第一篇 | 兩篇文章,看懂移〖民局應對排期的就業創造和投資維持政╲策

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所屬分類:美國移民

8月10日,USCIS(移民局)發布了政策備忘但顧獨行知道錄,PM-602-0121的草案,並尋求公眾意ぷ見。該備忘錄名為:針對EB-5申請的I-526和I-829表格之創造就業要求和持續投資的指導意見,名稱很復雜,說簡單了,就是應對排期造成的中國投資者申請綠卡流程延萍長,而帶來的就業創造和投資維持的政策。明天就是該草案征事情求意見的截止日了,EB5Sir找來兩篇業內律師就此的專業分析文章,今天一並發表,供朋友們參考閱讀。

美國移民

第一篇,是AAEB5區域中心的Julia Park律師的文章,即本篇(涉及面窄,但深入淺◎出,有滋有味);

第二篇,業內朋友Vanessa轉來的Peng & Weber律※所的文章(涉及面廣,全面解釋了該備忘錄草案)。

移民局備忘錄草案澄清中國排期背景下如何◥在五年後處置EB-5資金

2015年8月10日,美國移民局自2013年5月30日備忘錄發布以來首次發布重大EB-5政策備】忘錄草案。經過兩年多的時間,EB-5業內人士一直翹首等待美國移民局對不斷變化的EB-5 格局發布看來又是來執行任務新的指導,並且美國移民局從今年年初就曾許⊙諾會發布新的政策指導備忘錄。對移民局政策指導的迫切需要的主要驅動因素為今年年初美國國務『院對中國EB-5投資者的有條件綠卡申請設立了截止日期(又可理解為排期)。排期的出現不麽可避免的影響到當前EB-5就業計算的〖結構,資金如何被投放到項目當中,以及最終給投資者返還問題。

新的備忘錄草案主要討論了三個議題:

1. 在提交I-526申請時,就業需要在什麽時候被創造出ㄨ來

2. 由於中國投資者排期改變了既有的移民/投資時間表,應該如何滿足維持投資】要求?

3. 重大變更什麽時候可以發生,什麽時候不可以.

本文閉著眼睛主要針對第二個議題——維持投資要求(即資金重新部署問題)——進行闡述。

維持投資要求正如許多政府項目一樣,EB-5 項目是一個技術性和法規驅動的項目。要遵循其繁瑣同時不▼斷改變的規定,參與者必須謹慎的處理。

在這些規定中,有一項為1) 投資者資金≡必須做“有風險”的投資;並且2) 在投資○者有條件居住期間,必須“自始〗至終維持”投資是“有風險”的。

問題歸根結底是以往從遞交I-526投資移↓民申請開始EB-5程序到遞交I-829條件移除申請只需要三年半到四年的時間,而I-829的批準只需等待不到是人就有影子一年的時間。大多數貸款∮模式的EB-5項目都是五年投資期限。因此,以往移民流程基本在五年範圍內完成,在有條件居住活著已經成為傳說期間“自始至終維持”投資從來不是一個問題。

移民/投資時間流程

以下是投◣資移民的一個可視化描述。圖中上半部分涉及EB-5移民流程,下半部分是為了獲得EB-5簽證所做的投資的投資流程。

投資流程

但由於●中國簽證排期和I-526申請在美國移民局的積壓改變¤了整個格局。

投資流程

從圖B上可以看出,實際上有兩股力量在這裏同時起作用。首先,中國簽證排期在投資@ 者I-526批準到領事館處理程序中間增加了一年左右的時間,同時,也導致領事處理時間增╳長(任何EB-5移民律師都會告訴您現在等美國簽證中心的信件等到望眼欲穿)。其次,目前市場上絕大多數項目的監管協議裏都有自己提前放款的條款,也就是說相比之前投資■款在I-526批準後才進入項目,現在的投資款進入項目比原來提前了約一年。

換句話說,按目前的投資流√程,EB-5投資者在綠卡尚未獲批之前資金就隨時可能被返還。因此,新的備忘錄中的維持資金指導♀部分的內容即是為了應ㄨ對區域中心在這個時間段裏應當如何運作的問題,請參考圖B中星號部分。

所有EB-5利益相關者都知道維持資金遲早將成為一個棘≡手的問題,所以一直以來都向移民局詢問這個問題的答案:如果在投★資者I-829申請批準前JCE(創造就業企業)就將5年期貸款償還這種道相當於氣質內斂給NCE(新商〇業企業),NCE應當如何處置被償還的投資款?

