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EB-5 Update: Mayorkas on Tenant Occupancy

On April 27th, USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas participated in an EB-5 stakeholder teleconference to address an emerging issue in EB-5 adjudications, use of the "tenant occupancy" economic job creation methodology. This issue became a hot topic in February as USCIS began to question use of this methodology. Director Mayorkas stated the following:

"We are focused this morning on the tenant occupancy economic methodology. We appreciate the fact that there is a lack of certainty in the community with respect to how our agency is addressing EB-5 applications and petitions that are predicated on that methodology to prove the required job creation. We thought we should have this engagement to address the uncertainty.

Our intention this morning is to clarify for you what we have done and are doing with respect to cases that are predicated on the tenant occupancy methodology. It is not, I should say at the outset, it is not my intention to discuss the intricacies of the economic methodology itself, though we will certainly listen to your concerns and address them as and when appropriate.

First, if I can provide you with some assurances. We well understand the law, that there is no requirement to present a particular methodology in support of a petition. Rather, the law requires a "reasonable" methodology. Whether or not the tenant occupancy methodology is reasonable in proving job creation in a particular case is a fact-specific and fact-dependent inquiry. We have not changed any policy with respect to the tenant occupancy methodology, nor have we changed the applicable criteria.

This is, instead, what we have done. In response to the request of adjudicators and your - stakeholders' - request - and a very appropriate request - we have hired full time economists and business analysts to improve the analysis of EB-5 petitions and the quality of our work. I should note also that we have announced or are about to announce other positions as well such as a hiring of corporate attorneys to interpret the many legal documents that petitions often include. Our new experts have reviewed cases, not previously adjudicated, that are predicated on the tenant occupancy methodology, and based on the specific facts of those cases have raised questions as to whether the evidence presented proves the required job creation, or instead merely establishes job relocation, for example. We have issued Requests for Evidence to obtain additional evidence that our experts will review and analyze.

A decision, as I mentioned, on the economic methodology presented in the EB-5 case, including the tenant occupancy methodology, is very fact specific. Consistent with our deference policy, we are communicating to our adjudicators that they are to accord deference to prior adjudications. Our adjudicators should rely on a previous determination that the economic methodology is reasonable when the economic methodology is presented to us in later a proceeding based on materially similar facts.

For example, if we approved a Form I-924 Regional Center Application based on a specifically-identified project, including the specific locations and industries involved, we will not revisit the determination that the economic model and underlying business plan were reasonable when adjudicating related Form I-526 petitions, Form I-485 applications, or Form I-829 petitions. If we approved an I-526 petition for an immigrant investor based on a specifically-identified project, not associated with a Regional Center, we will not revisit the determination that the business plan was reasonable when adjudicating the investor's related I-485 or I-829 petition. If, however, the facts underlying the application of the economic methodology have materially changed, then we will conduct a fresh review of the new facts to determine whether the petitioner or applicant has complied with the requirements of the EB-5 program, including the job creation requirement.

That is, in summary, what we have done, and what we have not done."

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