Administration official pressed by Senate Committee about needed EB-5 investor program reforms
By Jennifer G. Hickey | June 22, 2018
This week the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director L. Francis Cissna about his agency’s efforts to reform the EB-5 investor-visa program, one of America’s most scandal-plagued visa programs.
The program, created by Congress in 1990 with the goal of boosting the economy through job creation and capital investment, has a distressing history riddled with cases of fraud, corruption and even threats to national security.
In one case, according to Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, two EB-5 companies were barred by the Securities and Exchange Commission from selling securities after it was discovered the companies’ president and manager fraudulently raised $22.5 million in EB-5 capital from Chinese investors.
Despite its troubled past, the Trump administration has approved more so-called “golden visas” than during the Obama era. In fact, denials of EB-5 applications have dropped from 15.3 percent to 7.9 percent, according to an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies.
Earlier this month, Grassley sent a letter to President Trump urging action to implement changes to the EB-5 Regional Center Program.
Since January of last year, there have been pending regulations at the Department of Homeland Security, which would modernize the program and ensure capital is actually flowing to rural and underserved urban areas. In a rare moment of bipartisanship, senators of both parties pressed Cissna on when changes would be finalized and implemented.
“It is not soon enough. I want those regulations out as soon as possible,” said Cissna, who was unable to provide a specific timeline.
Pressed on whether the administration would allow the program to expire if reforms are not made by the end of the fiscal year, Cissna told Grassley it should. We shall continue to hold Congress and the Administration to account and provide updates on this important issue.