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Harnessing India’s Potential in the EB-5 Market

EB-5 Capital Redeployment: Now what?

The EB-5 market is officially booming on the subcontinent. As of September 2018, India already had 284 EB-5 petitions in place compared to just 164 petitions coming from China. According to reports by the USCIS, the Indian EB-5 market is poised to explode, bringing in an estimated $3 billion by 2020.

Unfortunately, some people in the field believe that retrogression will put a halt to India’s booming EB-5 industry. Understanding how retrogression works is crucial if business leaders hope to maximize profits and take advantage of India’s vast potential in the coming years.

Understanding Retrogression

To understand retrogression, it’s crucial for investors to recognize that different countries have their own distinct entry gates for the EB-5 process. In other words, individuals stand in separate lines based on their application dates and whether they fall in the employment or family visa category. The length of a particular line depends on the visa category, with certain countries experiencing far longer wait times than others. For example, the line for British EB-5 candidates is relatively short at present compared to the line for candidates in China.

With retrogression, every country is allocated a certain number of visas. If visas remain after that, they are allotted to the oldest applications regardless of the individuals’ countries of origin. After the visa quota for a country with a long line has been met, individuals in that line are unlikely to attain immigration benefits. On the other hand, if a country’s retrogression time is less than the application processing time, applicants are unlikely to be affected by waits.

Taking Advantage of EB-5 Investment Opportunities

Retrogression can seem complex, but those who fail to understand this process may miss out on opportunities to earn significant sums in EB-5 revenue. In fact, misunderstanding retrogression will result in around $3 billion in losses, according to experts.

Because of the large number of EB-5 applications in India, some industry professionals believe that once retrogression begins, all Indians waiting for visas will be in line behind Chinese applicants. However, this isn’t the case.

On the contrary, Indian EB-5 candidates will not wind up behind Chinese applicants, who face a 15-year waiting period. Because each country has a visa line of its own, and the line for India is shorter, Indian candidates will move ahead of Chinese applicants who may have been waiting longer. Remember, there are around 10,000 EB-5 visas available per year, with each country receiving around 700 visas. Consequently, Indian applicants will never be forced to wait behind applicants from China or any other country, and vice versa.

Currently, China, India, and Vietnam are the only countries with more than 700 candidates waiting for EB-5s. When allocating visas, the industry gives numbers to the oldest 700 Chinese, Indian, and Vietnamese applications first, followed by those from other countries. Then the remaining visas are given to the oldest applications regardless of country, assuming there are any left. So if there are 1,000 extra visas to be allotted, they will go to the oldest Chinese applications due to the backlog there.

It’s worth noting that applicants won’t be impacted in cases when retrogression time is less than processing time. For example, applicants in India are unlikely to experience delays until there are 12 consecutive months of retrogressed times longer than processing times.

Indian EB-5 wait times contrast with those for EB-2 and EB-3 categories, which are currently 25 years and 75 years respectively. While it’s possible that EB-5 waits may expand to five or 10 years, the option will still be favorable for Indian citizens looking to emigrate.

Other categories also follow a system of retrogression, with different countries having separate gates and lines. For example, EB-3 candidates in India currently have a wait time of eight years, while the wait time in the Phillipines is just 1.5 years. This discrepancy occurs because there are far more Indians standing in the EB-3 line than there are Filipino nationals. It’s worth mentioning that both India and the Phillipines have been in retrogressed territory for several years, with neither country’s candidates standing behind the other’s.

What Investors Need to Know

Experts anticipate that the Indian EB-5 market will continue to grow in the coming years. In fact, the subcontinent represents more than 50% of the world’s total EB-5 market and is expected to grow at a rate of 100% per year. The good news is that retrogression should have little effect on flows of EB-5 capital from this area. Those in the EB-5 industry need to do their homework to avoid missing out on this $3-billion opportunity within the Indian market.

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EB-5 Changes – Are You Up to Date?

EB-5 Capital Redeployment: Now what?

Since 2015, the EB-5 industry has been in limbo in anticipation of new legislation and USCIS regulations that will revamp the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. These lingering proposed changes are still neither final nor agreed upon among government officials. While the government continues to drag its feet, those involved with the EB-5 program have witnessed its significant growth, with more than $20 billion in total investment since 2008 and more than 30,000 I-526 immigrant investor petitions filed with USCIS from 2015 to 2017. However, those who have been following developments closely can attest that this growing popularity has driven two notable changes to the day-to-day use of the EB-5 program.

1) Change in Investor Profile

At the 2018 IIUSA EB-5 Conference held in Washington, D.C., Charlie Oppenheim, chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division for U.S. Department of State, announced that backlogs for Chinese and Vietnamese EB-5 investors will grow to 10 plus years and five plus years, respectively. While Vietnam remains a strong market for EB-5 investors, EB-5 players have taken to traveling to other countries, such as India, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, South Africa, and others, to make up for the dramatic decrease in EB-5 investment funds coming from China.

There has also been a push within the United States to seek out foreign nationals who may be interested in the EB-5 program. For example, the ever-growing backlog for Indian nationals waiting to migrate under the EB-2 immigrant category for individuals with advanced degrees and the EB-3 immigrant category for skilled workers and professionals has spurred an increased interest in EB-5 for this demographic. With the exploration of new countries has come new terms for working with EB-5 investors. Unlike EB-5 dealings in China, which almost always involved working with a migration broker handling most of the interaction on behalf of the EB-5 investor, individuals from countries that are newer to the EB-5 space require much more one-on-one interaction and relationship building between the client, attorney, and EB-5 project. A potential client from India or Mexico will likely require that he or she personally meet attorneys and evaluate a number of EB-5 projects before making a decision.

2) Change in Investment Terms

The changing landscape in the EB-5 industry is also reflected within the investment documents offered by EB-5 projects. Interacting with new foreign nationals and the effects of extended EB-5 immigration timelines have led to the need for updated investment terms. In the past, because Chinese investors preferred the type of model in which the EB-5 fund loans pooled EB-5 investor funds to a project, this model made up most projects. However, as new countries are being targeted, another investment structure has become popular, which involves the EB-5 fund using pooled EB-5 investor funds to make an equity investment in a project. Consequently, EB-5 projects now offer both investment options to accommodate investors from around the world.

