New Forms, New Program Requirements Announced for Entities Seeking Regional Center Designation Under EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published two new forms for regional center designation under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program: Form I-956, Application for Regional Center Designation, and Form I-956H, Bona Fides of Persons Involved with Regional Center Program. USCIS said that all entities seeking regional center designation must submit these forms in compliance with new program requirements, which began May 14, 2022, and are effective through September 30, 2027.
Below are highlights of related news:
- USCIS said it will continue to adjudicate Form I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status, and will adjudicate Form I-829 petitions associated with Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, filed before March 15, 2022, under the applicable eligibility requirements in place before enactment of the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022.
- USCIS said it also has resumed processing of regional center-based Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, filed on or before the sunset of the previous regional center program on June 30, 2021. The agency will adjudicate all Form I-526 petitions filed before March 15, 2022, according to the applicable eligibility requirements at the time such petitions were filed (that is, the eligibility requirements in place before the enactment of the new law). USCIS will continue to process Form I-526 petitions under the “visa availability approach,” “prioritizing those Form I-526 petitions for investors with an available visa or a visa that will be available soon.” USCIS will continue to reject all Form I-526 petitions received on or after July 1, 2021, when the petition indicates that the petitioner’s investment is associated with a regional center.
- The filing fee for the I-956 is $17,795. (No, that’s not a typo.) There is no filing fee for the I-956H, but a biometric services fee of $85 per person is required. Filing and biometric service fees are final and nonrefundable, regardless of any action USCIS takes on the application, or if the applicant withdraws the request. USCIS will reject the form if the applicant submits an incorrect fee.
- The agency released a related Q&A and held a “Listening Session” on April 29, 2022, that received negative reviews.
- Four senior members of Congress sent a letter on May 9, 2022, to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Among other things, the letter calls for DHS to confirm compliance with the new integrity measures required under the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 “without the need for a full-scale redesignation of existing regional centers.” The letter recommends a “transition” to avoid administrative burdens for the agency and “unnecessary complications to designated regional centers who have remained in good standing with USCIS and complied with the rules even during the program’s lapse.” The letter says, “Current guidance on the USCIS website requiring new regional center designations for every existing regional center is confusing and causing great concern in the EB-5 stakeholder community. We believe that there should be stakeholder engagement and then guidance on the implementation of the program.” The letter notes that an interpretation requiring new regional center designations would “result in all existing investors without approved conditional permanent residency facing denial.” The letter was signed by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
- USCIS alert, https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/alerts/two-new-forms-published-for-regional-center-designation
- USCIS alerts, EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states/permanent-workers/eb-5-immigrant-investor-program
- USCIS Q&A (EB-5 Questions and Answers, updated April 2022), https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states/permanent-workers/employment-based-immigration-fifth-preference-eb-5/eb-5-questions-and-answers-updated-april-2022
- EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (H.R. 2471, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022), https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/2471/
- USCIS EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 Listening Session, https://www.uscis.gov/outreach/notes-from-previous-engagements/uscis-eb-5-reform-and-integrity-act-of-2022-listening-session
- Listening Session remarks by Ur Jaddou, USCIS Director, Apr. 29, 2022, https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/document/outreach-engagements/EB-5_Reform_and_Integrity_Act_of_2022_Listening_Session.pdf
- Form I-956, Application for Regional Center Designation, https://www.uscis.gov/i-956
- Form I-956H, Bona Fides of Persons Involved with Regional Center Program, https://www.uscis.gov/i-956
- “USCIS Drops Bombshell EB-5 Q&A Hours Before One-Sided, Overwhelmingly Negative “Listening Session,” Investment Migration Insider, May 3, 2022, https://www.imidaily.com/program-updates/uscis-drops-bombshell-eb-5-qa-hours-before-one-sided-overwhelmingly-negative-listening-session/
Foreign Labor Certification Updates
The Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) announced updates to public disclosure data and selected program statistics; the H-2B Foreign Labor Recruiter List; and tips and assistance for stakeholders filing applications for prevailing wage determinations. Below are highlights.
