How Do I Prepare and File Form I-924, Application for Regional Center?

Designation as a Regional Center can lead to rewarding and lucrative investment opportunities for regional centers and foreign investors.

What is Form I-924, Application for Regional Center?

Form I-924, the Application for Regional Center, is used to apply to the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) for official designation as a regional center under the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program.

Various types of entities, both public and private, can use Form I-924 to seek this designation, which offers numerous advantages for investors.

Regional centers provide a service to the United States economy by giving foreign investors a vehicle through which to invest capital in job creating projects, without the investor needing to have hands-on involvement in to the day-to-day management of the projects.

In order for a foreigner to invest through a regional center, the regional center will need to first have approval from USCIS, and this is where Form I-924 comes in.

Form I-924 is also used to request an amendment to a previously filed and designated regional center.

What is an EB-5 Investor Visa?

The EB-5 Investor Visa is a component of the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program. Congress created this program, which is designed to attract and facilitate foreign investment in the American economy.

EB-5 visas allow for foreigners to seek permanent residence in the United States (green card status), in exchange for investing capital in the American economy. In order to qualify for the visa, the foreign investor must be able to demonstrate that his or her investment will create or save at least 10 jobs in the United States.

Note that these 10 jobs cannot be for the investor himself, or his family.

Normally, the investor must show that these jobs will be created as the direct result of the investment. One of the benefits of investing through a regional center, is that these 10 jobs may be either the direct or indirect result of the investment, making this requirement easier to satisfy.

Additionally, EB-5 visa investors must be willing to invest at least $1 million dollars in the United States before being eligible for permanent residence. However, if the investment is made in what’s termed a “Targeted Employment Area” (“TEA”), the foreign investor will only need to invest $500,000. TEAs include certain high unemployment and/or rural areas within the United States that have been identified as having a particular need of an influx of outside investment.

After USCIS has initially approved an EB-5 investor visa, you, as the investor-applicant, will receive a conditional green card that is good for two years. After this time, you’ll get a permanent green card, once you’ve successfully demonstrated that the required economic and job creation goals of the foreign investment have been achieved.

If you are planning on using a regional center as a vehicle for foreign investment, you must be able to show that the investment will be “at risk.” This means that there must be an inherent risk associated with the investment, such that there is a real danger of losing money, and that there is not a guaranteed return on your investment.

Your investment must be “at risk” in the same sense that investing in stocks, bonds, and other securities is an “at risk” investment decision.

What is a “Regional Center?”

The use of regional centers allows the United States government to attract and encourage foreign investment and job creation in the American communities that need it the most.

Foreign investment has always been, and will continue to be, a great benefit to the United States. It also provides the potential of great reciprocal benefits for the foreign investor.

Regional centers facilitate these mutual benefits by allowing the pooling of EB-5 foreign investment capital from several different investment sources, in order to effectively target a particular geographic area that has been identified as “in-need.”

USCIS maintains a listing of approved EB-5 regional centers in each state that the government has identified as being appropriate for and in need of EB-5 visa foreign investment. Regional centers can be publicly owned (such as a state or local economic development agency), privately owned (a corporation, LLC, or other variety of business association), or may be a private-public partnership.

Typically, regional centers are either LLCs or corporations.

Regional centers are very useful, as they identify investment opportunities around the United States that have the most potential to be a benefit to the local economy and create jobs. The regional center then allows for these investment opportunities to be effectively marketed to overseas investors, who might otherwise not be aware of their existence.

It’s really a win-win arrangement.

The foreign investor receives the potential for a strong return on his investment, as well as the EB-5 visa and permanent residence. In exchange, struggling American communities receive the influx of investment capital and job creation they desperately need, all through a method that is revenue-neutral, and places no additional burden on the American tax payers.

New Commercial Enterprises

Once a regional center has been granted USCIS approval, it can begin to attract investors, and put their money to good use. Typically, regional centers funnel the investment capital to these projects through what are known as new commercial enterprises. They are the vehicle through which the investors’ money is actually committed to and utilized by the various job creating projects for which the regional center was created.

