The Declining Interest in EB-5 Regional Centers

By David North on July 23, 2020

Here is another indication of the continuing decline in the scandal-ridden EB-5 (immigrant investor) program.

We previously noted that this program, which can produce 10,000 visas a year for aliens making DHS-approved, but not DHS-guaranteed, investments, had dropped to seven applications a month during the first three months of this calendar year, a dramatic change from the more than 4,000 filed in the prior three-month period. This sharp drop reflected a desire to apply when the minimum investment was $500,000; new regulations in November 2019 upped that figure to $900,000.

On a longer-term basis, a review of USCIS data shows that number of people wanting to play the once-thought-to-be-prosperous role of middlemen in the program has dropped as well. The measure here is of citizens wanting to open the entities, called regional centers, that manage the aliens' pooled investments. These centers are licensed by USCIS.

In fiscal year 2018 there were 909 such applications. In the next full fiscal year there were 78, and in the first three months of this fiscal year there have been 16 filings. Were this rate to continue for the full 2020 fiscal year, this would produce 64 applications.

A less dramatic, but consistent trend can be shown in the total number of regional centers in existence. Google "how many EB-5 regional centers?" and then keep exploring and these are the numbers you get:


December 2018 880
September 16, 2019 822
January 15, 2020 792
July 10, 2020 711


One item (apparently published January 2, 2020) says, despite showing the first two numbers (above), "Regional Center industry has demonstrated tremendous growth in the last 12 years."

My calculator shows that 711 is 80 percent of 880, so there seems to have been a 20 percent decline in the number of USCIS-approved regional centers in a matter of just 18 months.

Frankly, there had been an over-supply of regional centers. Since there are routinely about 4,000 sets of visas issued annually (to alien families with an average size of 2.5) at 880 this meant that the average regional center was getting 4.5 investments a year -- that's hardly enough to break even.

Yet another measure of the declining interest in the program is the number of pending regional center applications; while the number of held-up immigration-related applications has soared during the Trump years, by the millions, the number of regional center applications on hand, but not acted upon, fell from 1,598 in the second quarter of FY 2018 to 149 in the first quarter of FY2020.

I have a sense that USCIS has become more careful in the issuance of regional center licenses, and in their renewals, in recent years.