How to get an investor visa in the USA: choosing a regional center for the EB-5 program
The American EB-5 Investor Visa is one of the shortest ways to obtain a green card for entrepreneurs and people who want to invest in the American economy. According to experts, it is quite possible to get it, because in the United States there is a whole industry of organizations and specialists who help potential immigrants to find a reliable project for investment.
As the company explained to us CMB Regional Centers, which advises and selects projects for foreign investors wishing to immigrate to the United States, the EB-5 investor visa program was created by the US Congress in 1990 and has undergone several changes since then. Currently, the minimum investment amount is $ 900 (up to November 000, 21, this minimum was $ 2019) if investments are made in a region with high unemployment rates as determined by USCIS. In other cases, a potential immigrant must be ready to invest at least $ 500 million in the American economy.
How to choose a company for an investor visa
To apply for an EB-5 visa, a potential investor should not only collect the required amount, but also find a reliable profitable project that can recoup the money invested in the future. To assist in the selection and validation of such projects, as well as to coordinate investments in the United States, the program was created in 1992. regional centers. They operate in various states and serve as a kind of intermediary between immigrant investors, American business and the state. However, not all such centers are equally reliable, which is why it is important to be especially careful when choosing them. A mistake in choosing can result in the loss of not only the green card, but also the money invested.
«It is best for potential immigrants to choose reliable regional centers with a successful history, at least because they have much more opportunities to choose and prepare a suitable project for investment, as well as calculate the jobs that an investor can create. Small companies attract outsourcing services for this, but the problem is that an outsourcing company does not bear the same responsibility for the results of its work as a regional center", - explains Vitaly Modlo, Director of Investor Relations for Russia and Eastern Europe in CMB Regional Centers.
This company is a network of 16 regional centers and has been on the market for over 20 years. As one of the largest players in this market, CMB has attracted more than $ 3 billion in investments during its operation, that is, approximately six thousand investors.
«Our head, Patrick Hogan, created this company back in the 1990s and has since turned it into a successful family business. At the moment, the company is run by the second generation of the Hogan family. Patrick's daughter Noreen - President of the CMB company. CMB Regional Centers has two main offices - Texas and Illinois", - explains Vitaly.
The composition CMB Regional Centers includes its own project company, whose task is to consider all incoming proposals and select those that best meet the interests of investors under the EB-5 program. Also, CMB has a team that interacts with potential investors; a separate team working with clients who have already made an investment; as well as a team responsible for the compliance of the company's activities with the legislation, and a staff of lawyers.
«The bulk of our projects are located in California, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida and other states - about 70 projects throughout the country", - Vitaliy lists.
Where can you invest
The main “customer” for attracting foreign investment under EB-5 is traditionally the construction business.
«In general, the explosion in popularity of this program occurred in 2008 against the backdrop of the financial crisis. Banks began to refuse to issue loans to developers, and foreign investors who wanted to get a green card with their investments became major sources of funds for developers. Since then, almost all regional centers have been offering primarily real estate projects. We also offer logistics projects, investments in residential, hotel and office real estate. Of course, we select the best projects, because our success as a company depends on the success of our clients.", - assures Vitaly Modlo.
CMB Regional Centers independently checks the profitability of the project and the possibility of return on investment, and also makes a general market analysis involving independent experts.
«Now, against the backdrop of the pandemic, the positions of the hotel business and the residential real estate market have been somewhat shaken, but the field of logistics, on the contrary, has begun to develop even more actively", - Vitaly shares his secrets.
The pitfalls of choosing a regional center
According to Vitaly Modlo, any investor, regardless of which regional center he turned to, must check the profitability of the project on his own.
«In the field of investment, there are many independent experts, immigration lawyers, broker-dealers, investigation firms, who also contact the investor in the process of studying the project. However, an immigration lawyer should not be part of a regional center - otherwise a conflict of interest arises. It is important for a potential investor to find a lawyer representing his interests. If a regional center offers a client to use their lawyer to save costs, this is the first thing that should alert the future investor.", - the expert warns.
The indicator that Vitaly advises to pay attention to when choosing a regional center is the statistics of approved petitions for an investor visa and statistics of the subsequent return on investment. Each center is obliged to provide this data at the request of the client.
Process of getting investor visa under the EB-5 program includes two stages:
- Applicant submits petition I-526 with a request for a conditional residence permit in the United States (green card) for a period of 2 years.
- After this period, the investor submits petition I-829 to receive a permanent green card. At the time of filing the second petition, the applicant must still be in an investment project and create at least 10 jobs.
If the second petition is approved, the five-year deadline for the opportunity to apply for American citizenship will begin from the moment the first "conditional" green card is approved.
«There are regional centers that have recently started their activities. This does not mean at all that they are unscrupulous, but they simply may not have enough experience. For example, such centers already have experience in approving I-526 petitions, but do not yet have approved I-829 petitions and statistics on return on investment.", - says Vitaly.
This situation arises due to the fact that after filing the first petition for today, the applicant has to wait about two years for its consideration. After its approval, the investor takes six months or a year to go through the consular stage and obtain an immigrant visa or change the previous nonimmigrant status.
«The waiting time for approval for the second petition is even longer - at the moment it is from 2 to 3 years. Accordingly, in order to have statistics on approved applications for a permanent residence permit, a regional center must have existed on the market for at least several years.", - explains Vitaly Modlo. By the way, according to him, the US Immigration Service is currently trying to reduce the waiting period for approval of the I-526 petition to 14 months.
Another nuance that should alert a potential investor when choosing a regional center is the promise of too high annual interest rates.
«Immigration nThe EB-5 program is not geared towards making a profit, and the average income can be 1% or less. If you hear a promise of 2% or more, be sure to check how much profit they plan to pay you with. In general, any regional center should conduct an independent audit of all its partners and provide the client with information about the participants in the process and the stages of its development.", The expert advises.
EB-5 Cancellation Rumors: Should You Worry
Previously, the EB-5 immigration program was extended many times in conjunction with the adoption of the new US budget, as it is tied to the review of the federal government's budget. However, this year it was withdrawn from this process, which gave rise to rumors of its possible cancellation. The program expires on June 30, 2021, after which it must be renewed by Congress.
«A bipartisan EB-5 bill has now been drafted and is likely to be passed by June 30 of this year. Our company interacts directly with the offices of the senators who prepared it, participating in the process of finalizing and improving the project. Unlike the regular renewal, the new law includes reforms to the EB-5 program to make it more transparent and regulated. The purpose of these changes is to remove unscrupulous actors from the investment visa market. For example, some consultants declare their independence, but in practice they work for specific regional centers.", - explains Vitaly Modlo.
If the new law is not passed on time, this does not mean the termination of the EB-5 investment program. According to Vitaly, in this case, there will be a break in the work of the program, as has happened several times before, an example when the Congress did not have time to adopt the budget on time. New petitions in this case continued to be accepted, but no applications were considered until the renewal of the program.
«Of course, there is a small likelihood that the program could be completely closed - this means that all petitions already submitted will be refused. However, this could provoke a wave of lawsuits from applicants who have already invested in the American economy. I highly doubt the American government would take such reputational risks.", - Vitaly Modlo concludes.
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