Legislative Activity

Senate Panel to Consider Changes to Investment Visa Program

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to consider changes to the EB-5 Regional Center Program.  This program is designed to bolster the U.S. economy by incentivizing investment by foreign individuals.  So-called “regional centers” pool EB-5 funds for investment in projects.  In return for investing and creating eligible jobs within the United States, these investors or their spouses and unmarried children under 21 become eligible to apply for a green card.

The FY 2016 omnibus appropriations measure passed by Congress at the end of 2015 extended the EB-5 Regional Center Program for the remainder of the Fiscal Year.  However, lawmakers are currently debating whether to overhaul the program in light of what some argue is a need to better protect against potential abuse, refocus investment in areas that need it most, and increase the minimum levels of investment required to participate in the program.  Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, delivered remarks on the Senate floor late last week objecting to S. 2415, the EB-5 Integrity Act of 2015, which he alleged would not go far enough to reform the EB-5 program.  Senator Grassley voiced his continued support for S. 1501, the American Job Creation and Investment Promotion Reform Act of 2015, legislation he cosponsored with Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to overhaul the visa program and that he claimed was similar to, but more stringent than, S. 2415.  He lamented the time that had passed without reforming the EB-5 program, stating “I am not so sure reforms are possible anymore.  It may be time to do away with it completely.”

The Tuesday hearing will include witnesses from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  The USCIS is responsible for administering the program, while the SEC announced a series of enforcement actions at the end of 2015 targeting attorneys offering EB-5 investments though not registered to act as brokers.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, February 2: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security will hold a hearing titled “Assessing TSA’s Management and Implementation of the Screening Partnership Program.”
  • Tuesday, February 2: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Frontline Response to Terrorism in America.”
  • Tuesday, February 2: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Failures and Future of the EB-5 Regional Center Program: Can It Be Fixed?”
  • Wednesday, February 3: The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing titled “Crisis of Confidence: Preventing Terrorist Infiltration through U.S. Refugee and Visa Programs.”
  • Wednesday, February 3: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Canada’s Fast-Track Refugee Plan: Unanswered Questions and Implications for U.S. National Security.”
  • Thursday, February 4: The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security will hold a hearing titled “Another Surge of Illegal Immigrants Along the Southwest Border: Is This the Obama Administration’s New Normal?”