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March 7 2013

USCIS Ombudsman

On March 5, 2013, I attended the Department of Homeland Security USCIS Ombudsman* EB-5 Stakeholders meeting in Washington, D.C.  Interestingly, this meeting was not publicized by USCIS.

Ombudsman Maria Odom expressed interest in the EB-5 program. Also at the meeting were other members of her staff who have been very interested in the EB-5 program for many years. Ms. Odom responded favorably to my comments on the need for USCIS’s EB-5 team and economists to dialogue with regional centers to determine the agency’s policies.

Many in attendance commented on the need for predictability in decisions, faster processing times, transparency, deference to prior decisions, clarity on timing of job creation, and insight into the mindset of the USCIS. During the meeting, I specifically asked if Ombudsman Odom’s office would relay questions regarding the EB-5 unit’s policies to the USCIS, and then follow up with the USCIS to obtain answers. Ms. Odom said, “Yes.”

Also at the meeting was the former lead career immigration official of the USCIS who predicted that moving the EB-5 unit to Washington, D.C. from Laguna Niguel, CA would take 12 to 18 months.

The congressman who wrote the EB-5 law said Ombudsman Odom should look into why the USCIS staff was not implementing Director Mayorkas’ directions for the EB-5 program – a very good point.

The interest in the EB-5 program is widening – a staff member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was there who told me the Chamber has been lobbying on EB-5 issues.


I suggest regional centers start talking to their congressional representatives and senators and ask them to engage and get the USCIS to start processing cases in a reasonable time, i.e. less than six months, and three months for amendments. After all, regional centers are bringing capital and jobs to high unemployment areas at no cost to the government.


The federal budget sequestration does not seem to be affecting EB-5 cases. We will see if it does as the government trims its staff and furloughs employees.


*Note:  This agency’s name is a bit confusing as it is within the Department of Homeland Security, but is separate and independent from the USCIS.