New commercial enterprises are generally organized as limited partnerships (“LPs”). Often, the regional center will be named as the LP’s general partner, giving the regional center responsibility for the project’s day-to-day management and operation.

One of the benefits of investing through a regional center is that new commercial enterprises are normally structured so as to avoid the various SEC filing requirements. This is a function of the investment pooling effect of regional centers, and makes investing simpler and more cost-efficient.

Where do I file Form I-924?

If you are planning to file your Form I-924 application through the United States Postal Service, you’ll mail the completed form and accompanying evidence package to USCIS’s California Service Center located in Laguna Niguel, California. The exact mailing address can be found here.

Who can complete and file Form I-924?

If the Form I-924 application for regional center is for the benefit of a state or local economic development agency, it may be completed and filed by an individual on behalf of that agency. If the application is for the benefit of a business entity established in the United States, it may be completed and filed by any individual with the executive authority to seek government designation on behalf of the entity.

Generally, a team of experts and attorneys help complete an I-924 application. The immigration attorney will submit the application.

What is the filing fee and cost?

There is currently a $6,230 filing fee associated with Form I-924. However, these filing fees frequently change, so it would be advisable to double check with USCIS before final submission of your form, in order to make sure that you’re sending the most current fee. The up to date filing fee for Form I-924, and all other USCIS forms, can be found here.

Note that there is no filing fee associated with filing the Form I-924a supplement.

The filing fee needs to be paid in United States currency (U.S. dollars), and if paid with a check, must be drawn from a financial institution located in the United States. You should make checks payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” with all of the words spelled out.

The filing fee is really the base line cost for seeking designation as a regional center. There will be additional costs and fees associated with creating an effective I-924 application.

What documents do I need to submit along with my Form I-924?

In order to support your Form I-924 Application for Regional Center, you’ll need to compile and submit a variety of documents. The actual questions in Form I-924 are all relatively straightforward and painless.

The real work involves developing and compiling all the supporting documentary evidence you’ll need. These documents are largely evidence of your plan for your regional center, and how you plan to go about achieving the economic goals that are required.

Because a regional center must be designed such that it focuses economic development and job creation on a particular geographic area, you’ll need to submit a map that depicts the distinct boundaries of the proposed regional center.

The primary requirement for approval as a regional center, is that it will create or save at least 10 jobs for each foreign investor involved. Thus, you must submit some evidence proving that these jobs will be saved or created as a result of your regional center being approved.

These jobs can be saved or created either directly or indirectly as a result of the regional center. This is one of the benefits of investing through a regional center, as otherwise you’d need to show that your investment would create the jobs directly. Note that this job count does not include any jobs created for an EB-5 investor or his family.

In order to demonstrate that your regional center will adequately contribute to the local economy, you’ll need to have prepared and submit an economic analysis. This analysis must use proper and accepted statistical analytical methods, and show how the jobs will be created. You should consult with an economic and financial services professional for help creating these documents, given how essential they are to your hopes for regional center approval.

Your economic analysis should include an actual or example business plan for a project—or new commercial enterprise—in each of the economic categories in which your regional center will be engaged. This business plan should describe how the new commercial enterprise will operate, and how it will create the 10 new jobs.

USCIS will also want to see some sort of statement that details how the proposed regional center will keep track of the foreign investors’ capital, and will monitor this infusion of money. USCIS wants to make sure that the foreign capital coming in is from legal sources, and is being used lawfully. This statement should come from whoever is the principal of the regional center’s business entity or organization.

You’ll need to include a description of the regional center’s proposed promotional activities, and how much money each of these activities will require. USCIS wants to make sure that any regional center it approves is going to be adequately promoted, in order to maximize its benefit and potential.

A plan of operation is needed also, and it should lay out how the regional center proposes to recruit investors for the project. It should also outline a method for determining that the investment capital is actually coming from lawful sources.

