Iran is home to the world’s fourth-largest reserve of oil and second-largest reserve of natural gas, and it is within the top 10 world producers of both of these natural resources. As such, it has become the second largest economy in the MENA region behind Saudi Arabia. However, Iran has been the subject of increased international sanctions due to its interference in neighboring countries’ affairs, as well as skepticism over the promised discontinuation of its nuclear program.
Wealth and Economy
Sanctions lifted in Iran in early 2016 led to a dramatic increase of overseas Iranian spending on real estate in London and other European locations. Iran contains 1,300 individuals with at least $10 million in assets, and the number of millionaires after the initial removal of sanctions was expected to reach 55,000 by 2025. Some analysts at the time predicted a total of $8.5 billion would be spent on overseas property within 10 years of the sanctions being lifted. However, all of this predicted growth has been thrown into doubt now that the U.S. has reinstated international sanctions. Iran could now be headed for a recession, pushing wealthy Iranians to leave before it is too late.
Iran is an Islamic theocracy headed by a president and a powerful supreme leader. Political instability in Iran has driven many residents to seek other countries in which to live, including America. However, tensions with the U.S. have intensified over the last two years, culminating in President Trump pulling the U.S. out of the landmark Iran nuclear deal in May 2018. Iran is also one of seven countries included in the current U.S. travel ban, rendering it highly improbable that Iranian EB-5 investors could earn an EB-5 visa even if their applications were approved.
Crime and Safety
Iran is considered very safe for foreign tourists, and its rate of violent crimes is quite low. However, Iran has one of the largest prison populations in the world and is a hotspot for narcotics and human trafficking. Hundreds of people are incarcerated for political reasons, and executions are common. As in Turkey, the Iranian government regulates freedom of expression and often penalizes journalists and activists for speaking out against the regime.
Frequent dust storms, water contamination, and high air pollution are all plaguing Iran, leading to burgeoning health costs for its population. Tehran in particular faces some of the world’s highest air pollution due to a combination of outdated vehicles, power plants and factories, and the city’s higher altitude. Iran’s government took action by passing the Clean Air Law in 2017, which has slowly implemented changes to reduce pollution and prevent premature deaths.
Primary education in Iran is required for all children, although the schools are separated by sex. The country has a very high literacy rate and schools are quite competitive, involving multiple entrance exams and heavy parental participation. English is a compulsory second language throughout high school, and women make up the majority of college students.Because Iran has a larger college-educated population than its economy can accommodate, it has a very high youth unemployment rate and one of the highest rates of brain drain in the world. This dilemmahas led to widespread social unrestamong young people inIran.
EB-5 Project Selection Preferences
The vast majority of Iranian EB-5 investors prefer to work through regional centers, although there are significant barriers that prevent most regional centers from accepting Iranian money. It is especially important for Iranian EB-5 investors to prove that their funds come from a legal source. EB5 Affiliate Network (EB5AN) works with Iranian EB-5 investors to assemble the proper I-526 documentation, and can provide regional center sponsorship under its 15 USCIS-approved regional centers.
Capital Flow and Other Challenges with the EB-5 Process
As described above, Iranian investors were eager to start moving their money out of Iran as soon as sanctions against the country were lifted in January 2016. However, matters have been complicated by the sanctions’ reinstatement, in addition to the U.S.’s already existing sanctions related to Iran’s human rights abuses and missile programs. Navigating this complicated field of regulations and their associated compliance costs has discouraged many U.S. banks from accepting Iranian money despite its legality.
Marketing Channels for Investors
Like in Saudi Arabia, the Iranian EB-5 market consists of a limited number of established and experienced agents. The majority ofIranian EB-5 investors are culled through networks of small companies that work with investors, includingreal estate brokers, travel agencies, andwealth managers. Iranian EB-5 investors are also targeted through seminars within Iran held by regional centers and project sponsors.Wealthy Iranians already living in America on other visas are targeted as well.