Monday, 27 June 2011

Regional Centers - One of them is not like the others!

EB-5 Regional Centers are designated geographic areas that are granted the right to receive investments from immigrant investors who want at Green Card for themselves and/or their family.  USCIS manages the accreditation process for Regional Centers.  A normally rigorous screening process by USCIS has been put in place to ensure that Regional Center projects fulfill the requirements of the EB-5 program: real economic growth, verifiable job creation, and a sound business and marketing model.

For the most part, Regional Centers are run by private entities, with oversight being done solely by USCIS.  While generally speaking since 2003 this has been done relatively well, we have to pose two significant questions:
  • With the explosion of new Regional Centers across the country (over 150 to this date), does the USCIS have the resources to ensure transparency and accountability?
  • Can USCIS, alone, provide management and oversight services to EB-5 clients as well as to Regional Centers to ensure real job creation and economic development?
One jurisdiction, the State of Vermont, made the decision early on in the EB-5 program to add a level of independent oversight, adding credibility to the EB-5 program on its territory. 

Starting in 1997, the State of Vermont assumed the responsibility for reviewing and approving EB-5 projects on its territory, adding a layer of oversight to the overall process.  EB-5 project managers in Vermont must clearly understand their roles and requirements as dictated by BOTH the State of Vermont AND USCIS.  Any failure to do so would mean that the State government could revoke its approval for said project (and probably lead to USCIS doing the same...).

Other aspects of State control comes from the verification role that the State of Vermont assumes in the EB-5 process - members of the State Government are responsible for verification, oversight and management from an economic, legal and political perspective.

Government officials pay regular visits to project sites, consult and assist in their development, and perform audits on a quarterly basis.  Now that's oversight second to none

It is also important to note that Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont is one of the leading champions of the EB-5 program in Washington, and as such he adds political legitimacy to the program. 

Vermont State control and participation mean that investors should feel more comfortable with their EB-5 investments there.  They should look closely at EB-5 projects in other states run by private Regional Centers- can they ensure the same sort of protections while maintaining an at-risk investment?

When looking for a Regional Center in which to place your EB-5 investment, think about Vermont.  Your US$500,000 at risk investment is, well, at risk.  Why not take the steps to ensure that the risks are managed to your benefit? 

Check out the Vermont Regional Center website or Dreamlife EB5 for more details.

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