EB-5 Commentary

Why Use All-in-One Service Providers To Start EB-5 Regional Centers?

Posted by Phil Cohen on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 @ 11:26 AM

I often get calls from people who are new to EB-5 trying to understand the process and the details of starting an EB-5 regional center or project.EB 5 Service Providers resized 600

While the idea of calling around to industry experts appears to be commonplace, it may answer the initital questions but there are so many details and subtleties to the program that, inevitably, these new EB-5ers end up with more questions than when they started.

This is common and it speaks to the complexity of the program and how the rules shift for every specific situation. Calling around is not a bad idea to start, but be careful of taking it too far as differing opinions among professionals can end up in frustration for some.

Another approach for EB-5 newbies is to consider speaking to all-in-one service providers, who can bring the right set of seasoned experts to the table and spearhead the process of managing all the moving parts in a coordinated manner, typically at a price that is competitive with what one would get in trying to do it all themselves (without the benefit of project management that these providers offer).  All-in-one providers can identify problems and questions to be addressed, sooner rather than later.  They are also familiar with what is not available to most: the basis of various RFEs (requests for further evidence) from USCIS, from a long experience and history of researching what has occurred with other regional centers.

The cost to your overall development of getting an RFE or not getting it right the first time can far outweigh the cost savings one might get from trying to manage the project yourself. A good all-in-one shop will save most people considerable time and money in the long run, and will help put together a EB-5 project, business plan and application that not only minimizes the likelihood and/or severityof an RFE, but which can also help to avoid errors arising from (often subtle) issues that can hold up an entire project.  

The other key benefit of using an all-in-one provider is that they have a good view into the investor side of things as well, so not only will they help to devise a project and business plan (the heart of the application) with the strongest likelihood of approval, but they can also help you to structure details in such a way as to be as palatable as possible to investors. The fringe benefit is about 1,001 less headaches as well.

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Phil Cohen is the founder and President of Strategic Element, a company that focuses on developing regional centers, EB-5 business plans, economic impact reports, feasibility studies and custom 'direct' EB-5 projects for its clients (www.strategicelementconsulting.com). 

 

 

Download Your Free Paper:  9 Things to Know  Before Going Down  The EB-5 Road

Tags: EB5 Regional center, EB-5 explained, EB-5 investors, USCIS, EB-5 Regional Center, EB5

The Birth of The EB-5 Financier

Posted by Phil Cohen on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 @ 02:02 PM

New alternative ways to access EB-5 capital have been emerging for those who eb-5 financiers can help to raise capitalwant to find new sources of capital for their development projects without wishing to navigate the often-choppy waters of EB-5.

There are now an increasing number of both experienced and new financiers who are adding EB-5 capital to their lineup of options for raising capital for their developer clients.  These financiers will essentially take care of everything EB-5 for their clients while offering them the opportunity to access capital from EB-5 investors.  These EB-5 financiers will make capital available to their clients in a manner that is akin to financing models that adhere to common industry standards.

A New Twist

EB-5 financiers have already been in existence in a de-facto sort of way in the form of already-approved EB-5 regional centers who make their centers available to project developers for a fee, saving them the need to set up their own regional center. These EB-5 regional centers will offer varying levels of service ranging from simply offering developers a regional center ‘shell’ to work under, all the way to complete project management of the application process and getting the investors.  This approach, however, still leaves developers with a considerable amount of work and challenge in that they must often manage the approval of the project itself and it often leaves the developers to go and find their own investors overseas.  This might work for some, but others might prefer to have everything managed by another party in a way that is consistent, reliable and readily available for all projects.

Considerations when looking to submit a project under an existing regional center:

  • The developer has to find the ‘right’ regional center with the right approvals for industry and geography

  • The developer must do their due diligence on the regional center and its operators

  • Developers are still subject to the potential reputation impact on the regional center should another of their ‘sponsored’ projects fail

  • Each deal must be negotiated on a case-by-case basis, with each regional center manager wanting to approach things in a different way and offering differing levels of service

  • The main advantage is maintaining a certain amount of control of the fundraising process while removing the need (and time and expense) of attaining a regional center approval

Benefits of the EB-5 financier approach:

  • Bypassing the management of the often-tricky I-924 process

  • Developers can work with experienced financiers, who will properly vet projects according to industry standards

  • Developers can work with a financing model familiar to them

  • Developers benefit from not having to raise their own funds from individuals overseas (arguably the hardest part), instead relying upon the financier's already-existing network with overseas investors

When considering starting an EB-5 regional center, developers who do not wish to be distracted by the process may do well to consider this option.

