The Follow Up To IIUSA Meeting In Washington, DC On April 23, 2018 And April 24, 2018

IIUSA had its annual meeting in Washington, DC. The meeting focused a lot on the status of the industry, retrogression, new legislation and collective marketing efforts.

Charles Oppenheim, a key employee of USCIS, gave a presentation on the state of adjudications in the industry, and based upon questions asked by the audience, confirmed the following:

  1. At this time, retrogression in China is estimated to be 15 years.
  2. USCIS has already announced that Vietnam will be retrogressed as of May 2018, and it was estimated that in the near future, retrogression could approach five or six years.
  3. It was estimated that India would retrogress some time by mid-2019 and that retrogression could approach five years.
  4. Except for China, where retrogression has been readily acknowledged as a major marketing problem in that country, there is a real question as to the degree of retrogression in both Vietnam and India.  That will depend upon the amount of actual I-526 filings currently and in the future, since each fiscal year, the new visa counts are allotted to those countries that are retrogressed, together with any excess visas that are allotted to the retrogressed countries, which in and of itself is a very complicated issue.  Therefore, notwithstanding the comments made by Mr. Oppenheim, it is difficult to project exactly the extent of retrogression in countries other than in China.
  5. It was also noted that there was a real potential for Brazil and South Korea to be retrogressed within the next two years based upon the popularity of the Program in those countries.

Based upon the announcements by Mr. Oppenheim and the general state of the industry, it became apparent that there should be a uniform movement to make visa counts the number one priority for lobbying efforts related to new legislation.  It is hopeful that the industry will coalesce with a commonality of purpose and have an active coordinated lobbying effort that promote visa counts as the number one priority.  

There were further discussions about the chances that the proposed Regulations or USCIS will take effect, and same still seems to be an open issue.

One of the key note speakers was the Chief of the Office of Policy and Strategy at USCIS, Kathy Nuebel Kovarik.  Apparently she made comments that were somewhat adverse to the current state of the EB-5 Program and are potentially harmful to the Program.  It will be interesting to see how this situation unfolds based upon the adverse reaction of the public to her presentation.

Other takeaways at the conference were the overall concern about the viability of the Program, given the uncertainty of legislation, the visa count problem and the continuous short- term extensions without any long-term extension.  But there was optimism that eventually a solution would be achieved that would make the Program more viable than it is today.  

Another factor is the general negative publicity being generated by news reporters to failed EB-5 projects, especially those including allegations of fraud, which again, do not represent a significant percentage of the projects being undertaken by the industry.

There was discussion about other visa opportunities, as well as the willingness of foreign agents, regional centers and other participants in the Program providing funding for both debt and equity financing for real estate projects independent of the EB-5 funding.