Oops, Sorry EB-5 Applicants, Credit Cards Work with Only Some Forms   

By David North on April 21, 2018

Two months ago USCIS announced that 41 of its forms could be paid with credit cards.

At that time it had a list of forms that could be paid with credit cards, including the I-829, the form that immigrant investors in the EB-5 program use when they try to convert their temporary legal status to full-fledged green card status.

There were more pressing immigration policy matters so I did not write about the credit card usage, which I regard as a sure-fire way to increase migration, until April 16.

I noted the irony that the I-829, which can only be used by the very richest of aliens, was on the list. I also pointed out, in passing, that while a poor alien using a credit card might very well have to pay interest on his or her filing fees, that a prompt-paying, rich one might actually get a 1 percent or so refund, thus further separating the rich from the poor.

On April 19 – which was perhaps co-incidentally three days after my report – the agency published a correction, saying:

Unfortunately, the [prior USCIS] announcement mistakenly included Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status. We have since removed the I-829 from the list because it is not among the forms processed at a USCIS Lockbox.

Different USCIS forms are handled in different places; some are handled at service centers, and others at facilities called "lockboxes." The I-829s are supposed to be send to the California Service Center at Laguna Niguel, Calif., and since this is not a "lockbox" no credit cards can be used.

But, very rich aliens, do not despair!

USCIS has not lost interest in your cash-flow plight!

A much more commonly used form in the EB-5 program, the I-526, remains on the list of lockbox forms, or did on the afternoon of April 19. This form is the initial one filed by the rich alien who wants to make a $500,000 investment in the U.S. in order to secure a set of green cards for the investor and the investor's family later. There are rather more of these filed than the I-829s, and the fee for it is $3,675, the second highest fee on the USCIS list for individuals, second only to the $3,750 which those filing the I-829 will now have to pay by cash or money order.

So one of the two forms filed by EB-5 aliens can be paid with a credit card, but another, less often used form, cannot.

You might think that the two forms for the EB-5 program would be handled by the same people at the same place. It would make a certain amount of sense, but apparently they are not. Interesting.

The confusion on this fairly minor point – which EB-5 forms are payable by credit cards and which are not – is just another one of the indications that this is a questionable and controversial program. The larger topics, are, of course, whether rich aliens should be allowed to buy their way into this country and, if we have such a program, whether we need to continue to tolerate massive corruption within it.

Bounced checks. In my April 16 posting I said I was puzzled as to why an administration dedicated to reining in immigration should take such an obvious step – accepting credit cards – towards expanding migration and making it happen more quickly. My colleague, Dan Cadman, suggested a common-sense answer that had not been offered in any of the USCIS statements about this issue, and had not occurred to me: Bouncing checks.

He said that the agency had a lot of them, and coping with them is more expensive than paying credit card fees. We both wondered: Did those applicants whose checks bounced get the benefits they wanted anyway? Good question.