City Halls Eb5 Visa Hub Moving
By Meisha Perrin
Miami’s EB5 visa regional center application is to be submitted in June, according to Mayor Tomás Regalado — and he said it’s perhaps the most well-written application they will get in Washington.
According to Mr. Regalado, the team of lawyers that has been working with Miami on the application since last year is extraordinary, and the application itself has been very carefully vetted.
Mayor Regalado teamed up with attorney Mikki Canton last summer to bring the regional center designation to city hall and had original intentions of submitting the application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in October.
But the application has been stalled since then as the city has added new industries, a signature project by veteran developer Tibor Hollo, and new partners that include Miami-Dade County; each addition requiring more information.
"We had a couple of delays on the developer’s side because their project is so huge," Ms. Canton said. "It’s a $700 million monster and they’ve had to bend over backwards just to provide even the most minute details."
Getting information for a project like that, she said, is much more intricate than it is for a $100 million or $40 million project.
"So that’s held us up a bit," she said, although Miami has done everything in a very short time in comparison to other regional center applications.
But everything is ready to go with the application, she said, and the city is looking to submit it at the end of June or in July, at the latest.
And in the meantime, she said, the Senate unanimously passed Sen. Patrick Leahy’s bill to expand the EB5 program last week, which she said will have a tremendous effect on what the city is doing.
"It just underscores what we have been saying at the city that this is a wonderful asset for not just the city but for any local government to have," Ms. Canton said. "What it can do in terms of the creation of jobs is unprecedented."
The bill would change the regional center program from a pilot to a permanent program, and also increase the visa capacity from 10,000, which previously included both the capital investor and his or her family.
It would also adjust the minimum investment beginning Jan. 1, 2016, which would then fluctuate with the percentage change in the consumer price index during fiscal 2015 and every year thereafter to reflect market conditions.
And, Sen. Leahy said, according to his website, when fully subscribed, the EB5 program "has the potential to contribute $5 billion to communities around the country each year, creating tens of thousands of American Jobs. And all of it is at no cost to American taxpayers."
As it stands, under the EB5 program, which was created in 1990 as an engine of job creation, foreign investors who inject $1 million — or $500,000 in a target employment area — into a qualified project can be entitled to a green card only if that project helps create or maintain at least 10 full-time jobs for US workers.
After two years, if the investment and job-requirement conditions are met, investors can apply for unconditional permanent residency, even though they aren’t required to live in the US, for their spouse and children under 21.
The program was extended in 1992 to create designated regional centers, which are involved with the promotion of economic growth, improved regional productivity, job creation and increased domestic capital investment of the EB5 projects, according to the immigration service, and allows officials to count both direct and indirect jobs in meeting the requirements.
In order for the center to be approved, the city has to show the immigration service that the regional center would have a strong economic impact, that jobs would be created, and include a business plan for how the center would be run as well as a defined project technique in its application.
In addition, the city would have to do monthly or tri-monthly audits to comply and ensure transparency.
Miami would be the third entity to have a government-owned regional center.
And the city, according to Ms. Canton, has created its own hybrid model for the center that would charge developers an application fee as well as a percentage from 0.5% to 3% to develop the project.
That percentage, she said, will depend on the size and the nature of the project, and will be determined on a project-by-project basis.
Money made from the regional center, Ms. Canton said, will be put into a special account dedicated only to the regional-center-related funds that will help with the daily operations and marketing of the center, go toward the international activities involved with getting the word out, and, at the request of Mayor Regalado, go to the police and fire departments.To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e-MIAMI TODAY, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.