EB-5 Commentary

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.

 ------------

 

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

Grassley-Leahy EB-5 Bill: Not Passed But Affecting The Market

Posted by Phil Cohen on Fri, Sep 04, 2015 @ 07:07 AM

proposed eb-5 bill grassley leahyAs anyone in the EB-5 space is likely aware by now, Senators Charles Grassley and Patrick Leahy have introduced a bi-partisan bill to amend the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.

While the prevailing sentiment in the industry is that the bill will not be passed in its existing form, there is some debate as to whether or not some of the proposed program changes in the bill may be passed and whether the program may be temporarily extended for a shorter time while additional changes are considered.

In light of this, it is worth noting what impact the bill is having on the marketplace. At the time of the last renewal date three years ago, there was some degree of rush to get applications in across the industry, but there were few who doubted that the program would be renewed and there were no proposed changes to the program that anybody was aware of at the time. In addition, at that time, there were far fewer approved regional centers and projects in the marketplace (209 approved regional centers at the end of the 2012 fiscal year versus 949 approved regional centers today). The overall result two years ago was largely that things were business as usual.

This time around, things are a bit different. Because of all the unknowns surrounding the bill, professionals in the industry are largely overwhelmed with the demand to get projects in under the deadline. This activity is currently nearing a peak. Many projects that were closer to being ready have been sped up and already launched into the marketplace.

We are already hearing that many Chinese agents who might normally take on just two or three projects at any given time are now four and five projects deep, some commanding larger fees than usual because of the abundance of offerings. As the industry overall appears to be working hard on getting many other projects to market, we are anticipating that there may be a glut of projects coming up. Marketing activity is expected to reach a frenetic pace in the coming months as agents and other marketers jockey for position and mind share of investors.

On the flip side, this author anticipates that there will be a bit of a lull in the launch of new EB-5 projects into the marketplace following September 30th, as those projects that did not get started in time will be waiting on the sidelines to see what, if anything, changes on the 30th and whether the program will be only temporarily renewed (with only some or no changes), setting a new deadline for the next rush before a second wave of changes comes along.

2016 may prove to be a roller coaster year for EB-5.

 

------------

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: regional center EB5, Chinese Investors, EB-5 investors, applications, USCIS, EB-5 regional centers, EB-5, EB-5 Regional Center

Pros & Cons of Different EB-5 Business Plan Types

Posted by Phil Cohen on Mon, Jul 20, 2015 @ 11:42 AM

For those considering making an EB-5 investment, you will no doubt hear of three different kinds of EB-5 business plans: hypothetical, actual and exemplar. Each kind of business plan has different benefits and drawbacks from the investor's perspective. This article will provide a brief explanation of each type of business plan and what it means to investors.

Any kind of EB-5 business plan could be submitted alongside a regional center application, while a so-called 'direct' application requires the use of an exemplar EB-5 business plan.

Hypothetical

A hypothetical EB-5 business plan is a plan that provides an approximate overview of the project in question. The details required for a hypothetical plan are usually very high level and non-specific. Details in a hypothetical plan can include economic model inputs, feasibility study or information and general proposals and predictions. The benefit of using a hypothetical plan is that it allows the project owners to move more quickly in terms of getting their project financed, which adds to overall project stability. On the downside, however, investors should be aware that when a hypothetical plan is used, a more formal or exemplar plan would need to be submitted with the project's first investor (I-526) application. From the investor perspective, this means that the business plan is effectively being reviewed and approved by USCIS for the first time with the first investor's I-526. If an investor is among the first to apply for an I-526 under a given project which uses in an exemplar plan, the project would effectively be reviewed for the first time by USCIS at that time. Subsequent investors in a given project would likely benefit from USCIS giving deference to the project approval based on the first investor's approval.

Actual

An actual EB-5 business plan is a more or less complete plan although it may be missing some critical pieces such as offering documents. The pros and cons of an actual plan from the investor perspective are similar to those of a hypothetical plan, although presumably USCIS will review the information that is in front of them with regard to the plan itself. Although the project would not benefit from a formal USCIS approval, project developers would benefit from having feedback from USCIS on what was submitted. In effect, this means that the risk to the investor of the project itself not being approved at the I-526 stage is smaller than in the case of a hypothetical plan.

Exemplar

An exemplar plan is a complete plan, which includes offering documents, transactional documents and evidence that the project is shovel ready (i.e. ready to start right away). When USCIS accepts an exemplar plan, it is very unlikely that the plan itself would be challenged at the I-526 stage. This kind of approval provides investors with the least overall risk of USCIS refusing the project part of their application.

Does That Mean Exemplar Plans Are Best?

Not necessarily. As a general rule, investors may prefer the security that comes from an exemplar plan being used, however, it is worth noting that the team behind the project, experience with EB-5 and the team that does due diligence on the project can provide significant added value in terms of mitigating the risk or ensuring that the deal in question is a good one. If an investor's application is not accepted at the I-526 stage due to project deficiencies, with a good team this only means that there may be some delay in processing the I-526.