You’ll also need to generate a document that contains predictions of what will be the proposed regional center’s impact on the household earnings of the local economy. It should also contain a general projection of how the regional center will impact the local demand for business services, utilities and construction, and maintenance and repair.

Your I-924 regional center application will also need to include a document describing the regional center’s organizational structure. If your regional center is organized as a business organization, you’ll need to include its certificate of incorporation, charter, LLC operating agreement, partnership agreement, or any other document governing the entity.

You’ll also need to document that your business structure, investment plans, and any operating agreements will be in compliance with the EB-5 statutory and regulatory requirements, as well as with the applicable case law.

NAICS Codes

For each individual industrial category you’ll be working in, you need to include the applicable industry category title and North American Industry Classification System (“NAICS”) code. These codes categorize the various types of industrial activities of businesses based on the type of work they’re involved in, and are used by the government to keep statistical information on the United States economy.

Regional centers are approved for a particular NAICS code (or set of codes) and the desired code must be specified in the I-924 application. Once a regional center has been approved for a particular NAICS code, the path is open for investment in any new commercial enterprise dealing with that particular industry type. However, if a subsequent investment opportunity comes along down the road that is in an industry different from the one you’ve already been approved for you can file an amended Form I-924 that uses the NAICS code corresponding to this new industry.

USCIS normally prefers that Form I-924 applications use NAICS codes that are more specific, as this allows USCIS to have a better understanding of what it’s approving, and the type of business that it is affecting. Preferably, the application will use NAICS codes that are at least four digits long.

Copies

You may submit legible photocopied versions of requested documents and evidence, rather than their originals. However, if there’s a specific request for an original version, make sure that you submit the original.

Translations

All documents and other evidence must be in English. If you need to submit a document that is in a foreign language, you’ll need to get it translated into English, and submit the English-language version with your Form I-924. Any translations must be accompanied by the translator’s certification that the translation is an accurate and complete translation of the original, and that the translator is in fact competent to translate from the foreign language into English.

What happens after I’ve filed my Form I-924?

Once you’ve filed your Form I-924, USCIS will check and review it to make sure that it’s complete, and that you’ve submitted all the required components and supporting documents. If you’re missing something, such as documentary evidence, USCIS will not accept your application, but it will notify you of the deficiency, or any other reason why it’s been declined. USCIS may also send a request for additional information, in which case you must respond promptly and fully, in order to keep the process moving.

Once USCIS has everything it needs from you, such that it can make a decision on your application, it will provide you with a written notification of final decision. If you’ve been approved, you’ll be provided with a list of your new responsibilities and obligations that come along with approval for regional center designation. Primarily, this requires that you notify USCIS of any change in your address, or any other change to contact information or material facts.

If your application has been denied for some reason, USCIS will supply you with a notice of denial, and an explanation for the denial. You will also be informed of your right to appeal the initial denial to the Administrative Appeals Office, should you wish to do so.

If it is taking an especially long time for USCIS to review and process your Form I-924 application, you may inquire about the status and projected time frame of your application by emailing USCIS.

The Form I-924a Supplement

If you have been successful in your initial application, and have been granted regional center designation by USCIS, there are some things that you must do in order to keep and maintain your designation.

Each year, every designated regional center must file Form I-924a, which is the supplement to your initial application. This form can be found online here. You must file the supplement within 90 days of the end of each fiscal year in which your entity operated under regional center designation status.

The purpose of the I-924a supplement is to allow the government to make sure that you are continuing to abide by the laws and terms of the designation, and that the economic and job creation benefits that you promised in your initial application are actually being pursued and met.

Conclusion

Designation as a regional center can lead to rewarding and lucrative investment opportunities for foreign investors. Regional centers also create distinct benefits for the United States economy and its workers. Form I-924 is the mechanism for beginning the process towards regional center designation.

If you are interested in beginning the process, or have questions about the implications of creating a regional center, an experienced attorney will be your best resource.

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