這裏打個岔為EB-5初學者做一▽個簡單的解釋。NCE(新商業企業)是一個由區域中心管理、由EB-5投資者註入股權投資的實體。區域中心需↘要將投入到NCE的資→金作為貸款發放給開發商的項目實體,這個項目實體又被稱為JCE(創造就業企業)。簡單地說,在貸款模式的EB-5項目中,NCE是貸款人/區域中心,而JCE則為借款人/開發商。(該術語出自指導EB-5項目㊣的法規用語)(回復“投資模式”查看EB-5不同投資模式結構圖解)。

EB-5公寓項目

拋出一個有趣的背景,其實這個問題早在中國簽證排期開始前就已經在那麽公寓開發EB-5項目中被提出和討▲論過。有意思的是,新政策備】忘錄草案使得EB-5公寓項目更加△容易。原因是公寓開發項目的周期傳統上就比其他項目(例如←酒店或混合使用型項目)短,因此一直存在上圖標星號々的時間段中EB-5資金應該如何處置的問題,而不是直到現在才像其他所有的項目一樣都有資金再配置這個問題。以往通常在酒店項目中,要求開發商將EB-5資金一直放在JCE裏並不是問⊙題,因為酒店項目通常需要幾年的時間才能達到穩定經營,在此之後開發商才可以進行再見到對方驚慌失措融資或出售(屆時EB-5貸款會用再融資♀或出售的所得來償付)。

但是,在公寓開發項目裏,項目的時間流程往往要求開發商在5年貸款到期日以前就出售建成的公寓,而在這之前移∩民局並不願意講明在這種情況下區域中心應該怎麽辦,所以以前要設計一個安全的公寓項目十分困〒難。盡管如此,之∮前仍有做起來的公寓EB-5項目,而當公寓銷售期臨近時,一部分代理公寓EB-5項目的律師曾極力試圖讓移民局回※答這個問題:假如JCE/借款人已經將所借貸款償還給NCE/貸款人,並且NCE並未將資六萬萬民眾金返還給EB-5投資者,那麽在☆這種情況下EB-5投資者的資金是否還將會被移民局解釋為是“有風險”並且足夠“持續”風險。

設想一下,EB-5投資者將資金投入到NCE裏,最終是由NCE將這筆資金十月無月在發放到JCE的。因此,這∮個觀點是有一定道理的:只要資金一直放在NCE中(即最開始的投資實體),即使開發商◣(JCE)將貸款償還給區域中心(NCE),投資金額從技術上講仍是被“維持”的。

但是之前美國你心太軟了移民局一直拒絕直接回※答這個問題,只是承諾會根據個案不同的細節而審理個案。但是現在,移民局出臺的指南在回答本文所討論的問題的同時,使得公寓項目更容易設計成功。

美國移民局的官方立場

現在中國簽證排期使得移民及投資流這幾天別到處跑程時間不匹配成了整個行業所要↘↘面對的問題,因此移民局不得不對這個問題樹立政策指導:投資這簡直是人神共憤者得資金是否一定要被‘重新部署’,還是可以一直放在NCE中,即可被認定為“自始至終維持”資金。

現在,我們終於有了一個答案:根據新頒布的指導〇備忘錄草案,即使JCE在I-829前將投資金額返還給NCE,NCE不能夠只將投資金額放在“銀行賬戶或托管Ψ 賬戶中”,投資金額』必須被重新部署到“有風險”的商業活動中。(備忘錄草案將EB-5語境中‘有風險’定義為“有損失的風險或收益的機會”——解釋這個定義本身就足以一篇文章了,因此我們在此不做過多闡述)。

