The EB-5 visa allows foreign investors to legally reside in the United States if they invest in new, domestic commercial enterprises, has spiked in popularity in recent years. The application process involves several steps, and a key one is identifying a project in which to place one’s capital (a requirement that must be satisfied before United States Citizenship & Immigration Services will consider applications for entry into the country).
There are a few methods a prospective EB-5 visa recipient can use to find an appropriate venture: (1) work with a regional center to identify one, (2) work with a broker or immigration attorney who can help facilitate this process, (3) find a project that meets eligibility criteria oneself. It’s important to understand which types of projects might meet the mandates necessary for the EB-5 visa program, and to make sure adequate business modeling has been done to ensure the viability of the project, and to fulfill job creation requirements.
Types of EB-5 Projects Available
An EB-5 project must meet two main conditions: it must be a new, commercial enterprise, and the investment must create at least ten new, full-time jobs for workers in the United States. USCIS defines such an enterprise as one that is established after November 29, 1990, or if established before that time, the venture must be restructured and reorganized in such a manner that a new enterprise results, or a 40 percent increase in the net worth or number of employees occurs.
Such a commercial enterprise might be a corporation, joint venture, sole proprietorship, holding company, partnership, or business trust. Some examples of projects, which can be quite varied, include hotels, restaurants, stadiums, casinos, office buildings, or retail properties.
Working With Regional Centers
The majority of EB-5 investors choose projects through regional centers, private or public facilities that are certified by the government and charged with administering visa projects. There are more than 800 such centers across the country, which pool investor capital into economic development projects, and USCIS maintains a list of them on its website. While companies register projects regionally with such centers, potential investors are not bound by a project’s geographic location; visa holders can live and work anywhere in the country.
According to The New York Times, about 95 percent of people participating in the EB-5 program choose to use regional centers to place their investments. Yet despite their popularity, some of these centers may be unscrupulous — and may not warn investors about pitfalls or potential expenses, such as high administrative fees. According to Fortune, “When ‘administrative’ fees of about $50,000 are added, [investors are] typically paying for the privilege of sinking $500,000 into a U.S. venture for five to seven years—with no guarantee that they’ll ever get it back. And in part because of distance and language barriers, the targets of EB-5 pitches seem ill-equipped (or disinclined) to assess the business risks.”
Questions To Consider
Therefore, savvy investors must make sure they are asking the right questions, and choosing centers that will meet their objectives and expectations; investors should know about risks associated with the project, other investors involved, how potential jobs are created, whether the employment requirements will be fulfilled, the past experience and credentials of the project’s creators, any fees associated with the center, the business plan of the project, et cetera.
Other Means by which to Find Projects
For investors who choose not to work with regional centers, a couple of other options remain. An ideal alternative might be to work with a qualified immigration attorney or EB-5 broker who can guide a client through the process, and help locate a project. These professionals know the lay of the land, the proper questions and protocols, and can advise a client on whether he or she is making a smart investment; moreover, if one chooses to work with a professional such as an immigration attorney, the burden will not fall entirely to the individual to navigate a fairly complicated landscape.
Contact KPPB Law For More Information on the EB-5 Visa
While EB-5 visa applicants have the ability to select a project on their own, this is generally not advised, as the EB-5 Visa steps and requirements involved are complicated and it might be difficult to locate a project that satisfies the required criteria. To learn more about U.S. visas and the immigration process, and to take advantage of our array of immigration services, please contact KPPB Law by giving us a call or sending us a message online.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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