The United States Congress created the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program in 1990 to attract foreign investment that would stimulate the economy through job creation. In 1992, the Regional Center Pilot Program was formed to enable investment in Regional Center entities formed to stimulate targeted economic growth. The Pilot Program was most recently extended through September 30, 2015, and there is speculation that Congress may soon make it permanent rather than simply approving another renewal period.
Investors may participate in the EB-5 Program by either investing directly in a qualifying project, or investing in a qualifying project that is sponsored by an approved Regional Center. The primary advantage to investing through a Regional Center is that in addition to direct jobs the project is entitled to include indirect and induced jobs when determining the total number of jobs created as a result of the investment. This significantly increases the amount of capital that may be raised for most projects, especially those involving real estate development and commercial construction.
The amount of capital that must be invested depends on the location of the project. If the investment will be in a location that qualifies as a Targeted Employment Area (a TEA includes a location whose unemployment rate is at least 150% of the national average rate, or a city or town with a population of less than 20,000 and not located within a Metropolitan Statistical Area) then the minimum threshold is $500,000. If not located in a TEA, the minimum threshold is $1,000,000. In each case, this is exclusive of administrative fees charged to help the investor manage their investments.
The requirements of the EB-5 Program are enforced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (the “USCIS”), whose primary duties are to ensure that the investors meet all of the EB-5 Program conditions, and that the necessary jobs have been created as a result of the investment. A crucial element of the investor’s evaluation process is to determine if the project under consideration has the ability to create at least ten (10) new jobs per each investor. If the USCIS finds that the project did not create the required number of jobs and/or the jobs did not result from the investment then the investor will not be granted lawful permanent residency in the United States.
Accordingly, when evaluating a project there are a number of critical aspects that an investor must carefully consider. It is essential that the investor understand the various types of financing for the project and how the EB-5 investment relates to the overall funding package. In a real estate development project for example, it is important to determine the percentage that the EB-5 investment represents in comparison to commercial financing and developer equity.
Evaluating a real estate development project also requires a thorough review of the experience and capabilities of the project team. The investment is dependent upon the ability of the project to be successfully completed, which is influenced by numerous factors such as the ability of the developer to secure the necessary permits and successfully contract for the work to be performed in a professional and timely fashion.
Uncertainties such as changing economic conditions and the potential for increased development costs are other variables to consider when deciding if the project is a good investment.
The investor must also carefully weigh the strengths and weaknesses of the project when compared to existing and potential future competitors. Understanding the business in which you are investing and any financial projections and economic models relating to the project are important safeguards when dealing with securities that are not publicly traded. Review all documents relating to the project and the investment thoroughly and conduct independent investigations to ensure that a well-informed decision is made.
Born in China and raised on the Upper East Side, Min Chan knows that opportunity abounds in NYC. As the co-founder of City Connections EB-5 Regional Center, she strives to stimulate the economy with foreign capital while helping foreign nationals live better lives in the United States. A licensed attorney in New York and New Jersey, Min previously founded Chan Law Firm, and taught at Tsinghua University School of Law in Beijing. She speaks fluent Mandarin, Cantonese, and Fujianese. She can be reached at 212.994 3286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Image source: birchcapital.com)