有一個問題的答案目前尚不明朗(雖然這絕非唯一一個●答案不明朗的問題):維持資金的要求到底何時才算結束。在備忘錄草案發布後的四天後,美國移民局在利益相關者大款了哇哈哈的季度電話會議上∏的確暗示投資者的I-829一旦遞交,對維持投資的要求就停止了。但是當有人試圖確認移民局這一觀點並在ξ電話會議上問道“是否一旦I-829申請提交,投資者不需要等待獲批資金就可以馬上被返還”的時候,移民局的態度便含糊不清。(I-829的審批過程〓大約需要一年多的時間,所以這時間上的差別絕非微不足▽道)。當然,為了盡量規避法律中的不確定性,除非移民局明確澄清這一觀點,否則律師很可能會提醒投資者資金會在I-829獲批後才能返還給投資人。

權衡利弊:等待對政策指導的解釋

無論如何,移民局現在的立場已經迫使區域ζ 中心不得不權衡左右做出一個微妙的平衡:一方面既要保障EB-5投資者的資金在重新部署時能夠達到最安懸崖下突然出現了幾道黑影全的方式,同時還要確保資金不能過於∑安全,否則美國移民局很可能因為資金沒有在有條件居住活著已經成為傳說期間處於足夠的“風險”中而被拒『絕。

我們期待能夠看到移民局將會在2015年9月8號征求意見期之後的最終版政策備忘錄會中做出何種說明或改◇變。

作者: Julia Yong-hee Park,翻譯: Emily Zhu, Bonnie Cao,來源微信▲公眾號:aaeb5usa。

EB-5 Investment Sustainment Requirement

USCIS Attempts to Clarify the Investment Sustainment Requirement in New EB-5 Policy Memo Draft

Julia Yong-hee Park

On August 10, 2015 the USCIS issued a draft of its first major EB-5 policy memorandum since the May 30, 2013 Memo. As it has been over two years since then, the EB-5 industry has been eagerly waiting for new guidance which addressed the changing landscape of EB-5 and the USCIS has been promising one since the beginning of the year. This dire need for guidance has been driven by the fact that the Chinese EB-5 cut-off dates were established earlier this year (a/k/a Retrogression). Inevitably, Chinese Visa Retrogression will impact the current structure of how EB-5 jobs are counted, funds are deployed into projects and eventually returned to the investors.

Three topics were discussed in the Draft Memo:

* When do jobs have to be created for “purposes of I-526 filing”.
* How can investments be sustained now that Chinese Visa Retrogression is distorting the established Immigration/Investment Timeline.
* When can Material Change happen and when can it not.

In this article, I seek to address the second topic of Investment Sustainment requirements (a/k/a the Redeployment issue.)

The Investment Sustainment Requirement

The EB-5 Program, like many government programs, is a technical, rule driven program that requires careful navigation because there are a lot of rules, but also because these rules keep changing! Among these rules is one that says 1) the investor’s funds must be placed “at risk” and 2) that this “at risk” investment be “sustained throughout” the period of the investor’s conditional residency.

The fundamental issue is this: It used to take 3.5 to 4 years after an EB-5 investor started the EB-5 process by filing an I-526 Immigrant Investor Petition until the I-829 Removal of Condition Petition could be filed and the I-829 petitions would take under a year to get approved. And most loan-based EB-5 projects had 5-year investment terms. As a result, the immigration process was basically done before the 5 year mark so the requirement that the investment be “sustained throughout” the conditional residency period was never really an issue.

The Immigration/Investment Timeline

Here is a visual depiction of that timeline. The top portion pertains to the EB-5 process and the bottom portion illustrates the underlying investment made for purposes of obtaining the EB-5 visa.

But Chinese Visa Retrogression and the increased backlog of I-526 petitions at the USCIS has changed the landscape.

As you can see from the second timeline, there are actually two forces at play here. First, Chinese Visa Retrogression has added a year or so between when the investor’s I-526 is approved and when Consular Processing starts. It has also made the Consular Processing timeline longer. (NVC letters are taking forever to arrive as any immigration attorney who does EB-5 petitions can tell you). Second is that most projects on the market today have early-release provisions in their escrow agreements so the investor funds are placed into projects a year earlier than the old system under which investor funds were not released until I-526 approvals.

