USCIS EB5 Memorandum - Part 3

D. Material Change

The process of establishing a new business and creating jobs depends on a wide array of variables over which an investor or the creator of a new business may not have any control. The very best of business plans may be thrown off, for example, because of a sudden lack of supply in required merchandise, an unexpected hurricane that devastates an area in which the new business was to be built, or a change in the market that the business is intended to serve.

The effect of changed business plans on a regional center or an individual investor’s immigration status may differ depending on when the change is made relative to the alien investor’s status in the United States.

1. Investors Who Have Not Obtained Conditional Lawful Permanent Resident Status

It is well-established that in visa petition proceedings, a petitioner must establish eligibility at the time of filing and that a petition cannot be approved if, after filing, the petitioner becomes eligible under a new set of facts or circumstances. See, e.g., Matter of Izummi, 22 I. & N. Dec. at 176 (“If counsel had wished to test the validity of the newest plan, which is materially different from the original plan, he should have withdrawn the instant petition and advised the petitioner to file a new Form I-526.”). In addition, the petitioner must continue to be eligible for classification at the time of adjudication of the petition. 8 C.F.R. § 103.2(b)(1).

Thus, consistent with Matter of Izummi, if there are material changes to a Form I-526 at any time after filing, the petition cannot be approved. Under these circumstances, if, at the time of adjudication, the petitioner is asserting eligibility under a materially different set of facts that did not exist when the petition was filed, he or she must file a new Form I-526 petition. For example, if a petitioner files a Form I-526 petition purporting to be associated with a particular project within the scope of an approved regional center but, subsequent to filing, it is determined that the proceeds of the investment will be directed to a job-creating entity in an entirely different project, the petition may not be approved.

A deficient Form I-526 petition may not be cured by subsequent changes to the business plan or factual changes made to address any other deficiency that materially alter the factual basis on which the petition was filed. The only way to perfect material changes under these circumstances is for the immigrant investor to file a new Form I-526 petition to correspond to the changed plans.

Similarly, if, after the approval of a Form I-526 petition but before an alien investor has been admitted to the United States or adjusted his or her status pursuant to that petition, there are material changes to the business plan by which the alien intends to comply with the EB-5 requirements, the alien investor would need to file a new Form I-526 petition. Such material changes would constitute good cause to revoke the approved petition and would result in the denial of admission or an application for adjustment of status.

2. Investors Who Have Obtained Conditional Lawful Permanent Resident Status

Historically, USCIS has required a direct connection between the business plan the investor provides with the Form I-526 and the subsequent removal of conditions. USCIS would not approve a Form I-829 petition if the investor had made an investment and created jobs in the United States if the jobs were not created according to the plan presented in the Form I- 526. While that position is a permissible construction of the governing statute, USCIS also notes that the statute does not require that direct connection. In order to provide flexibility to meet the realities of the business world, USCIS will permit an alien who has been admitted to the United States on a conditional basis to remove those conditions when circumstances have changed. An individual investor can, at the prescribed time, proceed with his or her Form I-829 petition to remove conditions and present documentary evidence demonstrating that, notwithstanding the business plan contained in the Form I-526, the requirements for the removal of conditions have been satisfied. Pursuant to this policy, USCIS will no longer deny petitions to remove conditions solely based on failure to adhere to the plan contained in the Form I-526 or to pursue business opportunities within an industry category previously approved for the regional center. It is important to note that a Form I-526 must be filed in good faith and with full intention to follow the plan outlined in that petition. If the alien investor does not demonstrate that he or she filed the Form I-526 in good faith, USCIS may conclude that the investment in the commercial enterprise was made as a means of evading the immigration laws. Under these circumstances, USCIS may terminate the alien investor’s conditional status as required by 8 U.S.C. § 1186b(b)(1)(A).

Furthermore, nothing in this change in policy relieves an alien investor from the requirements for removal of the conditions as set out in 8 U.S.C. § 1186b(d)(1) and 8 C.F.R. § 216.6(a)(4). Thus, even in the event of a change in course, a petitioner must always be able to demonstrate (1) that the required funds were placed “at risk” throughout the period of the petitioner’s residence in the United States, and (2) that the required amount of capital was made available to the business or businesses most closely responsible for creating the employment; (3) that this “at risk” investment was “sustained throughout” the period of the applicant’s residence in the United States; and (4) that the investor created (or maintained, if applicable), or can be expected to create within a reasonable period of time, the requisite number of jobs. Accordingly, if an alien investor fails to meet any of these requirements, he or she would not be eligible for removal of conditions.