If you have a regional center that you would like to make available to investors, call or email me to let me know, so I can add you to my list. Similarly, if you are a project developer looking for an EB-5 financier or just a regional center to work under, call or email me to let me know.

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Phil Cohen is the founder and President of Strategic Element, a company that focuses on developing regional centers, EB-5 business plans, economic impact reports, feasibility studies and custom 'direct' EB-5 projects for its clients (www.strategicelementconsulting.com). 

Download Your Free Paper:  9 Things to Know  Before Going Down  The EB-5 Road

Tags: capital raise, EB5 capital, Chinese Investors, EB-5 Project, EB-5 explained, bridge financing, EB-5 investors, USCIS, EB-5, EB-5 Regional Center

Strategic Element in the News; Join us in NYC!

Posted by Phil Cohen on Tue, Jan 26, 2016 @ 06:46 AM

A Busy Year for EB-5

It's been a busy year for the EB-5 industry and Strategic Element.  Two program deadlines under the threat of a change to the program saw a lot of projects moving up their efforts to file with USCIS.  Ultimately, the program did not change and was temporarily renewed with no changes until September 30th, 2016.

 

Speaking Engagements

On other fronts, Strategic Element has been in demand, with Phil Cohen invited to speak at:

  • The EB-5 Investors Conference (Los Angeles, August 2015)
  • Pincus EB-5 Investor Based Immigration Conference (Los Angeles, October 2015)
  • IIUSA EB-5 market Exchange (Dallas, October 2015)
  • EB-5 Investors Conference (Las Vegas, January 2016)

Phil's next speaking engagement will be at iGlobal Forum's "Raising EB-5 Capital for Real Estate" in New York on February 24th.  Join us!

 Conference link: http:Raising EB-5 Capital for Real Estate, New York City 

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Phil Cohen is the founder and President of Strategic Element, a company that focuses on developing regional centers, EB-5 business plans, economic impact reports, feasibility studies and custom 'direct' EB-5 projects for its clients (www.strategicelementconsulting.com). 

Tags: EB5 capital, EB-5 Project, EB-5 investors

What Does An Ideal EB-5 Business Plan Look Like?

Posted by Phil Cohen on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 @ 09:49 AM

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If you are a follower of this blog, you are likely already aware of the "Matter of Ho" business plan requirements as well as several other requirements that have been issued by USCIS via policy memoranda, RFEs (Requests for Further Evidence) and other unofficial statements. The question comes in, however, as to what level of detail is sufficient for a qualifying business plan.

Some attorneys and advisors are of the mind that a shorter business plan is better as longer plans by definition (in their opinion) are inherently committing the entrepreneurs behind the business to doing more, or at least that's the concern.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that longer plans with more detail give USCIS very little wiggle room when it comes to questioning details and issuing RFEs. We count ourselves in the second group and we believe that our record with RFEs proves the point. When we develop our business plans, we are of the belief that more detail is better, while at the same time we are careful to minimize forward-looking statements which would bind any entrepreneur to doing more than they would be committed to doing if they were to submit a shorter plan.

We believe that this approach works, not only because we rarely see RFEs for our business plan work, but also because we believe that preventative efforts to minimize RFEs go a long way for our clients in terms of helping them to avoid extra time and/or expense in getting their EB-5 projects approved if an RFE should be issued by USCIS.  Indeed, when we are asked to fix business plans written by others because of RFEs, we commonly see plans that provided too few details about important matters, leaving room for questions to form in the mind of an adjudicator.  

Thinking things through in detail is a way of forcing oneself to answer questions that others may have as well.  Similarly, a good business plan developer will provide that detail without over-committing the business to specific actions where it is not necessary to do so; rather, they will use the detail to make the business concept more convincing and to demonstrate that the entrepreneurs behind the business are experienced and serious about what they are doing.

The other reason that we err on the side of more detail, is that we are providing investors, who also see the plan, with enough backup information to give them comfort about the project and a level of security relating to their investment, making it an easier 'sell' for the entrepreneur.

True, longer plans do typically cost more, however, the incremental amount of investment for addressing this step thoroughly is minimal in the context of other professional costs and the cost of the whole process and the value of the benefits it can provide to the entrepreneurs and ultimately to the investors represents a considerable ROI in the long run.

The trick, from our perspective, is to assume that many readers are not likely to read every single detail of the business plan, so we structure the plan in such a way as to make it easy for the reader to find what they are looking for, and also to easily find any supporting detail, should they wish to dig deeper.

