- - Thursday, November 28, 2013

“Immigration staffers pressured to rush visas for wealthy investors” (Web, Nov. 18) fundamentally mischaracterizes the administration of the EB-5 immigrant investor program of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). It incorrectly conflates two entirely separate processes: the economic analysis of the U.S. business that will receive EB-5 capital and the national security checks on EB-5 investors.

The goal of the economic review is to ensure that each EB-5 investment has a reasonable expectation of creating a minimum of 10 U.S. jobs, as required by law. USCIS conducts single in-depth economic reviews of large-scale projects that can then be applied to individual investor petitions — rather than starting from scratch on the economic analysis of the same project with each petition. Each individual EB-5 investor remains subject to the same national security screenings as applicants in any other visa category, including Department of Homeland Security and FBI background checks. Investors must also show that the capital they are investing was earned and routed lawfully, verifying both the source and path of funds.

Far from it being a “fast track,” industry data shows that in 2013 it is taking an average of 17 months for the government to review applications from prospective EB-5 Regional Centers, federally approved organizations that pool foreign investments and deploy capital to large-scale projects. For foreign investors, there is currently an 18-month backlog of more than 7,000 investor applications. The anecdotal evidence cited in the article appears to track these timelines, which provide ample opportunity to perform the necessary security checks on investors.

USCIS has created the new Washington-based Immigrant Investor Program Office, staffed by trained economists, experts in business and immigration law, as well as fraud and national security specialists, after numerous public-engagement sessions engaging the program stakeholders. This is a positive step forward to protect the integrity of a program that creates jobs at no cost to the taxpayer. A peer-reviewed economic study shows that in 2010-2011 alone, investments made through the EB-5 program contributed $2.2 billion to U.S. gross domestic product and supported more than 28,000 American jobs. During today’s uncertain national economic and fiscal state, the EB-5 Regional Center Program is something we should be supporting as a country.

PETER D. JOSEPH
Executive director
Association To Invest In USA
Chicago