By Anayat Durrani
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is a popular option for foreign nationals worldwide seeking a Green Card and permanent residency in the United States. The island state of Taiwan, in the northern Pacific, is a significant market for EB-5 investors.
“Taiwan has always had a robust EB-5 market, with ebbs and flows, over the years depending on economic and political circumstances,” says Fredrick W. Voigtmann, an immigration attorney at the Law Office of Fred Voigtmann, P.C.
He says the EB-5 market is growing in Taiwan, due to factors such as the new EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA) as well as “a vast network of licensed and regulated immigration consultants, and economic, political, and social considerations keeping the United States as a top destination for Taiwanese immigrants.”
Carel van der Merwe, sales director for EB5 Coast to Coast, says that in Fiscal Year 2022, about 255 visas were issued to Taiwanese nationals, “which equates to 80 to100 investors, making it one of the top 10 EB-5 markets.”
Meanwhile, in Fiscal Year 2023, Taiwan ranked as the fifth top country for EB-5 visa issuances, with 251 EB-5 visas granted to Taiwanese investors through consular processing, accounting for 2.95% of the total, says Brian Su, founder and CEO of Artisan Business Group, Inc., a business development and risk management consulting firm.
“This data indicates the substantial interest and activity in the EB-5 program within the Taiwanese market,” says Su, who also notes the implementation of the new RIA as contributing to this renewed enthusiasm.
Another advantage for Taiwanese EB-5 investors, van der Merwe notes, is that Taiwan “does not have capital control restrictions like China and Vietnam, which facilitates a smoother application process.”
Remitting funds to the U.S. can be an obstacle for other East Asian countries like China and Vietnam, but Taiwan has no remittance issues.
Profile of the typical Taiwanese EB-5 investor
Voigtmann says most EB-5 investors from Taiwan are like EB-5 investors from other countries.
“There are professionals and high net worth individuals seeking a better education system and economic opportunities for their children,” says Voigtmann. “Many are doing EB-5 for their kids and intend to travel back and forth from the United States to Taiwan to continue to oversee business interests and assets in Taiwan or to care for aging parents there.”
He says in many situations, one parent will stay in the U.S. permanently to manage the household and supervise their kids.
Taiwan, van der Merwe notes, is more English-speaking relative to other Asian markets, and investors tend to be sophisticated and rely on their own due diligence.
Also, Su says investors in Taiwan’s EB-5 market come from diverse backgrounds but share some common characteristics.
“Most of them are middle-aged entrepreneurs with families seeking to provide their loved ones with the advantages of living in the United States,” says Su. “These individuals often possess successful businesses or substantial personal assets in Taiwan and are looking to safeguard their wealth in the face of geopolitical uncertainty.”
Who are Taiwan’s HNWIs, and why do they choose EB-5?
Taiwan dominates the global chip industry, with companies like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) responsible for a lion’s share of semiconductor chip production. Due to its strong industrial base, this thriving economy has many high-net-worth individuals (HNWI).
“According to our latest stats for June 2023, there are approximately 40,500 HNWIs currently living in Taiwan, along with 114 centi-millionaires and 20 billionaires,” says Andrew Amoils, head of research at New World Wealth.
Some 200 HNWIs left Taiwan in 2022, said Amoils, and an additional 300 were expected to leave in 2023.
“Popular destinations for them include the likes of U.S., Singapore, Canada and Australia,” Amoils said.
As China’s economy experiences fluctuations and regional tensions persist, Su says, “more affluent individuals are increasingly exploring immigration programs, including EB-5 as a means of securing their families’ futures.”
The EB-5 route remains a popular option, especially considering the political climate surrounding Taiwan’s future with China. Escalating tensions in the Taiwan Straits region have led to a resurgence of interest in this U.S. investor visa program.
“This geopolitical situation has prompted many Taiwanese individuals to seek alternative investment and immigration options, with the EB-5 program being a particularly attractive choice,” says Su. “Taiwan’s stable economy and political environment make it an appealing destination for EB-5 investors looking to secure their families’ future while diversifying their assets.”
Voigtmann says many Taiwanese see the U.S. green card as a “hedge against the consequences of regional instability and unpredictability when it comes to dealing with the authoritarian regime based in Beijing.”
In addition, the outcome of the upcoming presidential election in Taiwan scheduled for January 2024 could have an impact on how HNWIs evaluate their future and their interest in the EB-5 program, says Su.
“Depending on the election results and subsequent political developments, investors may reassess their long-term plans and immigration strategies,” says Su. “Political stability and favorable relations with the United States are often crucial factors for individuals considering EB-5 investments, so the election’s outcome could influence the trajectory of the Taiwan EB-5 market in the coming years. This element of political uncertainty adds an additional layer of complexity to the evolving landscape of EB-5 investments in Taiwan.”
Taiwanese international students’ route to getting an EB-5 visa
The EB-5 program is an attractive option for Taiwanese students as well. Obtaining higher education and job opportunities in the U.S. remains popular for Taiwanese students into 2024 and beyond.
“There is a notable presence of Taiwanese students attending foreign colleges who are exploring EB-5 as a pathway to remain in the United States after completing their studies,” says Su.
Mark Lin, manager at Luby International Consulting Co., noted that during the 2022-2023, there has been a six percent growth of students from Taiwan to the U.S.
The total number of Taiwan students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities during the 2022-2023 academic year rose to 21,834 from 20,487, according to the 2023 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education. This number represents a 6.6% year-over-year increase that follows annual growth between 2015 and 2023, despite lower numbers in 2019-2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taiwan is sixth on the list of countries sending the most international students to the U.S. and Taiwanese students make up 2.1% of all international students in the country. Additionally, the most significant number of Taiwanese students in the U.S. (45.7%) enrolled in graduate study, a 10.8% growth from the prior academic year. When it comes to a place of origin for graduate students, Taiwan ranks fifth on the list.
“They want to stay, so EB-5 is the natural choice,” says Lin. “Taiwan has no retrogression, so the students can enjoy the benefits of concurrent filing. Taiwan is a booming market.”
Taiwanese EB-5 investors prefer regional centers
New EB-5 regulations have brought forth greater protections and transparency for investors from regional centers, which makes them a top choice for investors from Taiwan.
“Taiwanese EB-5 investors highly favor regional center projects as opposed to direct EB-5 investments,” says Voigtmann. “Continued political tensions with China will drive more well-to-do Taiwanese to consider protecting their assets and their families’ freedoms by participating in EB-5 and immigrating to the United States.”
Voigtmann notes that most Taiwanese investors get their EB-5 immigrant visa through the American Institute in Taiwan.
“There is no U.S. embassy in Taiwan for political reasons dealing with U.S. official political recognition of China, starting in 1979, as opposed to adjustment of status in the United States,” the attorney says.
As the new year approaches, it brings with it heightened interest in the EB-5 program from the Taiwan market, experts say.
“Taiwanese investors are increasingly recognizing the long-term benefits of EB-5, such as providing their families with access to quality education, healthcare, and career opportunities in the United States,” says Su. “As a result, we anticipate continued growth in EB-5 applications from Taiwan.”
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