重要变化”精确定义,从而移民局可以对之进行广泛的 解释。2015 年7月,USCIS对I-526示范申请(通过I-924表格递交)的处理时间仍然是一年以上,并且目 前没有加急申请的程序。 尽管有其缺陷的存在,鉴于S.1051提案中提到的可能享受的“延用旧律”的权利,示范申请现在有了其重要价值。

预批申请的材料

假设S.1501提案中的”商业计划批准申请“是指现有的预批申请程序,该批准应该包括以下材料:

. 将通过新商业企业获得EB-5投资款的就业项目的详细商业计划书。应该包括可信的商业描述,市场和竞争力分析, 相关的许可证和执照信息,市场策略,组织结构,财务报表;并且说明项目活动将会如何保证每个EB-5投资者在I-526批准之后的2年半内创造至少10 个工作机会。

. 有关项目目前状态的文件。如果适用的话,这些文件可能包括,项目设计材料,第三方可行性分析,融资承诺函,许可证复印件,以及能显示商业计划执行进度的其它证据。

. 解释EB-5投资项目会如何创造工作机会的经济分析,该分析应该使用合理的方法计算工 作机会。

. 认购文件草稿显示拟投资项目的条款是符合EB-5要求的。

. 相关州机构提供的TEA认证信(如果适用的话)。

. I-526表格样表(隐去投资者姓名)和附函,以说明该项目是如何符合EB-5要求的。

要得到I-526预批申请的批准,区域中心可在递交I-924表格的修订申请中包括以上材料(目前 申请费用是6,230美元)。

结论

目前起草的S.1501提案内容可能会也可能不会成为法律。如果提案内容成为法律的话,按目前理解的预批申请可能会也可能不会被认为获得“延用旧律”权,足以使项目使用最低投资额和现有TEA定义。然而,基于该提案成为法律之前递交预批申请可能带来的巨大好处,有实际项目要做的区域中心应该考虑在2015年9月30日前提交预批申请。最后,准备和递交预批申请应该咨询专业的EB-5法律顾问。

原文作者:Peng & Weber律所,原文来源:www.greencardlawyers.com。

Minimum EB-5 Investment Increase and TEA Restriction Proposed by Senate Bill S. 1501

Section 4 of S. 1501 proposes two changes to the existing EB-5 program that could have a direct impact on investor participation:

1. Increase of the required minimum EB-5 investment amount to $1,200,000 ($800,000 for Targeted Employment Areas). Currently, the minimum investment amount for EB-5 eligibility is $500,000 for investments made in Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) and $1 million for investments made in non-TEAs. The new bill increases the minimum amounts to $800,000 for TEA investments and $1.2 million for non-TEA investments.

2. Redefinition of “high unemployment area” for TEA purposes to a single census tract—which would make it more difficult for project locations to qualify as TEAs, and thus for investors to qualify for the lower investment threshold. Currently, the EB-5 regulations authorize states to designate “a particular geographic or political subdivision” as a high unemployment area if the unemployment rate for that defined area is at least 150% of the national average unemployment rate based on the most recent available data. Based on the regulations, USCIS allows a high unemployment area to be defined by calculating the unemployment rate for an aggregate area consisting of multiple contiguous census tracts that broadly encompass the investment project site. In addition, USCIS’s current policy is to defer to state high unemployment area determinations. However, S. 1501 restricts the geographic boundaries of a “high unemployment area” to “a [single] census tract”—the tract immediately encompassing the project site—and also provides that the Department of Homeland Security will make high unemployment area designations without being bound by determinations made by other federal or state entities.

Effective Date of Proposed Minimum Investment and TEA Changes

Both provisions above would apply to standard EB-5 and regional center program investments alike, and would be effective upon the bill’s enactment (which would have to occur by September 30, 2015 if at all). There is one important exception to the effective date: I-526/I-829 petitions submitted in connection with regional center-affiliated projects that either filed or received approval of “an application for business plan approval” before the bill became law would not be subject to the new minimum investment and TEA rules. Such petitions would be grandfathered and remain subject to the current $1,000,000 and $500,000 investment thresholds, and the current TEA definition. There is no grandfathering benefit for non-regional center-affiliated investments.