While changed circumstances after the investor has been admitted in conditional lawful permanent resident status may not require the filing of an amended Form I-526 petition in order for the investor to proceed with and obtain an approval of a Form I-829 petition, changed circumstances which are material may prevent deference from being accorded to the prior determination and a more extensive review will need to be conducted at the Form I-829 stage. For example, in the case of a petition affiliated with a regional center, the petitioner will only receive deference to a prior determination of indirect job creation if the new business plan falls within the scope of the regional center (as defined by either the initial approval or by subsequent amendment to the regional center) with which the petitioner is affiliated. So if an alien was admitted to the United States based on a petition related to a regional center that was only approved for certain projects related to the food service industry, if the proceeds of the alien’s investment were subsequently redirected to an alternate project within the job-creating entity, that project would have to be within the food service industry to continue to receive deference to the prior determination of the indirect job creation of the regional center program. 5 Similarly, if a change in plan required the liquidation of an investment and reallocation of that investment into either another job-creating entity or new commercial enterprise, the petition may not comply with the requirements to invest and sustain the investment throughout the period of the alien’s residence in the United States. 8 U.S.C. § 1186b(d)(1)(A)(ii); 8 C.F.R. §§ 216.6(a)(4)(iii), (c)(1)(iii).

However, there may be advantages to closely adhering to the business plan described in the Form I-526. If the alien investor follows the business plan described in the Form I-526, USCIS will not revisit certain aspects of the business plan, including issues related to the economic analysis supporting job creation. Thus, during review of the Form I-829, USCIS will generally rely on the previous adjudication if the petitioner claims to have fulfilled the business plan that accompanied the Form I-526 petition. This is consistent with the general policy mandating USCIS deference to previous determinations set forth above in section IV.C. To improve processing efficiencies and predictability in subsequent filings (i.e. application of deference), many regional centers may choose to amend the Form I-924 approval to reflect job creation in additional industries not previously reviewed at the time of project approval, as well as the resulting change in economic analysis and job creation estimates. Such amendments, however, are not required in order for individual investors to proceed with filing Forms I-526 or Forms I-829 based on the additional jobs created, or to be created, in additional industries. 5 Industry codes are useful for determining that verifiable detail has been provided and the estimated job creation in the economic methodolgy is reasonable, however it should be noted that these industry codes are used for informational purposes in estimating job creation and do not limit the economic or job creating activity of an approved regional center or its investors. Jobs created in industries not previously identified in the economic methodology may still be credited to the investors in subsequent Form I-526 and Form I-829 filings, as long as the evidence in the record establishes that it is probably true that the requisite jobs are estimated to be created, or have been created, in those additional industries.

USCIS will develop a mechanism for the regional center or the immigrant investor to notify USCIS when substantive material changes need to be communicated. Although USCIS will no longer deny petitions solely as a result of a departure from the business plan described in the Form I-526, the certainty afforded by adherence to a previously approved business plan may be eroded as a regional center project departs from that plan. Therefore, if the immigrant investor is seeking to have his or her conditions removed based on a business plan not consistent with the approved Form I-526, the alien investor may need to provide evidence to demonstrate the element of job creation or any other requirement for removal of conditions that is called into question by the changed plan.

Similarly, while the adjudication of Form I-829 petitions will be determined by the facts of an individual case, USCIS may need to revisit issues previously adjudicated in the Form I-526, such as the economic analysis underlying the new job creation in cases where the changes could affect the previously decided issues. For example, if the investment proceeds were diverted from a jobcreating entity in one industry to another, and the applicable multipliers changed, USCIS would need to verify that the change did not affect the job creation estimates. Similarly, if the number of investors on a given project changed dramatically, or if certain assumptions or benchmarks made in the economic assessment were not satisfied, USCIS may need to revisit prior determinations to ensure that the requirements for removal of conditions have been met. USCIS recognizes the fluidity of the business world and therefore allows for material changes to a petitioner’s business plan made after the petitioner has obtained conditional lawful permanent resident status. However, immigrant investors, and the regional centers with whom they associate, should understand that availing themselves of this flexibility does decrease the degree of predictability they will enjoy if they instead adhere to the initial plan that is presented to and approved by USCIS.

VI. Conclusion

Congress created the EB-5 Program to promote immigrants’ investment of capital into new commercial enterprises in the United States so that new jobs will be created for U.S. workers. The EB-5 Program provides for flexibility in the types and amounts of capital that can be invested, the types of commercial enterprises into which that capital can be invested, and how the resulting jobs can be created. This flexibility serves the promotion of investment and job creation and recognizes the dynamics of the business world in which the EB-5 Program exists. We will continue to adjudicate EB-5 cases with vigilance to program integrity and mindful of these important principles.

VII. Use

This PM is intended solely for the training and guidance of USCIS personnel in performing their duties relative to the adjudication of applications and petitions. It is not intended to, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or by any individual or other party in removal proceedings, in litigation with the United States, or in any other form or manner.

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