In other words, EB-5 investments will be ready to be returned to the investors under the Investment Process timeline even when EB-5s investors have not yet obtained their permanent greencards under the Immigration Process timeline. So the Investment Sustainment guidance in the new memo is addressing what Regional Centers are supposed to do during the period in the second timeline indicated with a star.

EB-5 stakeholders all knew this was going to be a problem sooner or later and have been requesting guidance on what the NCE is supposed to do with the money when the JCE repays the 5 year loan to the NCE before investors’ I-829s are approved.

A brief detour for EB-5 beginners. The NCE (New Commercial Enterprise) is the company that is managed by the Regional Center into which EB-5 investors invest equity. The Regional Center then takes the funds invested into the NCE and loans it out to the developer’s project entity which is called the JCE (Job Creating Enterprise). Simply put, in a loan model EB-5 project, the NCE is the Lender/Regional Center and the JCE is the Borrower/Developer. The terminology comes from the statutes that govern the EB-5 program.

Condominium EB-5 Projects

An interesting aside is that this issue had actually been discussed prior to Chinese Visa Retrogression in the context of condominium development EB-5 projects. This is because condominium development project cycles are traditionally shorter than, say, hotels or mixed used projects. In a typical hotel deal, requiring the developer to keep EB-5 funds in the JCE was not an issue because it usually takes a few years for the hotel to be stabilized before the developer can either refinance the project or sell it (at which time the EB-5 Loan would be paid off as part of either the refinancing or the sale).

However, in condo deals, the project timeline would often require developers to sell the property prior to the 5-year loan maturity date and many Regional Centers shied away from condo development EB-5 deals because of this very reason. But some condo deals did get off the ground and as the time for these condos to actually be sold came near, a handful of attorneys who were representing condo development EB-5 projects valiantly tried to get the USCIS to answer the question of whether the EB-5 investors’ funds would still considered to be “at risk” and sufficiently “sustained”, if the JCE/Borrower repaid the NCE/Lender and the NCE didn’t distribute the funds back to the EB-5 investors.

If you think about it, the EB-5 investors made the EB-5 investment into the NCE and it was the NCE that deployed that investment into the JCE. So there is validity to the argument that as long as the investor funds are kept in the NCE (which was the original investment vehicle), even if the developer (JCE) repays the Regional Center (NCE), the investment has technically been “sustained”.

The USCIS, however, refused to be pinned down on the issue and would only say they would review the facts of the deal on a case-by-case basis. (Which is terribly unhelpful if you are a transactional EB-5 attorney trying to put a deal together.)

The USCIS’s Official Position

However, now that the Chinese Visa Retrogression has made the timing mismatch an industry-wide problem, the USCIS has been forced to establish guidance on the issue of whether investor funds need to be “redeployed” or can be held onto by the NCE in order for it to be considered “sustained throughout”.

And now, we have an answer: according to the draft of the new guidance memo, even if the JCE returns the funds to the NCE prior to the I-829, the NCE can’t just hold on to the funds in a “bank account or escrow account” and the funds must be redeployed into an “at-risk” activity. (The draft memo defines “at-risk” in the context of EB-5 as meaning that the capital must have a “risk of loss and a chance for gain” – which could be a topic of a standalone article so let’s leave it at that for now.)

One thing (though by no means the only thing) that is unclear is when does the sustainment period end. The USCIS did imply on the Quarterly Stakeholder’s call held four days after the draft memo was released, that the sustainment period ends once the I-829 is filed. But when someone tried to pin them down by asking, “So the investors can be repaid once the I-829 is filed and we don’t have to wait for approval?”, they waffled. (The I-829 approval process takes more than a year these days so this is not an insignificant difference.) And of course lawyers abhor uncertainty so unless the USCIS clarifies this point they will most likely advise clients to not pay back the investor until the I-829 is approved.
Balancing Act: Waiting for Guidance on the Guidance

In any case, this position of the USCIS is now forcing Regional Centers to engage in a delicate balancing act between ensuring that EB-5 investors funds are redeployed in the safest way possible while at the same time making sure it is not too safe that the USCIS rejects it by saying the funds were not “at risk” throughout the conditional residency period.

It will be interesting to see what clarification or changes, if any, the USCIS will make in the final policy memorandum after the September 8, 2015 comment period is over.

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