The USCIS' permanent visa program for foreign investors has
become an increasingly important part of the American economic revival over the
last several years, and a potentially lucrative option for business people
seeking new avenues of financing for domestic commercial ventures. 

The Immigrant Investor Program, as it is more formally
known, essentially offers foreign entrepreneurs the opportunity to secure a
permanent visa, or green card, in return for their substantial investments in
commercial enterprises in the United States. 
By investing either $500,000 or $1,000,000 in a commercial development
here, and creating or preserving 10 permanent full-time jobs in the process,
wealthy foreigners can earn the right to permanently live and work in the U.S.
with a green card.  USCIS categorizes
this type of employment-based permanent visa (there are four others) as an EB-5
visa, for "employment based, fifth preference."

The process begins with the filing of an I-526
petition.  The I-526 petition contains
the basic facts and information necessary for USCIS to determine whether the
applicant can move forward with an EB-5 visa application.  For instance, the petition must specify the
amount the applicant intends to invest, how he/she will secure the funds, where
the business will be located, a business model describing the nature of the
enterprise, the strategy that will be used to develop it, how many jobs will be
generated, the role the investor will play in the management of the business,
and other relevant information.  The
I-526 review and approval process could take anywhere between nine to fifteen
months, but USCIS has been taking steps in recent years to expedite the
process, with some applicants receiving a decision in as little as 3 months.
The I-526 filing fee is approximately $1,500.

If an investor's I-526 petition is approved, the actual work
can begin and the plan implemented.  Most
foreign investors, who do not have experience managing commercial ventures in
the U.S., prefer to leave the day-to-day operations to U.S.-based developers
who oversee the projects, attract additional capital as needed, ensure that the
goals are realized and the overall project comes to fruition.  This type of arrangement is called a
"Regional Center", and it is the option preferred by USCIS.  For that reason, foreign investors must
obtain official "Regional Center" designation from USCIS in order to qualify
for an EB-5 visa under this section of the Immigrant Investor Program.  The I-924 form is effectively the Regional
Center application a foreign investor must file with USCIS in order to obtain
this designation.       

Once ground has been broken on the EB-5 commercial
enterprise, the investor must keep USCIS apprised of its progress so that the
agency can determine whether the Regional Center is complying with the
requirements of the Immigrant Investor Program. 
To this end, an immigrant entrepreneur applying for an EB-5 visa must
file an I-924A within 90 days after the end of the U.S. government's fiscal
year, which runs from October 1st through September 30th.  Therefore, the applicant must file the I-924A
on or before December 29th of each year.

USCIS uses the information provided by the investor in Form
I-924A to determine the continuing eligibility of an EB-5 Regional Center.  Regional Center designation is not permanent
and can be revoked depending on the circumstances.  The information that must be recorded in Form
I-924A includes the total amount invested in the enterprise, the number of jobs
directly or indirectly created or preserved by the commercial investment, categorization
of jobs created or saved by industry, and similar information about new
businesses or enterprises that have emerged within the geographic scope of the
Regional Center.  The I-924A is like a
Regional Center's "report card," a thorough review of the enterprise's
activities over the last year that USICS will use to assess the Center's
progress and status.

The importance of the Form I-924A cannot be
underestimated.  An untimely filing could
be as devastating to a Regional Center's future and the ability of a foreign
investor to obtain a green card as a poor annual report, or one which suggests
the Center is not meeting its goals. 
USCIS could, under certain circumstances, revoke the Regional Center
designation; this is the most severe action under the law.  For that reason, and in order to avoid any
adverse judgments, it is important for a foreign investor seeking an EB-5 visa
to review and file a timely and accurate Form I-924A in order to maintain a
commercial enterprise's Regional Center status.