It is also worth noting that proposed changes to the EB-5 program (not yet approved), would not allow for the marketing of projects to investors without approval of an exemplar business plan, which is a departure from current rules, which allow for marketing once a hypothetical plan is filed.

The best advice for investors is to look for a quality project first and to ensure that whoever is representing the project is experienced in EB-5 and has done a significant amount of due diligence. Given the sea of choices in EB-5 today, investors should consider the quality as the top priority and worry less about delays, which can be common regardless of the kind of business plan being used.

 

------------

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 Team, Chinese Investors, EB-5 Project, EB-5 investors, I-526, USCIS, EB-5, EB-5 Regional Center

Canadian Immigrant Investors: Thinking About Moving To EB-5?

Posted by Phil Cohen on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 @ 06:58 AM

describe the imageThe Canadian government unveiled its new Federal Investor Program replacing the prior program which was very popular with immigrant investors.  Unfortunately, the government has gone from one extreme to the other, moving from a program that was one of the most secure offerings around to one which is considerably more risky, vague and which will appeal only to a  select few, in this author's opinion.

The EB-5 program is quickly proving itself to be a viable alternative for immigrant investors who have been pushed out of the Canadian Federal Investor Program.  Like the Canadian program, the EB-5 program allows foreign investors the opportunity to get a path to citizenship in the United States based on making a qualifying investment.  EB-5 investments must be made in a qualifying business and must be 'at risk' (although this does not mean necessarily 'risky').

Some key points about the EB-5 program:

  • The investment required is $500,000 as long as the business being invested in is located in what's called a Target Employment Area (most are)
  • The typical investment horizon is five years
    although some opportunities are for six years or seven years
  • The typical return to investors is in the range
    of 1% per year, but this varies widely from project to project

There are many other considerations involved in looking at the program and one should take good advice from legal counsel and/or from business consultants who may be able to help.

The EB-5 program has all kinds of businesses participating, some good and some not so good.  The key to mitigating risk in the program, in my opinion, is to work with a company that carefully selects projects that it represents and does a significant amount of due diligence (i.e. one in a position to know good from bad and one who is in a position to choose the best).  It also helps to see that the company that you work through does not take on more than one or two projects at a time, so that there is no conflict of interest in how it represents projects.

Those interested in taking advantage of the EB-5 program should be aware that the US government has imposed a start date of May 1, 2015 for 'Chinese visa retrogression,' whereby citizens of China may be put on hold while other countries get an opportunity to have access to the visa quota.  If other countries do not fill the quota then the program will be reopened to Chinese citizens. Chinese EB-5 investors can still have their applications processed and approved, but they will not be issued their green cards until retrogression is lifted again at the end of the program year (September 30, 2015).   

For Chinese citizens especially, it is suggested that moving ahead sooner rather than later on making an EB-5 investment will give them good placement in the backlog line, thereby allowing them to avoid what may end up being a multi-year wait, such as the situation was in Canada.  It is expected that there will be an influx of investors from Canada who will no longer be able to apply to the Canadian program.

Still need help figuring it out?  Contact me.

------------

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: Chinese Investors, EB-5 explained, EB-5 investors, I-526, EB5, EB-5; Canadian Immigrant Investor

Chinese EB-5 Visa Retrogression Shouldn't be Stopping You

Posted by Phil Cohen on Mon, Mar 09, 2015 @ 08:50 AM
describe the image

As a follow up to a blog article posted here on September 9th, 2014 (Some Deeper Implications of Chinese EB-5 Visa Retrogression), I want to reiterate what many in the industry are already saying in order to help quell some fears associated with Chinese visa retrogression and to help make sure that those who are new to the EB-5 community understand that retrogression is not the death knell of EB-5.

Retrogression does not mean that investors cannot have their I-526 petitions processed and approved. It only means that they won't get their green cards right away upon I-526 approval.

Retrogression probably does not mean that Chinese investors will lose interest in EB-5 any time soon, perhaps even the contrary.  If anything, the Canadian program demonstrated the propensity for Chinese investors to wait in line.  When the Canadian program was cancelled, there were over 60,000 investors in line, willing to wait up to seven years to be processed. Arguably, the EB-5 program might be slightly less of a draw because of the 'at risk' requirement, but being the only North American game in town worth mentioning these days in addition to the still-increasing base of HNW individuals in China I would suggest that there may well be a rush to get in line over the next 2 to 3 years.

Retrogression does not mean that projects should stop marketing in China, the source of 85% of EB-5 investors today.  For the reasons stated above Chinese demand is not expected to abate.  For the medium and longer term, however, those who expect to be involved in EB-5 for the forseeable future should expand their marketing horizons.  Bear this in mind, when developing your EB-5 business plan.

Retrogression does not mean that projects will be delayed in getting money into their projects (yet).  Funds can be released to a project upon I-526 approval and because there will be no additional delay in processing of I-526 petitions from Chinese applicants once retrogression kicks in, funds can be released on schedule.  Over time, this may change as the backlog grows.

 

------------

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 investors, I-526, USCIS, EB-5, EB-5 Business plan