America’s EB-5 Investor Visa Programme
EB-5 investors have become victim to the programme’s popular status as US$17 billion is up to be reinvested without clear guidelines. Mistakes can and will lead to serious capital losses and repercussions from investors, disrupting a programme that interested parties say has helped create millions of American jobs.
Processing timeline – 10-to-15 years
Chinese applications for the EB-5 visa programme now have waiting times to obtain US residency as long as 15 years. The caution to be noted is that the programme has no clear guidelines about what happens to the investments during that time, creating more risk.
EB-5 Programme Origin – 1990
Created in 1990, the EB-5 visa programme allows a foreign national who makes an investment of at least US$500,000 that creates 10 American jobs in a high unemployment or rural area, to become a permanent resident, along with his or her family, usually in five to seven years. The capital, typically in a five (5)-year loan, is returned to the applicant once the residency is granted.
Employment creation – Real Estate
Given as real estate projects create jobs, both through construction work and then through service employment, many EB-5 visa investments go to those developments.
Regional Centres – Investment Project Sponsors
EB-5 investments are allowed to be pooled together in “regional centres”, often financial services firms that sponsor EB-5 projects and act like bank underwriters to syndicate the loans for the projects.
Resource Relocation – Capital Reinvesting
Redeployment – that is, reinvesting the capital after the real estate projects are completed and the money is no longer in use – is only the latest challenge for EB-5, which has often faced questions about the source of certain funds as well as allegations about questionable projects.
Uncertainty – Going forward
Lee Francis Cissna, director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency overseeing EB-5, disclosed in Congressional testimony that EB-5 was in “dire need of reforms”. (DEC 2018)
As a comprehensive reform plan has yet to happen, the programme has been extended multiple times to allow more time for ‘discussions’. The repeat extensions add another layer of uncertainty to the programme.
In this new problem, mistakes in reinvesting these idle funds will likely as not lead to big losses and cause a strong adverse reaction from investors concerned about preserving their capital.
The underlying uncertainty, coupled with the long wait that has now negatively impacted desire for the EB-5 visa programme, is only further disrupting the programme that vested-interests have said … ‘helped create millions of American jobs and attracted billions of dollars of direct foreign investment to the US’.
The EB-5 programme has proven particularly popular in the PRChina. This has meant a huge surge in Chinese applicants. More than 80% of the 10,000 visas issued annually have gone to Chinese applicants since 2012, up from just 25% in 2008 (US State Department).
Chinese families who hoped to have their children educated in the US have also found the visa programme a much less expensive way to gain access to American high schools and universities. The cost of tuition for a permanent resident is a mere fraction of that for a foreign national.
As much as US$11.4 billion was added to the American economy in 2015 from the fees paid by roughly 370,000 students from mainland China to American high schools and universities – six times more than that of a decade earlier (US Commerce Department).
The department also estimates that processing new Chinese applicants will take up to 15 years, potentially causing more billions of dollars of investment to deteriorate, in addition to the US$17 billion now inactive sitting in a state of suspension.
SOURCE: SCMP 29 DEC 2018
EB-5 Quota Queue Update:
Each year 10,000 EB-5 visas are made available to investors and their dependents. However, given that more than 10,000 visas are requested annually, the Immigration and Nationality Act caps the amount available to any one country at 7%.
SOURCE: Charles Oppenheim (DHS Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division) EB-5 quota queue projections (07 MAY 2019)