Public disclosure data and selected program statistics for Q2 of fiscal year (FY) 2022. The OFLC released a comprehensive set of public disclosure data through the second quarter of FY 2022. The OFLC drew the data from employer applications requesting prevailing wage determinations and labor certifications for the PERM, Labor Condition Application (LCA) (H-1B, H-1B1, E-3), H-2A, H-2B, CW-1, and Prevailing Wage programs. The files include all final determinations OFLC issued for these programs during the October 1, 2021, through March 31, 2022, reporting period of FY 2022. OFLC also released selected program statistics for Q2 of FY 2022 for the same programs. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/foreign-labor/performance
H-2B Foreign Labor Recruiter List for Q2 of FY 2022. The OFLC published an updated list of foreign labor recruiters for the H-2B program. The list contains the name and location of persons or entities identified on Appendix C of the Form ETA-9142B that were hired by, or working for, the recruiter that employers have indicated they engaged, or planned to engage, in the recruitment of prospective H-2B workers to perform the work described on their H-2B application. The H-2B Foreign Labor Recruiter List includes only those names and locations associated with H-2B applications that were processed or issued a final decision during the October 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/foreign-labor/recruiter-list (Foreign Labor Recruiter List); https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/foreign-labor/faqs/print (FAQs)
Tips and assistance for stakeholders filing applications for prevailing wage determinations. The OFLC hosted a webinar on April 19, 2022, providing tips and assistance for stakeholders on the process of filing Form ETA-9141, Application for Prevailing Wage Determination, for the PERM and LCA programs. The recording and presentation materials are linked via the Prevailing Wage Information and Resources page (scroll down to Webinars). https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/foreign-labor/wages
- OFLC announcements, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/foreign-labor
USCIS Corrects Eligibility Date on South Sudan TPS-Based EADs
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a correction on May 10, 2022, to its notice on the extension and redesignation of South Sudan for temporary protected status (TPS), which was published on March 3, 2022. Under the “General Employment-Related Information for TPS Applicants and Their Employers” section of the original notice, USCIS corrected “September 17, 2021” to “May 2, 2022” as the eligibility date that should be showing on South Sudan TPS-based employment authorization documents (EADs) to receive an automatic 180-day EAD extension through November 1, 2022.
- USCIS notice/correction, 87 Fed. Reg. 28030 (May 10, 2022), https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2022-05-10/pdf/2022-10018.pdf
New Lockbox Filing Location Updates Webpage
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) launched a new webpage with lockbox filing location updates. For example, the webpage notes that:
- On May 2, 2022, USCIS updated the filing locations for applicants filing Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, under the designation for Ukraine.
- On May 9, 2022, USCIS added the filing locations for certain applicants filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, under eligibility category (c)(14) (a noncitizen granted deferred action).
- On May 15, 2022, USCIS added the filing locations for applicants filing Form I-956, Application for Regional Center Designation, and Form I-956H, Bona Fides of Persons Involved with Regional Center Program, to request designation as a regional center.
- USCIS Lockbox Filing Location Updates, updated May 10, 2022, https://www.uscis.gov/forms/forms-updates/lockbox-filing-location-updates
State Dept. Updates Visa Reciprocity Schedule for Kenya
On May 9, 2022, the Department of State updated the visa reciprocity schedule for Kenya for several nonimmigrant visa categories.
- Reciprocity: What’s New?, Dept. of State, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/fees/reciprocity-whats-new.html
Kenya Reciprocity Schedule, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country/Kenya.html
USCIS Increases Automatic Work Permit Extension Period for Certain Applicants
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a temporary final rule, effective May 4, 2022, that increases to up to 540 days the automatic extension period for work authorization and Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) available to certain EAD renewal applicants.
USCIS said the increased extension period “will help avoid gaps in employment for noncitizens with pending EAD renewal applications and stabilize the continuity of operations for U.S. employers.” The rule is expected to affect approximately 87,000 workers who have filed for renewal of their work authorization and whose 180-day automatic extension periods have expired or are about to expire.
USCIS released the following details:
- The TFR, which only applies to those EAD categories currently eligible for an automatic 180-day extension, will temporarily provide up to 360 days of additional automatic extension time (for a total of 540 days) to eligible applicants with a timely filed Form I-765 renewal application pending during the 18-month period after publication of the temporary final rule “while USCIS continues to work through pending caseloads that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” USCIS said. Beginning October 27, 2023, automatic extensions of employment authorization and EAD validity will revert to the up-to-180-day period for eligible applicants who timely file Form I-765 renewal applications.