Furthermore, the EB-5 backlog and the related extended EB-5 immigration timeline for Chinese and Vietnamese investors must be discussed in the project investment documents. The longer backlogs for Chinese and Vietnamese investors requires revised language in the investment contracts regarding child age-out concerns and clarifications on timeframes for investors receiving credit for job creation. Aspects of how the EB-5 funds are handled by the project must also be incorporated into the contracts due to extended EB-5 timelines, such as anticipating longer EB-5 loan terms and describing options for redeployment of EB-5 investment funds.

Overall, these changes mean that the need to make connections, cultivate relationships, and think creatively is more important than ever before in EB-5. For those getting involved with an EB-5 project, be prepared to structure an immigration-compliant, competitive project that checks all the boxes under current EB-5 conditions.

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EB-5 Program 2018 Year in Review

For EB5AN, 2018 was an exciting year marked by milestones, accomplishment, and growth. Our partners collectively spent more than 200 days on the ground in foreign markets—including China, India, Brazil, Colombia, and Vietnam (along with many more)—getting a sense for where EB-5 is headed and how we can keep ahead of upcoming trends.

We have now sponsored more than 1,000 investors from more than 30 nations across our regional centers, and we continue to hold a 100% approval rate on all adjudicated USCIS petitions.

Additionally, we are proud of the recognition our company and its principals have received. We were recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine in its 2018 Entrepreneur 360 List, and Managing Members Sam Silverman and Mike Schoenfeld were recognized by Forbes Magazine.

As we enter 2019, we are excited about the opportunities ahead, and we look forward to offering our clients the highest caliber of EB-5 consulting services, Regional Center sponsorship, and document preparation. Our expanded team of specialists is able to quickly respond to client needs without sacrificing quality, and we look forward to all the new client relationships 2019 will bring.

Below, we’ll consider 2018 in light of visa issuance and petition adjudication, program reauthorization, policy updates, and industry trends. We’ve also appended a list of updates to regional centers.

Visa Issuance and Petition Adjudication

This year, the U.S. Department of State provided several key updates regarding visa issuance.

  • Estimated visa wait times for mainland-born Chinese nationals increased
  • A cut-off date was assigned to Vietnam
  • Near term backlogs for India, Brazil, and South Korea were predicted

Beyond these updates, the discussion surrounding EB-5 visa availability has become a mainstream topic, particularly as it relates to marketing projects and making investment decisions.

Currently available data shows a drop in total I-526 Petition filings in 2018, with the total by the end of Q3 standing at just 5,086. The total number by Q3 in 2017 was 10,528, and that fiscal year ended with 12,165 filings. Total adjudications for I-526 Petitions, however, increased: by Q3, 2018, approved and denied petitions totaled 11,083 compared to a total of 9,150 by Q3, 2017. Pending petitions dropped from 24,992 in 2017 to 17,126 by Q3 of 2018. This highlights an increase in processing ability and a decrease in new applications, indicating an anticipated faster timeline for adjudications.

I-829 Petitions rose in 2018, totaling 2,816 by Q3 as compared to 2,132 by Q3, 2017. Current data also reflects a rise in total I-829 adjudications. By Q3, 2018, approved and denied petitions totaled 1,968, while in Q3, 2017, adjudicated petitions totaled only 1,292 (though Q4, 2017, saw a surge in I-829 adjudications, more than doubling this total—we won’t know until new data is available how Q4, 2018, compared to the previous year).

Program Reauthorization

The EB-5 regional center program is subject to periodic reauthorization, which typically is accomplished within appropriations bills. This year, the regional center program required reauthorization five times:

  • January 19 – reauthorized on January 22 after government shutdown
  • February 8 – reauthorized
  • March 23 – reauthorized
  • September 30 – reauthorized
  • December 7 (amended to December 21) – reauthorized on January 25 through February 15 after extended government shutdown

The failure of Congress to facilitate a smooth appropriations process has resulted in a tumultuous year for the EB-5 Program and has created significant uncertainty for all EB-5 industry stakeholders.

We support legislative measures that would stabilize the EB-5 Program, particularly by either eliminating the need for regional center program reauthorization or by providing long-term authorization. Previous proposed legislation has included five-year regional center reauthorization, and the main industry groups are working to advance a bill that also includes a five-year reauthorization period. We support such efforts and hope that the appropriations drama that unfolded in 2018 does not repeat itself in 2019.

Policy Updates

Proposed regulations from 2017—which would have increased the minimum investment threshold for EB-5 investments, changed how targeted employment areas (TEAs) are certified, and more—were expected to receive a Final Rule by February 2018. The anticipated target date for the rule was then changed to November. To date, no Final Rule has been published. The public generally did not favor the draft rule, and the final details of the proposed regulations, if ever published, remain a mystery.

Despite not finalizing the proposed regulation, the Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) did issue four updates to the USCIS Policy Manual.

  • May 2 – Reaffirmation that USCIS does provide documentation of investors’ conditional lawful permanent resident (CLPR) status to those who have pending I-829 Petitions
  • May 15 – Rescission of prior guidance regarding tenant-occupancy methodology
  • August 24 – Updated guidance regarding regional center geographic coverage, requests to expand such coverage, and how such requests affect I-526 Petition filings
  • October 30 – Clarification concerning immigrant investors and debt arrangements

Industry Trends

This year, IPO hired a new chief, Sarah M. Kendall, held three stakeholder engagements (all in November), and issued four updates to the policy manual (as mentioned in greater detail above). As already mentioned, I-526 processing volume rose significantly and I-829 processing volume seems to have risen as well (depending on Q4 performance). The rise in petition adjudication times is welcomed, and we hope this trend continues into 2019.

The EB-5 industry in general is trending toward increased fragmentation. Investor origin is diversifying, and new investors are tending to seek out smaller, more niche regional center offerings. Investors are shifting away from larger regional centers and seem to be gravitating toward more personal opportunities in which relationship factors ultimately drive where investors are placing their capital.

Additionally, investors are growing more savvy and are being drawn to projects with reduced administrative fees, fewer intermediaries, and higher returns. Based on our information, preferred equity deals have absorbed a significant share of the market and now represent approximately half of EB-5 regional center project structures—mezzanine debt deals constituting the other half.

