The Immigrant Investor Program (EB-5) is not a new concept. It is designed to promote immigration and help create jobs. Business owners apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to become EB-5 “regional centers” to attract foreign nationals seeking permanent residency in the United States. Generally speaking, the minimum qualifying investment in the United States is $1 million, and the minimum qualifying investment either within a high-unemployment area or rural area in the United States is $500,000.
Investors should keep in mind that regional center designation does not mean an endorsement from any U.S. government agencies regarding its profitability or business viability. It is known that EB-5 programs are prone to abuse, and USCIS has long been aware of investment fraud targeting foreign investment money. (read more here) USCIS terminates regional centers regularly, and a terminated regional center may not solicit investment. To view the list of the 62 terminated regional centers as of August 31, 2016, click here.
During either peacetime or during designated periods of hostilities, service members, certain veterans, and certain military family members may be eligible to become citizens of the United States. The general requirements for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen are the same as normal naturalization process. Citizenship may even be granted posthumously.
According to the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 328, a person who has served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least one (1) year may be eligible to apply for naturalization, which is sometimes referred to as “peacetime naturalization.” The applicant must be 18 years of age or older, and a lawful permanent resident (LPR).
Similarly, According to Section 329, U.S. armed forces members of any age who serve honorably for any period of time during specifically designated periods of hostilities may be eligible to naturalize. Qualifying military service is honorable active or reserve service in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, or service in a National Guard unit.
In October 2016, the Department of Homeland Security launched a new Study in the States page. Prospective and current international students on F and M visas can use this page to learn about the process and rules for studying in the United States. The website explains a lot of legal and complicated terms, such as STEM OPT Extensions, designated school officials (DSOs), Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and etc.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) also rolled out a new Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student,” in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The new SEVP implement a 10-day turnaround on all DSO update requests.
It is the start of a new fiscal year (FY 2017), and new visa numbers are released on this month’s visa bulletin, which indicates the statutorily availability of limited visas. Availability of an immigrant visa means that eligible applicants can file Form I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status.
According to USCIS, President Obama’s new law H.R. 5325 extends the EB-5 Regional Center Program until Dec. 9, 2016. EB-5 was contained in last year’s Omnibus appropriations bill, it is automatically extended by a Continuing Resolution for its duration. USCIS has updated the program information on its October 2016 Visa Bulletin page. USCIS has announced that for October 2016, individuals seeking to file EB-5 adjustment of status applications must use the Final Action (FA) Dates chart.
Effective October 5, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has increased the validity period for initial or renewal Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) for asylum applicants from one (1) year to two (2) years. Applicants with pending asylum claims file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, under category (c)(8). This change applies to all (c)(8)-based applications that are pending as of October 5, 2016 and all such applications filed on or after October 5, 2016.
In early September, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report (OIG-16-130), finding “USCIS granted U.S. citizenship to at least 858 individuals ordered deported or removed under another identity.” The problem resulted from the unavailability of the applicants’ digital fingerprint record in DHS and FBI’s repositories. It further found U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a large number of fingerprints of aliens with final orders or who are criminals that have not been digitized. OIG recommended all agencies involved to speed up the process of uploading fingerprints.
On September 28, 2016, John Culberson [R-TX7], the Representative from Texas, introduced a bill (H.R. 6198－114the Congress) to freeze naturalizations until DHS “completes the digitization of all remaining paper-based fingerprint records.” The bill currently has seven (7) Republican co-sponsors and is referred to the House Judicial Committee.
If passes, the Bill will halt naturalization until all fingerprints are uploaded. As of now, Govtrack gives the Bill 1% chance of being enacted.