We suggest speaking to several service providers before making any decisions on your EB-5 team, however, given that a business plan is one of the least expensive (and key) parts of the process, we encourage anyone considering going down the EB-5 road to consider not just the price but the overall value the strongest-possible plan can deliver, both in terms of reducing the likelihood of an RFE and in terms of satisfying investor needs.  

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Phil Cohen is the founder and President of Strategic Element, a company that focuses on developing regional centers, EB-5 business plans, economic impact reports, feasibility studies and custom 'direct' EB-5 projects for its clients (www.strategicelementconsulting.com). 

Tags: EB-5 center I-924, EB-5 explained, EB-5 investors, EB-5

Strategic Element in the News: Join Us!

Posted by Phil Cohen on Thu, Jan 07, 2016 @ 10:54 AM

Strategic Element's Phil Cohen will be speaking at the upcoming EB-5 Investors Conference in Las Vegas on January 16th.  Please join us: http://www.eb5investors.com/conferences/2016-las-vegas-eb5-conference

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Phil Cohen is the founder and President of Strategic Element, a company that focuses on developing regional centers, EB-5 business plans, economic impact reports, feasibility studies and custom 'direct' EB-5 projects for its clients (www.strategicelementconsulting.com). 

 

EB-5 Christmas Surprise: 1 Year Renewal with NO Changes

Posted by Phil Cohen on Wed, Dec 16, 2015 @ 01:18 PM
For those who have not yet heard, the proposed compromise bill could di not meet with full agreement, so the Senate and House comittees have approved a one year extension of the program with no changes.  In that time it is anticipated that the bill will continue to be discussed and modified for a vote to take place some time before the extension date deadline.

EB-5 Regional Center Application Approval Times

Posted by Phil Cohen on Tue, Nov 24, 2015 @ 07:17 AM

One of the most common questions EB-5 professionals are asked from those thinking about starting an EB-5 regional center is, "How long will it take to get approved?"

The answer to this question is multi-layered.  The actual time it takes for USCIS to process an EB-5 regional center application is constantly changing.  Officially, the last-posted processing time on the USCIS website was as follows (I-924 is the official name for an initial regional center application package):

EB-5 Processing Times    Source: USCIS

What people really want to know, however, is how long it takes to get money in the door. There are several things to consider in order to get the real answer here:

  1. Do you have your team together?  This is a critical first step; it is important to understand who you need and how to choose your team.  This step should not be rushed.
  2. Do you have all the answers that your team will need?  Do you know what those things are?  Save yourself a ton of time and expense by finding good resource to help you understand what you'll need to get started.  This information goes beyond a normal start-up's requirements and waiting until you have your (often expensive) team together means that you will quickly come to rely on them for guidance on things that you might have easily discovered on your own at far less expense with a good resource.
  3. Is your deal good or great?  Talk to marketers early on to understand what will make a deal stand out in today's market.  Good deals can sell; great deals will sell faster.
  4. From there the package needs to be assembled and your team of experts need to do their thing.  Depending on your EB-5 regional center's complexity, expect anywhere from 1 to 2 months on average to get your package assembled and ready for submission.  Most experts will tell you that the clients take much longer.
  5. Once your package is submitted you can start marketing.  How will you market to foreign investors?  How big is your raise?  How saleable is your deal? The answers to these questions will have an impact on how quickly you can get the capital you are seeking.
  6. Once you win investors, each investor must submit their own petition to have themselves approved as an EB-5 investor.  This adds several months to the process (for each investor).
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Phil Cohen is the founder and President of Strategic Element, a company that focuses on developing regional centers, EB-5 business plans, economic impact reports, feasibility studies and custom 'direct' EB-5 projects for its clients (www.strategicelementconsulting.com). 

 

Tags: EB-5 center I-924, EB-5 Team, I-526, EB-5 Regional center processing times, I-924, EB-5 Regional Center, job creation

On Using Borrowed Funds to Invest in EB-5 Projects

Posted by Phil Cohen on Mon, Nov 16, 2015 @ 05:59 AM

 

It is important to note that when an EB-5 investor uses borrowed funds, for example, from a home equity loan or from a company equity loan to invest in an EB-5 project, USCIS will likely ask for proof that the EB-5 investor can repay this loan.

For many investors, this may be easily achievable, yet for others it may not be so easy, which could be in part why they needed to borrow the funds in the first place.

An example of when this type of scenario can work occurs when an investor uses a home equity loan of $500,000 to attain the funds needed for the EB-5 investment.  If however, the investor's total debt on the home is, for example, $1 million on a $5 million home (after borrowing against the home to make the EB-5 investment), the investor could easily argue that they could liquidate the home and repay the loan.