As we’ve observed these changes, we continue to offer clients a turnkey solution that remains flexible enough to meet fluctuations in the market. We work with our clients to find solutions that best meet their needs and are experienced at sponsoring and structuring both preferred equity and mezzanine debt deals. We see our time spent on the ground in foreign markets as an invaluable investment that has allowed us to stay on top of these trends.

For more information about how EB5AN can help you structure your project for EB-5, compile the necessary documents, affiliate with one of our regional centers, set up your own regional center, and more, please contact us at info@EB5AN.com.

Changes in Approved Regional Centers

The following regional centers were added to the approved regional center list from September 11 to December 31:

  • California – Los Angeles International Regional Center, LLC
  • California – Southern California EB-5 Fund, LLC
  • Connecticut / New Jersey / New York – York Resources RC Funding, LLC
  • Florida – BC Central Florida Regional Center LLC
  • Illinois / Indiana – Ameri-Link Midwest Regional Center
  • Nevada – Brilliant EB-5 Regional Center, LLC
  • Ohio – Ameri-Link Ohio Regional Center, LLC
  • Puerto Rico – Mayaguez Regional Center, LLC
  • South Carolina – FCA South Carolina Regional Center, LLC
  • Texas – American Equity Fund Texas, LLC
  • Texas – National EB-5 Wealth Center, LLC

The following regional centers were renamed:

  • California / Oregon / Washington – Smith Western Regional Center f/k/a Western Pacific Regional Center
  • Illinois, Indiana – Native American Regional Center, LLC, f/k/a Native American EB-5 Corporation

The following regional centers were terminated throughout the year:

  • Alabama
  • Civitas Alabama Regional Center (9/6/2018)
  • Encore Alabama/Florida Regional Center (4/3/2018)
  • Arizona
  • Central Arizona Regional Center (12/19/2018)
  • Arkansas
  • Ark of the Ozarks LLC (pending; 4/5/2018)
  • Liberty South Regional Center (1/19/2018)
  • California
  • Altura Regional Center, LLC (4/9/2018)
  • Amaxi Regional Center, LLC (5/1/2018)
  • AmerAsia EB5 Regional Center SF, LLC (6/7/2018)
  • American Altin Regional Center (8/8/2018)
  • American Dream Fund San Francisco Regional Center, LLC (10/3/2018)
  • American General Realty Advisors Regional Center (4/20/2018)
  • Build America Capital Partners Regional Center LLC (7/31/2018)
  • Build America Fund 1, LLC (8/9/2018)
  • Cal Pacific RC LLC (7/16/2018)
  • California Bond Finance Regional Center, LLC (4/12/2018)
  • California Global Alliance Regional Center c/o Lewis C. Nelson & Sons, Inc. (8/31/2018)
  • California International Regional Center LLC (7/10/2018)
  • California Investment Immigration Fund, LLC (CIIF) (3/20/2018)
  • California Pacific Regional Center, Inc (6/11/2018)
  • Central California Regional Center, LLC (4/13/2018)
  • Charter Square Regional Center, LLC (7/10/2018)
  • EB5 United West Regional Center, LLC (7/27/2018)
  • Encore S. CA RC, LLC (4/18/2018)
  • Faustus Capital LLC (5/24/2018)
  • Future Resources, Inc. (8/15/2018)
  • Global America Regional Center (4/27/2018)
  • Golden State Economic Development Fund, LLC (12/6/2018)
  • L Global Regional Center, LLC (8/20/2018)
  • Manchester Pacific Regional Center (3/28/2018)
  • New Energy Horizons Regional Center (4/12/2018)
  • QueensFort Capital California Regional Center, LLC (4/12/2018)
  • Regency Regional Center, LLC (3/15/2018)
  • Regional Economic Development & Investment Group (4/5/2018)
  • San Diego Regional Investment Center, LLC (11/16/2018)
  • SPG Regional Center, LLC (4/26/2018)
  • Colorado
  • ADC Colorado Regional Center, LLC (5/1/2018)
  • Colorado Growth Fund, LLC (5/15/2018)
  • Colorado Headwaters RC, LLC (5/24/2018)
  • Encore Colorado RC, LLC (9/24/2018)
  • Live in America – Colorado Regional Center LLC (9/7/2018)
  • Connecticut
  • High Stone Regional Center, LLC (4/9/2018)
  • District of Columbia
  • Civitas Washington D.C. Regional Center (9/5/2018)
  • EB5 Affiliate Network Washington, D.C. Regional Center, LLC (9/13/2018)
  • Encore Wash D.C. RC, LLC (5/25/2018)
  • TBC Washington DC Area Regional Center, LLC (4/6/2018)
  • Florida
  • BLMP Florida Healthcare Regional Center, LLC (3/30/2018)
  • Citizens Regional Center of Florida (8/24/2018)
  • Civitas Miami Regional Center, LLC (9/6/2018)
  • Cornerstone Regional Center, Inc. (4/6/2018)
  • Florida East Coast EB5 Regional Center LLC f/k/a United States Growth Fund, LLC (4/10/2018)
  • Greystone EB5 Southeast Regional Center LLC f/k/a Greystone Florida Regional Center LLC (4/13/2018)
  • Georgia
  • American YiYo Regional Center (4/12/2018)
  • Civitas Atlanta Regional Center (9/6/2018)
  • Diversified Global Investment, LLC (1/30/2018)
  • Hawaii
  • South Pacific Regional Center, LLC (3/29/2018)
  • Idaho
  • Idaho State Regional Center LLC (7/2/2018)
  • Illinois
  • American Pioneer Regional Center, LLC (3/27/2018)
  • Chicagoland Foreign Investment Group (CFIG) Regional Center (7/16/2018)
  • Civitas Illinois Regional Center (9/5/2018)
  • Indiana
  • Energize-ECI EB-5 Visa Regional Center (5/9/2018)
  • Invest Midwest Regional Center f/k/a Civitas Indiana Regional Center (8/21/2018)
  • SAA Cedisus EB-5 Projects – SW Indiana Regional Center, LLC (4/18/2018)
  • The Mid-American Regional Center, LLC (8/30/2018)
  • Iowa
  • Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED) (4/19/2018)
  • Island of Guam

E Development Corporation dba EDC (10/15/2018)

