EB-5 Visa

There are presently over 200 regional centers that have been approved by USCIS. Some of the approved regional centers have long and well-established track records; others are newly established and relatively untested. Because of the importance of the regional center’s continued existence throughout the condition removal process, and the importance of the predicted job creation – direct or indirect – actually occurring in order to accomplish condition removal, the choice of regional center is an especially important one.

In addition to choosing a regional center, an investor must choose a specific investment project. Many regional centers have multiple projects. The fact that one project has been successful is no assurance that the next one will be. For this reason, we have compiled a list of questions that may be relevant in enabling an investor to choose the optimal regional center and project both for immigration purposes and for purposes of addressing his or her investment needs and desires. In reviewing this list with their clients, most attorneys will want to draw a clear line between providing immigration advice and providing business/tax/investment advice. Presumably, it is the immigration attorney’s role to provide some guidance on the immigration ramifications of a decision to invest in any particular project. Equally clearly, the immigration attorney will likely want to steer clear of providing any non-immigration advice.

Due Diligence List:

    • How many I-526 petitions have been filed by investors in the regional center? How many have been approved? How many have been denied?

      The regional center’s track record is of critical importance. A record of a substantial number of approvals and no denials is optimal.

    • How many I-829 condition removal approvals have the regional center investors received? How many denials?

      This is ultimately one of the most important questions. Approval of the I-526 petition is not the ultimate goal; approval of the I-829 condition removal petition is the goal. Only a small number of regional centers have been in business long enough to have a track record of condition removal approvals.

    • Has the regional center’s project been reviewed and approved by USCIS?

      USCIS has an optional process whereby regional center projects can be “pre-approved”. This pre-approval does provide an added level of security, although it is not binding on USCIS. Also determine if other investors have received I-526 approvals for this project. Although USCIS can reach a different result on a future investor’s petition, this is a very good sign. Stay away from a project with I-526 denials.

    • When was the regional center approved by USCIS?

      Regional centers that have more recently been approved may have very little or no track record of successful EB-5 petitions or of job creation. This is not a reason to avoid such regional centers, but may be a reason to exercise even greater due diligence.

    • Is the regional center affiliated with any government entity?

      If so, an added level of credibility exists; and the government entity may have experience in job creation.

    • How many years of experience does the general partner or principal in the investment project have in working with immigrant investor programs?

      Some of the general partners or regional center creators have little or no experience with immigrant investor programs. Others have extensive experience both in the United States and with investor immigrant programs in other countries.

    • How many years of experience do the principals involved in the regional center have in developing projects that create jobs?

      In order for the condition removal to be successful, jobs will have to be created. Principals who have extensive experience in projects that have created jobs should be a consideration.

    • Does the investor have to make a deposit or pay any fee for the offering materials?

      If so, the investor needs to evaluate the benefits of investing in a regional center that has such requirement versus one that does not.

    • What is the amount required to be paid by the investor?

      In virtually all regional centers, the investment amount is $500,000. Regional centers generally have additional costs and fees of $35,000 to $70,000. Some regional centers include the investor’s legal fees in this amount.

    • Is payment made into an escrow account? Is the investment amount refunded if the I-526 is not approved?

      The provision of an escrow account with the money remaining in escrow until the I-526 petition is approved is a security feature for the investor. This is perfectly appropriate on EB-5 cases.

    • When will the investor be able to redeem his or her investment following condition removal and with what rate of return?

      A financial professional should be able to advise the investor regarding security of the investment, when the investor may be able to recover his investment and likelihood and amount of return on the investment. The investor should be aware that the investment is a risky venture and that there can be no guarantee that the investor’s funds will ever be returned, or that the conditions on residence will be removed. The investment must be at “risk” in order to qualify for residence under this program. However, some investments have a clearer exit strategy than others.

    • What has been the rate of return to investors historically?

      As with other investments, investors may need to balance the importance of immigration track record, security of the investment and rate of return on the investment.

    • What type of investment is being made with the investor’s funds?

      Investments may be made in a wide variety of projects. Certain investments may be better able to withstand economic downturns.

    • Does the regional center provide regular reporting of the status of the investment to the investors, and at what intervals?

      Optimally, the investor should receive a regular report with an update on the investment project, job creation and new investment opportunities.

    • What is the regional center’s plan for demonstrating direct or indirect job creation, and is this plan realistic?

      Various economic models exist for demonstrating indirect job creation. Models based on direct job creation may be less flexible. Reviewing the economic report will help to determine how realistic and conservative are the projections on which the indirect job projections are based.

    • What precautions are taken to monitor job creation? What steps are taken if the requisite job creation has not occurred?

      The investor should look for a project with detailed job monitoring and reporting on a regular basis.

    • Is the job projection sufficiently greater than the required number so as to have a “margin for error”?

      In order for all investors in a project to be able to remove conditions, there must be 10 direct or indirect jobs created per investor. The greater the job projection over and above this amount, the more assurance the investor has that conditions will be removed even if there are fewer jobs than projected.

    • What percentage of the total capital is EB-5 money?

      Investors may prefer an investment where there is significant investment from the project developer and/or from traditional financing sources.

    • Will the investor be one of the last investors in a project?

      If job creation falls short, the last investors may lose out.

    • Is the success of the regional center project dependent on bank financing, or the ability of the center to raise certain capital or have a minimum number of EB-5 investors?

      If so, the project may never get off the ground. For this reason, an investor may want to make certain that there will be sufficient investors and sufficient capital to complete the project. It is best if the developer has articulated fall back options for other capital infusion sources if insufficient EB-5 investors materialize.

    • Is the business plan credible?

      If the business plan and the assumptions made in the business plan do not appear to be credible to the investor, they may not be credible to USCIS; and the business plan may not be successfully executed.

    • What are the contingency plans for the project if the project is off track?

      If the jobs are too few, different from projected or will take too long to create, condition removal is in jeopardy. A regional center may have contingency plans if any of these conditions occur that would enable the investor to file a new or amended petition as necessary.

    • What is the reputation of the developer of the project?

      Ultimately the investor’s fate is in the developer’s hands. The investor should research the history of the developer and his team.

    • Will the job creation occur before the EB-5 investor invests?

      If the project will be proceeding based on interim or bridge financing, the investor should review with his attorney whether the financing is structured in such a way as to meet USCIS requirements.

    • Who represents investors in the regional center?

      Some regional centers mandate the use of their attorney exclusively. Others permit the investor to have his or her own private counsel, sometimes partnering with the regional center’s counsel or with review by the regional center’s counsel.