In this edition, find the latest news on program requirements for entities seeking Regional Center designation under the EB-5 immigrant investor program, the State Department appealing four court orders on Diversity Visa adjudications, the USCIS increasing automatic work permit extension period for certain applicants, and more.
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/
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