  • Kansas
  • Southwest Kansas Regional Center (2/1/2018)
  • Kentucky
  • Midwest Regional Center, Inc. (4/5/2018)
  • Louisiana
  • Civitas Louisiana Regional Center (9/11/2018)
  • LIGTT Regional Center (pending; 4/18/2018)
  • New Orleans’ Mayor’s Office RC (2/27/2018)
  • Maine
  • New England Center for Business Development, LLC (5/9/2018)
  • Marianas Islands
  • Marianas EB5 Regional Center (5/29/2018)
  • Rota EB5 Regional Center (6/21/2018)
  • Saipan Regional Investment Center, LLC (8/1/2018)
  • Maryland
  • Maryland Area Regional Center, LLC (1/23/2018)
  • USA ODI Regional Center, LLC (3/20/2018)
  • Massachusetts
  • Americas Green Card Regional Center (7/12/2018)
  • Encore Boston RC, LLC (4/18/2018)
  • Queensfort Capital Massachusetts Regional Center, LLC (3/29/2018)
  • Michigan
  • Civitas Michigan Regional Center (9/6/2018)
  • Lansing Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) Regional Center (1/23/2018)
  • Michigan-Indiana EB-5 Regional Center (3/29/2018)
  • Mississippi
  • Gulf Coast Funds Management, LLC (8/30/2018)
  • Northern Mississippi Regional Center, LLC (9/7/2018)
  • Nebraska
  • White Lotus Group Regional Center (6/26/2018)
  • Nevada
  • Nevada Development Fund LLC (7/12/2018)
  • Silver State Regional Center LLC (4/11/2018)
  • New Jersey
  • East Coast Renewable Regional Center, LLC (4/9/2018)
  • G.R.E.E.N. Regional Center (4/2/2018)
  • North American Regional Center (8/2/2018)
  • New York
  • North Atlantic Regional Center, LLC (5/1/2018)
  • Queens Fort New York Regional Center, LLC (3/28/2018)
  • North Carolina
  • Carolina EB-5 RTP Regional Center, LLC (12/20/2018)
  • Encore Raleigh/Durham Regional Center (4/2/2018)
  • North Dakota
  • Landy Resources Management, LLC (5/1/2018)
  • Ohio
  • Mag Ventures 1, LLC (9/11/2018)
  • Northeast Ohio Regional Center (7/18/2018)
  • Ohio Lakeside Regional Investment Center (5/1/2018)
  • Oklahoma
  • 5 Starr Regional Center LLC (4/5/2018)
  • Chen Roberts Regional Center (3/9/2018)
  • Civitas Great Plains Regional Center (9/12/2018)
  • Oregon
  • American International Venture Fund – Oregon, LLC (4/9/2018)
  • APIC Regional Center, LLC (8/8/2018)
  • Pennsylvania
  • Encore Pennsylvania RC, LLC (EPRC) (8/20/2018)
  • Liberty EB5 Regional Center (5/1/2018)
  • Puerto Rico
  • Commonweaith of Puerto Rico Regional Center Corporation (4/25/2018)
  • Omega Puerto Rico Regional Center, LLC (2/15/2018)
  • Reside in America Puerto Rico, LLC (5/1/2018)
  • South Carolina
  • Southeastern Higher Education Regional Center (1/2/2018)
  • USHoldings Regional Center (9/24/2018)
  • South Dakota
  • South Dakota International Business Institute (SDIBI) (5/11/2018)
  • Tennessee
  • EB5 Memphis Regional Center, LLC (2/26/2018)
  • Texas
  • Central Texas Properties Regional Center (3/27/2018)
  • Central Texas Regional Center (8/21/2018)
  • Civitas Laredo Regional Center, LLC (9/6/2018)
  • Civitas Rio Grande Regional Center (9/10/2018)
  • Collegiate Regional Center LLC d/b/a Texas Collegiate Regional Center (pending; 5/15/2018)
  • Global Century (Houston) (4/12/2018)
  • Greater Houston Investment Center, LLC (1/26/2018)
  • Home Paradise Texas Regional Center, LLC (4/17/2018)
  • One World Development Fund, Inc. (4/12/2018)
  • QueensFort Capital Texas Regional Center, LLC (4/27/2018)
  • RGV EB-5 Regional Center (7/10/2018)
  • South Texas EB-5 Regional Center, LLC (3/27/2018)
  • US Freedom Capital-Texas, LLC (9/18/2018)
  • Utah
  • Utah Invest Regional Center, LLC (7/3/2018)
  • Vermont
  • Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (7/3/2018)
  • Washington
  • American Bridge Seattle Regional Center, LLC (8/1/2018)
  • Encore Washington/Oregon Regional Center, LLC (4/18/2018)
  • Great Ocean Regional Center (7/30/2018)
  • Liongate Regional Center, LLC (4/27/2018)
  • Pacific Northwest Regional Center (4/5/2018)
  • Pacific Viniculture (3/22/2018)
  • Tacoma EB 5 Regional Center (5/2/2018)
  • Washington Foreign Investment Management Group, LLC (4/26/2018)
  • Washington State Regional Center (7/31/2018)
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Turkish Investors & the EB-5 Program

EB-5 Capital Redeployment: Now what?

Turkey is traditionally known as the bridge between Europe and Asia, and this is true – both geographically and economically. Today, the immigration and investment landscape in Turkey is a two-way street, as it remains an attractive destination for investors and tourists, and at the same time is among the countries experiencing high rates of “brain drain” due to outbound immigration. Recent political instability, the perception of a stricter government, and doubts about what the future holds for the next generation are among the negative factors driving a considerable portion of the population to explore opportunities to migrate and grow their families elsewhere. At the same time, opportunities for education, employment, and property acquisition abroad are key factors that attract Turks to seek alternative futures in other countries, with European countries being the traditionally and culturally preferred option.

Immigration Trends in Turkey

Similar to Middle Eastern investment immigration markets, many Turks view investment immigration not as a planned migration option but as an escape hatch to be accessed if the political environment worsens or Middle Eastern unrest significantly affects their daily lives. “Golden visa” programs in Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Malta have been particularly popular, as these programs do not require the immigrant investor to move and begin the residency upon approval. Another attractive path for outbound immigration has been through the 1973 Turkish European Community Association Agreement Visa, governed by the 1963 Ankara Agreement, which, among other rights, allows Turkish citizens to incorporate and run their own businesses and obtain residency permits in the United Kingdom. Given Turkish nationals’ unique immigration drivers, EB-5 visas and emigrating to the United States were foreign concepts to most of them, which is reflected in the small number of I-526 petitions filed by Turkish nationals in the years leading up to 2016.

