Though much of the world has come to a standstill in the COVID-19 pandemic, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program carries on. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to work on EB-5 petition adjudications, and foreign investors are still free to prepare and make EB-5 investments during the crisis.
The pandemic has certainly changed certain aspects of the EB-5 process, and some investors already in the pipeline may have to wait until restrictions are lifted to overcome certain obstacles. Specifically, the closure of USCIS offices to the public and suspension of routine visa procedures at U.S. embassies and consulates represents an insurmountable hurdle for EB-5 investors already halfway through their EB-5 journey. However, nothing is preventing prospective EB-5 investors from launching their own EB-5 journey during the pandemic.
Figure Out What Kind of EB-5 Investment Works Best for You
The first step any prospective EB-5 investor should take is discussing the matter with an experienced EB-5 immigration attorney. An immigration attorney can help investors determine whether direct or regional center EB-5 investment better suits their needs and whether investing in a project within a targeted employment area (TEA) would be preferable. Prospective investors can connect with immigration lawyers via video call applications during the pandemic.
Assess Your Eligibility for the EB-5 Program
EB-5 investors must meet certain requirements to be eligible for the program. A minimum investment amount of $900,000 if the project is in a TEA and $1.8 million if not is the most pressing requirement. It may be necessary to sell assets to liquidize the funds, which may be difficult during the pandemic, depending on the asset.
If an investor possesses the necessary funds, they must then determine whether they can prove the lawful sources of that capital. Prospective EB-5 investors are encouraged to consult an immigration attorney to determine the best types of funds to facilitate the process of proving the lawful sources of investment capital.
Determine Your EB-5 Investment Goals
Many EB-5 investors are primarily concerned with obtaining a U.S. green card and do not particularly care if they don’t earn high returns on their investment. In such cases, regional center investment is generally more appropriate, as it facilitates the job creation requirement of the EB-5 program, which is vital to obtaining an EB-5 visa.
Some investors, however, do wish to make a lucrative financial investment as well. Such EB-5 investors may wish to exercise more control over their capital to help ensure the success of the new commercial enterprise (NCE). In such cases, direct EB-5 investment is a good idea, as it allows investors with strong managerial skills to help drive the NCE to success and earn a higher profit on their investment.
Conduct Meticulous Due Diligence
All the pandemic-related shutdowns make for a good opportunity to conduct careful due diligence at home. Any prospective EB-5 investors who wish to fly out to the project site for an up-close view will have to wait until travel restrictions are lifted, but investors can certainly comb through a project’s documentation and investigate the track records of the associated developer and regional center. Investors should ensure that the majority of the regional center’s I-526 and I-829 petitions were approved in the past and that they have returned investors’ funds.
One great way to conduct due diligence is to use EB5AN’s EB-5 Project Risk Assessment Questionnaire. This carefully developed tool allows investors to meticulously assess a potential project’s immigration and financial risk and makes it easy to determine whether it’s a good idea to invest in a given EB-5 project.