- Noncitizens with a pending EAD renewal application whose 180-day automatic extension has lapsed and whose EAD has expired will be granted an additional period of employment authorization and EAD validity, beginning on May 4, 2022 and lasting up to 540 days from the expiration date of their EAD, such that they may resume employment if they are still within the up to 540-day automatic extension period and are otherwise eligible. Noncitizens with a pending renewal application still covered under the 180-day automatic extension will be granted an additional up to 360-day extension, for a total of up to 540 days past the expiration of the current EAD. Noncitizens with a pending renewal application and valid EAD on May 4, 2022, or who timely file an EAD renewal application before October 27, 2023, will be granted an automatic extension of up to 540 days if their EAD expires before the renewal application is processed.
- The automatic extension generally will end upon notification of a final decision on the renewal application or the end of the up-to-540-day period (i.e., up to 540 days after the expiration date on the applicant’s facially expired EAD), whichever comes earlier.
- Certain noncitizens who are in the United States may file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with USCIS to request employment authorization and an EAD. Other noncitizens whose immigration status authorizes them to work in the United States without restrictions may also use Form I-765 to apply for an EAD that shows such authorization.
- Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) will generally verify employment authorization or this EAD auto-extension as part of initial verification. Additional verification may be required in limited instances such as when the applicant’s data provided by the user agency does not match federal immigration records.
- USCIS news release, May 3, 2022, https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/news-releases/uscis-increases-automatic-extension-period-of-work-permits-for-certain-applicants
- “DHS Publishes Rule Temporarily Increasing Automatic Extension Period of Employment Authorization and/or EADs for Certain Individuals” (includes information on documentation benefit applicants will have whose work authorization and/or EADs are extended up to 540 days), USCIS (SAVE), May 4, 2022, https://www.uscis.gov/save/whats-new/dhs-publishes-rule-temporarily-increasing-automatic-extension-period-of-employment-authorization
- “Automatic Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Extension,” USCIS, updated May 4, 2022, https://www.uscis.gov/eadautoextend
- USCIS temporary final rule, 87 Fed. Reg. 26614 (May 4, 2022), https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2022-05-04/pdf/2022-09539.pdf
- “USCIS Issues New Rule on Employment Authorization,” Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2022/05/03/uscis-issues-new-rule-on-employment-authorization/?sh=9f27ebd10b13
State Dept. Appeals Four Court Orders on Diversity Visa Adjudications and Processing
The Department of State (DOS) released a statement summarizing four court orders regarding the reservation of numbers for and/or adjudication of DV-2020 and DV-2021 diversity visas, and announcing that it is appealing the orders “because the Department believes the courts misinterpreted the law.”
DOS explained that while the appeal is pending, the courts have granted stays with respect to adjudicating visas from prior years, meaning that “the Department is not required to adjudicate visas from prior years until the appeals court issues its decision.” DOS explained that the courts, however, required the Department to complete the systems modifications necessary to process DV cases from prior years, which DOS said it will do in compliance with the orders.
DOS said it will publish additional public guidance regarding these cases “should it be necessary to do so.”
- DOS news release, May 3, 2022, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/diversity-visa-2020-and-2021-updates.html
Case Processing Info Changes Announced
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced changes to case processing information available online. Users can now immediately find processing time information for their particular type of case rather than seeing an aggregate of all related case types. Additional changes include:
- Adding drop-down options for form categories to help narrow results to the processing times that are relevant to a case;
- Adding a case inquiry tool where the user can insert their receipt date and get an immediate answer on whether they should contact USCIS with questions about their particular case; if so, benefit requestors will be provided a link to submit a case inquiry online;
- Displaying a single 80th-percentile processing time (rather than a range) to simplify the information provided and improve the ability of users to estimate how long it is likely to take USCIS to process a benefit request; and
- Revising, streamlining, and adding more content to the processing times webpages, including a new FAQ page.
- USCIS news release, May 5, 2022, https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/news-releases/uscis-simplifying-improving-communication-of-case-processing-data
CBP Urges Travelers to Apply for I-94 Online Before Arriving at U.S. Land Borders
To reduce wait times, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is urging travelers who require a Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, to apply and prepay online before arriving at a U.S. land border.
An I-94 is needed by all visitors except U.S. citizens, returning residents, those with immigrant visas, and most Canadian citizens visiting or in transit. Travelers are issued an I-94 during the admission process at the port of entry.
- CBP release, Apr. 29, 2022, https://bit.ly/3w9aMZX
- Travel information, CBP, https://www.cbp.gov/travel
- Advisories and wait times, CBP, https://www.cbp.gov/travel/advisories-wait-times