USCIS Announces EB5 Regional Center Compliance Audit Program

 

Introduction

On March 20, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will begin EB5 regional center compliance audits [PDF version]. In this article, we will examine the guidelines for EB5 regional center compliance audits and what they may mean going forward.

EB5 Regional Center

Overview

The USCIS explains that the regional center compliance audits are designed to enhance EB5 integrity and verify information in regional center applications. It continues by stating that it “will collect case-specific data as part of a compliance audit.”

The USCIS states that its compliance audits will verify “the information provided by designated regional centers in applications and annual certification.” By effect, it will also verify “compliance with applicable laws and authorities to ensure continued eligibility for regional center designation.”

EB5 Regional Center Compliance Audit Team Tasks

The USCIS explains that the audit team will perform the following tasks in competing an EB5 regional center compliance audit:

  • Review applications, certifications, and associated records;
  • Review public records and information on the regional center;
  • Verify the information, including supporting documents, submitted with the application(s) and in the annual certification(s);
  • Conduct site inspection;
  • Review and analyze documents; and
  • Interview personnel to confirm the information provided with the application(s) and annual certifications.

Preparing for EB5 Regional Center Compliance Audit

The USCIS advises EB5 regional centers to be prepared to submit the following:

  • Any information originally submitted with the application(s) or certification(s) and any updates to that information; and
  • Any information requested in the data request that has not been previously provided.

Furthermore, the audit team may request additional information to verify the information provided by the regional center.

The USCIS states that regional centers should immediately provide any readily available documents that are requested by the audit team during an inspection. After the inspection, regional centers should provide any additional information requested by the audit team, and should verify or update information in any follow-up communication from the USCIS.

After the EB5 Regional Center Compliance Audit is Completed

After completing an EB5 regional center compliance audit, the audit team will compile an audit report which becomes part of the regional center's record. The information “will be used to assess the regional center's compliance with applicable laws and authorities.” If the USCIS detects any indicators of fraud as a result of the compliance audit, it will assess whether further investigation is warranted.

Participation

If a regional center declines to participate in a compliance audit, the USCIS may follow-up with the regional center regarding compliance with the EB5 regional center program requirements. If, in the course of a site inspection, the regional center principal “expresses an unwillingness to participate in the site inspection,” the USCIS will terminate the site inspection. In such an event, the audit team will create the audit report with the data it was able to procure during the audit and indicate in the report that the site inspection was terminated at the request of the regional center.

Conclusion

The USCIS's announcement of the EB5 regional center compliance audit program provides key details concerning how the compliance audits will work. It will be essential for EB5 regional centers to ensure that they have on hand all of the pertinent documentation relating to their regional center applications, certifications, and records. Additionally, regional centers should anticipate the types of documentation that the USCIS may request to confirm the information provided by the regional center.

The long-awaited announcement of the EB5 regional center compliance audit program does not change the requirements for maintaining status as an EB5 regional center. Rather, it puts the onus on regional centers to continue following the rules and procedures of the program while ensuring that they keep records of documentation relevant to showing such compliance. Regional centers should consult with an experienced immigration attorney in EB5 issues for guidance on how to prepare for the new compliance audit program.