Today’s millennial generation in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, however, grew up with strong American cultural influences and are more interested in sending their children to school or to pursue employment in the U.S. that the generations before. For Turks wanting to spend limited amounts of time in the United States, B-1/B-2 visitor visas remain an option, and the slow processing times for visa issuance following the October 2017 diplomatic dispute at the U.S. Embassy in Istanbul are resolving. H1-B, E-2, L-1, O-1, and other EB categories are also valid and widely used options, leaving EB-5—as it should be—as the option of last resort when all other avenues have been exhausted.

Turkish Investor Profile and Source of Funds

Looking for investments in Turkey is, in the world of EB-5, a newer market. There is no “typical” EB-5 investor anywhere in the world, and that is the case for Turkey as well. The Turkish investor is often very well educated (many having received their higher education in the United States, United Kingdom, or continental Europe), a white-collar professional, the owner of a small to mid-size business, or a graduate student from a wealthy family. Unlike India or China, Turkey has not experienced rapidly increasing real estate values and thus does not have a large “property millionaire” class. Nor does Turkey have outbound remittance restrictions to complicate the path of funds (although banks typically ask for a copy of the subscription agreement as proof of the underlying investment). And Turkey is not on the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control list of sanctioned countries, so escrow transactions are typically not an issue.

A common source-of-funds challenge for Turkish investors occurs when the investor uses funds from the sale of a long-held property, where title deed documents and tax records do not match the actual sales amount—an irregular practice that was endemic in Turkey until the last decade. Another recurring issue pertains to taxes. Turkey and the United States reached an agreement in 1996 to prevent double taxation, but wealthy Turks still prefer to shelter their Turkish assets from the U.S. tax system. It is therefore advisable at the outset to consult with a qualified overseas or inbound tax consultant, wealth manager, or law firm with a solid U.S.–Turkey tax practice to address such questions.

Conversion and Preference in Projects

The process of converting a prospective investor in Turkey to an actual investor is typically slow, and culturally it is not uncommon for a prospective investor to require many visits and due diligence calls, adding up to somewhere between two to six months to close. As is often the case with investors from India, the Middle East, and Europe, Turkish investors ask questions that are very technical and that require attention from the underwriting team of the regional center and/or the developer to explain the mechanics behind the offering documents.

Turkish investors are much more familiar with the coastal U.S. cities than the heartland; New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Miami are usually the preferred locations for both second home purchases and EB-5 investments. Typically, big developers or sponsors attract investors to review the offering, but they will not invest if they do not understand or approve of the deal structure, regardless of the stakeholders or location of the project. The investment returns are lower on the prospect’s list of EB-5 investment priorities, and secure deals (rather than returns) drive the decision-making process.

Referral Landscape

As there is often a natural transition from home purchase to investment immigration, real estate agencies have a relevant and captive client base, but they do not possess much expertise in emigration nor a thorough understanding of the transactional / or offering documents. Other popular investor referral sources are wealth managers, reputable law firms, and tax advisors, as high-net-worth individuals tend to have more confidence in dealing with such vetted groups. Likewise, many Turkish high-net-worth individuals can speak English, but it is a significant plus for them to be able to converse with sophisticated native Turkish speakers when conducting project due diligence or working through their source-of funds issues.

Given its population and motivating factors, Turkey certainly is an exciting market for EB-5, but successfully accessing it requires a serious investment of both time and resources. In the years to come—contingent upon potential legislative changes, of course—expect Turkey to rapidly climb the ranks of the top 10 EB-5 countries.

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EB-5 Capital Redeployment: Now what?

EB-5 Capital Redeployment: Now what?

Whether you are beginning the EB-5 investment process or have already been invested in an EB-5 project, it is a good idea to know the details of capital redeployment in terms of the EB-5 visa program. Capital redeployment may not be a common topic for EB-5 investors, but it is a topic worth understanding.

Due to overwhelming demand for EB-5 visas, the queue for I-829 petition processing has grown. To date, most annual applications for the EB-5 program originate from China. These increased demands from China have added to processing times for EB-5 investors.

Today, an EB-5 investor may find themselves in a situation where the need for capital redeployment becomes a reality due to the long wait times for I-829 petitioning. If this is the case, you should know what capital redeployment means for you, and why you may need to use it.

What is capital redeployment?

As an EB-5 investor, you allocate capital to a project, and that project uses your funds to execute the business plan of the project. While executing the project business plan, the job-creating enterprise (JCE) must also meet its job creation requirement numbers.

In many cases, it will take the JCE approximately four to five years to succeed in executing a business plan for the project and also meeting the job creation requirement it is held to. Once this is done, the project ends and the JCE returns the capital to the new commercial enterprise (NCE). The NCE receives the returned loan principal, and the project is considered finished.

The project can be accomplished ahead of schedule. If this happens, the original principal amount of the loan may need be redeployed into a new project. This may not be a decision you wish to make, but it may be necessary if your I-829 has not been processed yet.

Why you may need to redeploy funds

You may be wondering why funds would need to be redeployed if the project is completed early. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) published a draft memo in 2015 on projects ending before I-829 approval has taken place. It stated that any funds returned by the JCE before the I-829 is processed would need to stay at risk.

The USCIS has disseminated little formal guidance on this subject, but these small pieces of information can be seen as reasons you should keep your funds at risk if a project is completed before the I-829 is approved.

While your money must stay at risk, there is no specified guidance on what type of risk this refers to.

Keeping your money at risk – Redeploy with JCE

To keep your money at risk, the NCE can loan the capital to the same JCE you worked with before. There are pros and cons to this strategy.
If you had a positive experience with your original JCE, you may find it a welcome advantage to be able to redeploy your capital with them. Since the JCE finished the project earlier than estimated, you may view the company as extremely efficient and welcome the opportunity to reinvest.

Be careful about this, as the new project you will redeploy your capital to may not have as favorable of a timeline. It is possible the new project executed by the JCE is a much more in-depth project with significant bottlenecks.

You should research the new project and do proper due diligence regarding project goals and challenges. Your money may be locked up longer than you wish if the project takes longer than your previous project.