It is a great advantage to investors to be able to use borrowed funds in this way, but all parties should be wary of the pitfalls in doing so.  For regional centers, investors' ability to pay back the loan should be vetted before the investor's I-526 is submitted, and assurances in writing should be asked from the investor to demonstrate that the status of their loan or their ability to pay it back will not change any time soon.

 

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Phil Cohen is the founder and President of Strategic Element, a company that focuses on developing regional centers, EB-5 business plans, economic impact reports, feasibility studies and custom 'direct' EB-5 projects for its clients (www.strategicelementconsulting.com). 

 

 

Download Your Free Paper:  9 Things to Know  Before Going Down  The EB-5 Road

Tags: EB5 Regional center, EB-5 investors, I-526, EB-5, EB-5 Regional Center, EB5

A Reminder About Industry and Geographic Restrictions and Amendments

Posted by Phil Cohen on Wed, Nov 11, 2015 @ 01:33 PM

Here is a reminder regarding amendments, which is worth noting...

In its EB-5 Policy Memorandum of May 30, 2013, USCIS put forward an important change to this requirement. Therefore, when an EB-5 regional center wishes to expand its industry codes, it may now do so with an investor's I-526 submission.  As a result, the formal amendment process (and the very significant wait time that it used to imply) is no longer required as a separate action by the regional center.  The result is a considerably higher degree of flexibility afforded to regional centers who may wish to expand their geographic or industry sphere of focus.

There is, however, still value, however, to the formal amendment process.  The main value is that investors can be more certain of the approval of the new areas of focus when a regional center has received approval of a formal amendment in advance of the investor submitting their I-526.

Ultimately, for the regional center, it is a judgment call whereby the 'saleability’ of a deal would need to be traded off against the delays involved in seeking a formal amendment.

USCIS has also provided some indication (although this appears not to be definitive in how it was presented) that a regional center’s geographic area of focus may also be expanded via an investor's I-526 petition.  In order to do so the geographic area must be contiguous with the existing regional center boundaries and would require a justification for expansion to the new boundaries.  Similar to what has been described above for expansion of industries of focus, investors will be taking a risk that the justification provided will be accepted by USCIS.

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Phil Cohen is the founder and President of Strategic Element, a company that focuses on developing regional centers, EB-5 business plans, economic impact reports, feasibility studies and custom 'direct' EB-5 projects for its clients (www.strategicelementconsulting.com). 

 

 

Tags: amendment application, EB5 Regional center, EB-5 explained, I-526, EB-5 Business plan

Heard About Flexible Adjudication to Save Time on EB-5 Projects?

Posted by Phil Cohen on Thu, Nov 05, 2015 @ 02:47 PM

As readers of this blog are likely aware by now, the rules flexible resized 600
and processes involved in the development of an EB-5 regional center application are relatively complex and often subject to interpretation by the lawyers involved and also by the adjudicators. 

As a result, in anything but the most straightforward of cases, an issue often arises around whether the question has been properly answered or whether certain rules apply in particular ways or in particular unusual circumstances.

When facing these kinds of unknowns, developers of EB-5 regional centers and EB-5 projects are often in the position of putting their best foot forward and hoping for the best when it comes to the adjudication of their I-924 application (or the project plan itself).  In these circumstances some project or regional center founders might find themselves in a dilemma in terms of whether to submit their business plans as "hypothetical" or as "actual”/"exemplar" plans.  The reason for the dilemma is that a hypothetical plan requires less detail to be approved but if one can have their plan approved as an exemplar plan then they can benefit from deference to this approval when their investors submit their I-526 petitions.

When unsure, there is the possibility of trying to get the maximum benefit of an exemplar approval without losing time should USCIS determine that there is insufficient information to approve the plan as an actual/exemplar.  The way to go about this is to make a written request when the project is being submitted that the plan be adjudicated as an actual/exemplar, but if this is not possible to adjudicate the plan as a hypothetical.

In most cases, this will not hold up the process and allow the entrepreneur to move ahead with the project as quickly as possible should they not be able to get actual/exemplar approval right away.  Saving the step of a re-submission can also save some of the costs involved in doing so.

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Phil Cohen is the founder and President of Strategic Element, a company that focuses on developing regional centers, EB-5 business plans, economic impact reports, feasibility studies and custom 'direct' EB-5 projects for its clients (www.strategicelementconsulting.com). 

 

 

Download Your Free Paper:  9 Things to Know  Before Going Down  The EB-5 Road

Tags: EB-5 center I-924, EB5 Regional center, EB-5 Project, EB-5 explained, EB-5 investors, I-526, applications, EB-5 regional centers, I-924, EB-5, EB-5 Regional Center