Key to Grandfathering for Regional Center Investors: Filing of an “Application for Business Plan Approval”

“Application for business plan approval” is not defined by Section 4 of S. 1501, but appears to refer to the existing exemplar I-526 petition process, since that is the only means currently available to a regional center for obtaining pre-approval of actual project documents. In other words, S. 1501 appears to say that to grandfather a project (and future investors in that project) into the current minimum investment threshold and TEA rules, a regional center must file an exemplar request for the project before the bill’s enactment. The submission of an investor’s I-526 petition before the bill’s enactment would not be sufficient for grandfathering, but it seems that the filing of an exemplar request would be.

Background on the Exemplar Process

When USCIS introduced the exemplar process in 2009, regional centers welcomed it with open arms. The process allowed regional centers to seek pre-approval of an “exemplar I-526 petition,” which referred to the full set of actual project documents that would be submitted with an actual investor’s I-526 petition. Because of USCIS’s deference policy (under which the agency will generally not revisit determinations it has previously made), an exemplar approval could have substantial benefit to both projects and investors alike. Projects could expect more consistently favorable review of their documents by USCIS adjudicators, and also have greater credibility in the marketplace due to “pre-approval” by USCIS. Investors had a way of gaging a project’s EB-5 compliance, and could have greater confidence in the approvability of their I-526 petitions.

In the early days, exemplar applications were free of charge and exemplar approvals could be obtained within a few short months. Starting in November 2010, exemplar applications became coupled with the Form I-924 and its hefty $6,230 filing fee. Meanwhile, the explosive growth of the EB-5 program led to slowdowns in processing times across the board. Exemplar applications by shovel-ready projects routinely began taking over a year to reach an adjudicator’s desk, severely limiting the utility of the exemplar process. In May 2013, USCIS further deflated the exemplar bubble by announcing that material changes in a project after exemplar approval could result in a loss of deference—leaving “material change” undefined and thus open to broad interpretation. As of July 2015, the USCIS processing time for exemplar I-526 petitions (filed using the Form I-924) remains at over a year and there is currently no premium processing option available. Despite its drawbacks, the exemplar procedure now has great value in light of S. 1501 due to its potential grandfathering power.

Elements of an Exemplar Approval Request

Assuming “application for business plan approval” in S. 1501 refers to the existing exemplar approval application process, such application would include the following elements:
. A comprehensive business plan for the job-creating project to be funded with EB-5 capital via the new commercial enterprise. This should include a credible business description, market and competitive analyses, relevant permit and license information, marketing strategy, organizational structure, substantiated pro forma; and demonstrates how the project’s activities will result in the creation of at least 10 jobs per EB-5 investor within 2.5 years from I-526 approvals.
. Documents showing the current status of the project. These could include, as applicable, project design materials, third-party feasibility studies, financing commitment letters, permit copies, and other evidence showing actual implementation of the business plan.
. Economic analysis explaining how the project receiving EB-5 investment will create jobs, as calculated using a reasonable methodology.
. Offering document drafts showing that the terms of the proposed investment are EB-5 compliant.
. TEA certification letter from the relevant state agency, if applicable.
. Sample Form I-526 (for an unnamed investor) with cover letter discussing how the evidence demonstrates the project’s EB-5 compliance.

To request exemplar I-526 petition approval, a regional center would include the above items in an amendment request filed on a Form I-924 with filing fee (currently $6,230).

Conclusion

S. 1501 as currently drafted may or may not become law. If it does, the filing of an exemplar as currently understood may or may not be deemed sufficient to grandfather an investor. However, based on the potentially tremendous benefit of a pre-enactment exemplar request filing, regional centers with actual projects underway should consider submitting exemplar requests prior to September 30, 2015. Finally, exemplar requests should be prepared and submitted in consultation with qualified EB-5 counsel.

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