You should also do your due diligence on the potential profitability of the project. Since your money is at risk, you need to do proper research to understand what the project is trying to accomplish, and how the potential cash flows and debt structuring of the project look from a risk perspective.

One positive aspect of redeploying the capital is that you will no longer be held to the job creation requirement you were held to before.

Other options

There have been opinions and interpretations of the USCIS views on “taking risk.” Some believe that taking risk can mean investing in other opportunities. If this is true, you may be able to invest in something outside of the JCE.

For example, you may be able to invest in an individual stock purchased through the stock market. This would be an investment at risk, so it could potentially fall into this category. Alternatively, potential investments could include real estate investment trusts (REITs), company stock and/or funds such as ETF’s and mutual funds, and even alternative investments.

You may decide for purposes of liquidity to invest in one of these areas instead of investing in a completely new project with a JCE. Investing in something like an individual stock is extremely liquid, as the stock could be sold immediately after the I-829 is secured. This can be significantly better than locking capital into a new project with a JCE.

Conclusion

While the USCIS hasn’t made any firm rules, it may be wise to keep your investment at risk in the event the project in which you invested is accomplished early. You may do this by investing in a new project with the same JCE. This could lock your capital up for a long time, and there are risks associated with redeployment. Some have interpreted the need for the money to stay at risk to have a broader scope, including through other investments such as stocks and real estate.

Whatever your decision in terms of redeployment, it is important to educate yourself about how redeployment can both help and hurt. As long as you do your due diligence, you may be able to use redeployment in your favor.

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How to Choose the Right Immigrant Visa

E-2 Visas: Alternative to EB-5 Visas

Current law dictates that around 85,000 H-1B visas are available each year. Application decisions are based on a lottery conducted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), with a random computer system determining who will and won’t be able to seek employment in the United States. Once USCIS ceases to accept additional H-1B visas for the year, those seeking entry to the United States may have to consider other options.

According to USCIS data, 65,000 visas were available for the 2019 H-1B filing season under the standard cap (for candidates with bachelor’s degrees). Individuals with master’s degrees from accredited American schools fall under the advanced cap, which offers an additional 25,000 visas. The USCIS received more than 190,000 visa petitions from aspiring U.S. immigrants. Although this number is actually down from previous years, a large disparity remains between those seeking visas and the number of visas currently available.

H-1B Visa Alternatives

Just because you missed out on the lottery for an H-1B visa doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dream of emigrating to the United States. In fact, there are other options for talented visa applicants with something to offer. Several H-1B alternatives exist for employees and employers.

L-1 Intracompany Transferee

A suitable option for foreign employees and nationals who want to establish or increase their presence in the United States, the L-1 visa is a great alternative to the H-1B visa. Not only does it allow multinational companies to transfer employees from overseas facilities, but it also enables family members of those employees to work while in the United States. Note that this visa option is not suitable for foreign nationals who currently live in this country.

EB-5 Visas

For individuals seeking permanent resident status in the United States, the EB-5 visa is a great option. It’s no secret that green card backlogs can delay the citizenship process for aspiring immigrants. With the EB-5, applicants with investment capital can achieve lawful permanent residence status provided that they invest between $500,000 and $1 million in a suitable venture. Additionally, EB-5 visa candidates must create a certain number of jobs to gain approval.

E-1 and E-2 Visas

Foreign nationals who are key executives, supervisors, or other essential employees may be able to apply for an E-1 or E-2 visa. To qualify for this visa option, individuals must intend to enter the country to carry on trade or lead a business enterprise in which they have invested significant capital. As a bonus, key employees at the E-1/E-2 company may also be able to enter the United States. However, these individuals must have the same nationality as the treaty employee.

O-1 and P-1 Extraordinary Ability Visas

If you have a special ability or talent, you may qualify for an O-1 and P-1 visa. Suitable for exceptional individuals working in science, business, athletics, education, or the entertainment industry, this visa functions as an alternative to the H-1B. Note that candidates who are approved for an O-1 or P-1 may go on to qualify for EB-1 category permanent residency status.

TN for Canadian and Mexican Professional Workers

Citizens of Canada and Mexico may qualify for the TN visa for professional workers. Available to individuals who seek U.S. employment in certain occupations, this visa does not have a cap the way other options do. One can apply for a TN at the Canadian border or by filing a petition with USCIS.

Trainee Visas

Certain employers may qualify for training visas. These options enable eligible individuals to work for employers in the United States and receive compensation for training.

J-1 and H-3 Trainee Visas

The J-1 and the H-3 trainee visas are available to certain individuals seeking to enter the United States. Under the terms of the J-1 visa, individuals must seek employment with a U.S. company and receive payment for the length of the approved training program. The average J-1 training visa is 18 months, and individuals must receive sponsorship by an approved Exchange Visitor Program.

Additionally, individuals can opt to apply for the H-3 trainee visa. Designed for non-immigrants who intend to visit the United States temporarily for training purposes, this option is not specific to any one field. Note that training must not be available in the candidate’s home country. Additionally, the trainee can’t take part in productive employment unless it’s key to the training program. The H-3 visa lasts for a period of two years.

Finding a Visa Option That Meets Your Needs

Although many visa proponents suggest that caps should be increased, at this time there’s no reason to think policy will be changing soon. To that end, aspiring visa recipients need to do everything in their power to boost their chances of being accepted.

For more information about finding the right visa for you, and about being approved for permanent resident status, call today, or contact our team online.

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Fast Food, Fast Money? Assessing Restaurant Chains as EB-5 Investments

E-2 Visas: Alternative to EB-5 Visas

Some disagreement exists about who started the first fast-food company in the United States, with top contenders including McDonald’s and White Castle. Regardless of how the trend started, one thing is clear: when it comes to the United States and other countries worldwide, fast food can equal fast money.

With many fast-food restaurants bringing in significant revenue, an increasing number of EB-5 visa applicants are considering putting their money where Americans’ mouths are. But is fast food really such a great route for your investment capital? Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of investing in this particular sector of the economy.

Fast-Food Restaurants as Direct Investments

A quintessentially American business, the fast-food restaurant is a popular choice among immigrant investors. However, you must consider several factors before deciding to hand over your hard-earned funds. First, you should determine whether you want to invest directly in a business and take part in daily operations or if you would prefer to take a more passive role in the proceedings.

