By Bradley Zine, EB5 Investors Magazine Staff
Nilesh Shah was looking to better his own life and his family’s.
A native of India, Shah was exploring immigration options when he discovered the U.S. EB-5 program. The system has long been widespread in places like South Korea and China, but when Shah looked in 2013 and 2014, information about it was scarce in India and conferences were not common there.
“When we got the visas, it was exciting and at the same time we were quite happy with the ease and simplicity of the entire process,” Shah said.
In 2014, only 55 EB-5 visas were issued to Indian nationals, a fraction of the 9,228 EB-5 visas issued worldwide that year. However, in 2107, EB-5 in India had more than doubled in popularity, with 111 Indian nationals receiving visas. It is expected to increase in the coming years.
When Shah first started looking into EB-5, though, his journey was about discovery. What was the investment? The financial risks? The immigration risks? What about maintaining a U.S. green card?
Shah felt comfortable doing his own research, particularly with regards in placing his investment. In India, he was a venture capital and private equity investor. As a chartered accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, he said he can look at stacks of documents and not feel intimidated.
“I’ve looked at investments all my life,” he said. “My bread and butter is to look at investor opportunities.”
Shah wanted to immigrate to the U.S. for both personal and professional reasons. Personally, he sought to better the educational opportunities for his family, such as his daughter’s college. Professionally, he wanted to expand his investment experience to the Silicon Valley area, a hub of venture capital activity.
“I thought it would be interesting and a challenge to be in that ecosystem,” he said.
Shah started examining regional centers.
“While the market seemed very big from an external perspective, like any space, it boils down to the top two or three players,” Shah said.
Of those, he picked CanAm Enterprises, a New York City-based regional center. He liked how the company presented itself to potential investors - “forthcoming in terms of their transparency and track record,” Shah said.
He put his money toward an infrastructure project in Philadelphia. Shah said the immigration process was speedy, simple and smooth. He also retained an immigration attorney and CPA.
“Everybody played a fantastic role,” he said.
For Shah, everything worked out as planned. No surprises.
“I understood the entire EB-5 process,” Shah said.
Shah moved to California with his wife and daughter in July 2017. His daughter, now 18, is attending UC Santa Cruz – and even getting the bonus of paying its California resident low-tuition rate, not the higher international student rate. He likes how California, and Silicon Valley in particular, are welcoming of immigrants. His son, 11, attends a local middle school and his wife works in a bank.
“You look for those pockets where you can easily assimilate yourself to become a functioning member of society,” he said.
Now that he’s in the U.S., Shah hopes to establish himself in the investment banking and venture capital fields. He wants to be a “value creator” in his new ecosystem. He has a Series 7 license and is working to complete his Series 66 license by the end of 2018.
Shah has been spreading the word about EB-5, too. He has hosted seminars about the program for his community, talked with some H-1B visa holders about applying, spoke about how prospective investors should select projects and the challenges for the source of funds statements.
Shah likes how EB-5 is a visa option that allows immigrants to work anywhere they want.
“That was a big draw for us,” he said. “We would not have had that freedom on other visas … as an EB-5, you’re completely free.”
Shah says EB-5 applicants shouldn’t get discouraged about what they may read online.
“When you do a Google search on EB-5, a lot of things are negative … you won’t find enough success stories like mine,” he said. “Don’t just look at some Google searches and decide that it is not the right kind of program for you. Keep the faith, engage an attorney, do a proper analysis.”
Shah advises applicants to stay positive.
“The system works,” he said. “Like with any other system, there will be challenges, but keep the faith.”