To my surprise (and to their credit), I received a telephone call at 7 pm the other night from a member of USCIS' Laguna Niguel's EB-5 Adjudications team. Much to the amusement of several attorney friends who were tickled by my naive belief that one could simply call up and speak to the EB-5 folks, I had left a voice message about a week ago.
The gentleman who called was friendly, and I was TOTALLY off guard, having slipped into "done with work" mode and onto the couch a bit earlier. After gently chiding me for actually leaving a voice message (they much prefer email communication), he -- and I won't tell you his name out of respect for his courteous call -- asked me how he could help me. Well, my list of questions was back in the office on my desk, so here I was, with The Man on the line, having to wing it.
We spoke for maybe 10 minutes, but what a useful 10 minutes it was for me. Here is a brief list of the highlights I got out of our conversation, as filtered through my own subjective point of view (i.e., NOT to be taken as having official merit!):
- Adjudications makes a clear distinction between what complies with the requirements for a Regional Center vs. those for an actual investment vehicle, that is, a regional center's project. Apparently, many attorneys fail to draw that distinction. (It was EB-5 guru Steven Yale-Loehr who recently told the media the same thing I've said all along (I'm paraphrasing): getting a Regional Center approved isn't the hard part of the deal...that's just the beginning.)
- The very general statutory language associated with Regional Center requirements, even as clarified by subsequent legal precedent, means these good folks in California are seeing ALL kinds of weird stuff. That means that on one hand, you have pros like Steven and Lincoln Stone turning in their masterpieces, on the other hand you have completely clueless RC applications which will get pummeled with big, fat, well-deserved RFE's.
- The USCIS is seeing very few RC applications which do NOT trigger RFE's
- There is an acute awareness - and this is my impression based upon my reading between the lines, not anything specific the officer mentioned -- that the majority of job-creation methodologies submitted with RC applications are seen as highly suspect by the adjudicators. In other words, they are still very aware of the "smoke and mirrors" of the 90's, except that these days, instead of those sophistries involving the "at risk" issue, they involve job creation.
The moral of the story: if the Regional Center approval is the starting line and I-526s are the first hurdle, there will likely be many who stumble before the I-829 finish line is crossed...