As a direct investor in a fast-food venture, you may experience some challenges during I-526 processing. For some countries, I-526 adjudication is a lengthy process, and it could be two years or more before you can enter the United States. This is particularly relevant for countries like China that tend to have long wait times. Because I-526 adjudication requires investors to have extensive information about the business enterprise in question, so if you are located overseas, you may struggle to perform due diligence and acquire all the necessary data to move forward. Moreover, if you are located abroad, you may struggle with everyday such as hiring employees and handling day-to-day operations. Therefore, attempting to invest directly in a fast-food venture might not be the best choice for EB-5 visa candidates.

Fast Food and Regional Centers

Because of the struggles involved in investing directly as an EB-5 candidate, you might opt to invest instead in a regional center. Functioning as limited partnership entities, regional centers allow companies to raise funds for a business. While you will still have a role to play regarding strategy, the regional center will handle the daily operations of the enterprise. In that sense, it’s possible to invest in an American fast-food restaurant without being located in the United States. Regional centers can secure up to 25 percent of a project’s capital from investors and the rest from banks, venture capital, and other strategies.

When selecting a regional center, it’s wise to do your due diligence. Ensure the individuals managing your investment have a record of success in the fast-food business and experience with EB-5 ventures. This step is especially important, as you won’t necessarily be there on the ground every day.

Finding the Capital for Your Project

Investing in a fast-food venture through a regional center can be helpful from a financial perspective too. EB-5 investors are required to put $1 million into a direct investment venture; however, by investing in a regional center in an area with high unemployment and low economic prospects, individuals can reduce their burden to $500,000.

While a direct investment of $500,000 probably isn’t enough to start a fast-food restaurant on your own, when you invest through a regional center you can expect to have other capital available to you as well. So, you can reduce your personal financial burden while still investing in the business of your choice. Investing through a regional center can also help you afford franchise fees, which can total hundreds of thousands of dollars for many of the most popular brands.

Fulfilling the Jobs Requirement

One of the many benefits of investing in fast-food restaurants is that meeting the jobs requirement should be relatively simply. According to the EB-5 visa rules and regulations, immigrant investors must allocate capital to ventures that create a minimum of 10 jobs. Because of the demand involved in running a fast-food restaurant, it’s likely that you’ll need a minimum of 10 workers and probably more. After all, fast-food restaurants tend to have long hours and require employees to work multiple shifts throughout the day. Your business could conceivably be open 12 hours a day for seven days a week.

Note that projects with multiple investors have higher job creation requirements than those with just one investor. However, an average fast-food restaurant may be able to meet the jobs requirements for two different investors due to the long hours.

Evaluating Fast-Food Restaurants as EB-5 Investments

Clearly there are positives and negatives associated with investing in a fast-food venture as an EB-5 visa candidate. Quintessentially American institutions, fast-food eateries are familiar to customers and tend to take in a steady stream of profits. And because they’re open long hours and require a significant workforce, meeting the jobs requirement should be fairly simple.

Still, investing directly in a fast-food venture can be a challenge. If you want to put your capital into this type of business enterprise, investing through a regional center may be the best choice. Not only does it allow investors to take a more passive role in the proceedings — something that’s helpful if they’re located outside the United States — but it may also reduce the funds needed to $500,000 instead of $1 million.

Choosing the Right Business Venture

EB-5 investors have a lot on their plate, and choosing the right business venture is one of the hardest and most crucial aspects of the process. While there’s no easy answer when it comes to deciding where to invest your money, our team is here to guide you through the process. Whether you’re looking for legal advice or business acumen, our experts have the inside track on the EB-5 program.

Ready to start your journey to permanent citizenship through the EB-5 visa program? Call today or contact us online for a consultation.

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EB5AN Named One of the “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America” for 2018 by Entrepreneur Magazine

E-2 Visas: Alternative to EB-5 Visas

EB5 Affiliate Network (EB5AN) was recently recognized as one of the “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America” by Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur360 List, a premier study delivering the most comprehensive analysis of private companies in the United States.Based on this study, EB5AN ranks among the top 50 companies in the nation and is recognized as a well-rounded firmthat has mastered a balance of impact, innovation, growth leadership, and value.

“We are excited and thankful to receive this honor,” said Sam Silverman, managing partner of EB5AN.“This recognition underscores our belief that EB5AN is one of the most innovative companies in the EB-5 industry, promoting un-paralleled transparency and professionalismin the field.”

“Our annual evaluation of vetted data offers a 360-degree analysis of top privately-held companies across a multitude of industries,” explains Jason Feifer, editor in chief of Entrepreneur Magazine. “They are deemed successful not only by revenue numbers, but by how well-rounded they are. The companies that make the list have pushed boundaries with their innovative ideas, fostered strong company cultures, impacted their communities for the better, and increased their brand awareness.”

EB5AN is a national EB-5 regional center operator and fund manager that owns and operates a network of 15 USCIS-approved regional centers covering 27 states. EB5AN was established in 2013, and since then, more than 1,000 investors from more than 30 countries have invested through the company’s regional centers.

Honorees were identified based on the results of a comprehensive study of independently-owned companies, using aproprietary algorithm and other advanced analytics. The algorithm was built on a balanced scorecard designed to measure five metrics reflecting major pillars of entrepreneurship—innovation, growth, leadership, impact,and business valuation.

To learn more about EB5AN, visit www.EB5AffiliateNetwork.com.

For additional details on the Entrepreneur360 List, visit: www.entrepreneur.com/360.

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Applying for the EB-5: Helpful Tips for Indian Nationals

E-2 Visas: Alternative to EB-5 Visas

It’s no secret that the visa backlog for Chinese immigrant investors is currently a lengthy one. With a 10-year waiting list for aspiring EB-5 visa recipients from China, Regional Centers and Developers are increasingly looking to India as the next big source of investment funds. Indian nationals may be particularly intrigued by this option, as wait times are up for EB-2 and EB-3 visas. Read on for details on the three main filing types for the EB-5 visa process, along with tips for Indian nationals looking to apply:

Understanding the I-526 Petition

A form intended for entrepreneurs who want to immigrate to the United States, the I-526 petition includes the form itself along with two sets of documents. It’s worth noting that securing approval of your I-526 petition does not result in citzenship rights for you or your family. All an approved form does is allow inmigrant investors to apply for their green cards.

The first step in obtaining I-526 petition approval is to gather the necessary documents. To complete your I-526, you will need both project documents and investor documents. The former includes economic reports, business plans, securities documents, and any other materials required to demonstrate how your project will spend its funding and create the requisite number of jobs. As for investor documents, be prepared to supply biographic details on yourself and your family. You’ll also need information demonstrating how you legally obtained the capital you’ll be using to fund your EB-5 project.

Upon completing the form and accumulating the necessary documents, immigrant investors should file form I-526 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Currently, an investor can expect to wait around 18 months while the I-526 form is being processed.

Understanding Consular Processing

Consular processing, or adjustment of status, is the next step on the journey to securing an EB-5 visa.
If visas are available, investors can apply for green cards immediately upon receiving I-526 approval. Spouses and children under the age of 21 are also eligible for green cards. Unfortunately, many countries currently face backlogs that can delay them in obtaining conditional residency status.

Investors currently residing in countries outside the United States can file a DS-260 form for consular processing. The National Visa Center reviews the forms and then schedules interviews with investors at the U.S. consulate closest to their location. Upon completing a satisfactory interview, investors will receive immigrant visa stamps in their passports for themselves and their family members. Conditional resident status last for two years and begins on the day an investor enters the United States.

Individuals who have valid status in the United States can file Form I-485, also known as adjustment of status. At this time, immigrant investors can also file for work authorization (I-765) and advance parole (I-131). It’s important to note that investors may experience limited travel capacity until both work authorization and advance parole have been approved and investors have receivved their EAD/AP cards.

While processing times vary, immigrant entrepreneurs can expect to wait six months for I-485 and DS-260 processing. For advance parole and work authorization, 45 to 60 days is the norm. The wait time for the adjustment application is around six months.

Understanding the I-829 Petition

The last step in the EB-5 visa application process, the I-829 petition, must be completed within the 90 days before conditional resident status is due to expire. Filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, this petition takes about two years to process at present. However, the act of filing this form on time extends the conditional period for 18 months. If your extension is coming to an end and your I-829 has yet to be approved, you can make an InfoPass appointment at your local USCIS office to obtain proof of continued conditional resident status.

To file the I-829 petition, immigrant investors need to provide information about themselves and their families. Typically, green cards are sufficient for demonstrating immigration status. However, you may also need to provide proof that no one has violated criminal or immigration law in a way that would prevent them from being a lawful permanent resident. Additionally, individuals may have to provide documentation that their projects created the requisite number of job openings.

Get Help With Your EB-5 Application

We help a wide range of immigrant investors, including Indian nationals, apply for EB-5 visas successfully. For more information on our services, call today or contact our experts online.

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6 Frequently Asked Questions About EB-5 Investment and Redeployment

E-2 Visas: Alternative to EB-5 Visas

Created by the Immigration Act of 1990, the EB-5 visa program offers a path to lawful permanent residency for eligible foreign investors. As of 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services confirmed a requirement known as redeployment in the online version of its policy manual. Read on for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about EB-5 redeployment and what this means for immigrant investors:

1. What does the redeployment requirement confirmation mean for investors?

If you haven’t obtained a CLPR yet, you must adhere to certain requirements as an immigrant investor. With regard to job creation, if your EB-5 investment has yet to result in 10 new positions, you are required to redeploy funds to an active business venture with the potential to gain or lose money. The invested funds should be directed to the job creating entity (JCE). On the other hand, investors with CLPR status tend to have less stringent redeployment obligations. They can redeploy funds into an activity not described by the original business plan, provided that the plan was created in good faith.

2. At what point do investors need to comply with redeployment?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy requires that EB-5 investors keep their funds in an at-risk state throughout the time they’re in CLPR status. This obligation means that any funds the JCE returns to the NCE must adhere to rules for redeployment. For example, in a case where the investor’s I-526 is still pending, the NCE is required to redeploy all investment funds to another at-risk business activity that’s engaged in commerce. Funds must be redeployed to the same JCE mentioned in the I-526 in the event that the investment has yet to create 10 jobs. Redeployment requirements are valid until the immigrant investor obtains a CLPR.

3. How long is an immigrant investor required to maintain the investment at risk?

According to the latest update from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the period for which an investor is required to redeploy funds spans two years from the date on which conditional permanent residence status was granted. At that point, investors are no longer required to keep investments in at-risk status or redeploy EB-5 funds. Withdrawing funds will not prevent immigrant investors from receiving I-829 approval.

Note that the I-829 adjudication process is used to determine whether or not an investor kept funds at risk during the required two years after obtaining CLPR status. However, individuals who still have funds invested during the adjudication process could enjoy more flexibility when it comes to demonstrating job creation than those who have withdrawn funds.

4. How does redeployment affect immigrants from countries with CLPR visa waiting lists who have already been approved for the I-526?

Redeployment requirements are based on when investors receive their CLPR visas. So, investors whose CLPR visas are delayed because of their countries’ specific waiting lists are still required to meet redeployment requirements during that time. Even if you’ve been approved for a 526, you must fulfill the redeployment requirement until you’ve had your CLPR for a period of two years. Investors who have yet to receive a CLPR and have failed to create 10 jobs must redeploy funds into an at-risk business activity engaged in commerce and divert funds to the JCE.

5. Which interviews will feature questions about redeployment?

Immigrant investors should be prepared to answer redeployment questions as part of the interview process. The goal is to determine EB-5 immigrant visa eligibility. Generally, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services conducts the interviews for Adjustment of Status (“AOS”) and I-829 Removal of Conditions for individuals living within the United States. For immigrant investors living overseas, the U.S. Department of State performs consular processing interviews for visas.

6. What materials must be brought to the interview?n

It’s important to show up to your interview with all the necessary documents and financial statements. Commonly requested materials include Regional Counter financial summaries, NCE bank account information, loan records between the NCE and JCE, and redeployment documentation. If you’re not sure what documents to bring to your interview, don’t hesitate to speak to a knowledgable EB-5 attorney for more information.

The fact is that EB-5 rules and requirements can be complex, and not all attorneys have the background necessary to navigate the process. To find out more about EB-5 redeployment requirements, call today or contact our team online.