EB-5 Investor from India on a mission to help other fellow investors
By EB5 Investor Magazine Staff
EB-5 Investor Ishaan Khanna of India wants to share his EB-5 journey to help other investors make smart investment and immigration decisions.
“I always encourage them to do the same kind of diligence I did when making my investment and by sharing my experiences with them I hope to help them make their decision on where to invest,” he said. “I’d like to continue to aid other Indian nationals toward permanent residency in the United States.”
However, once Khanna, who has a degree in Information Systems, receives his green card, he hopes to eventually start working in the tech industry and one day open his own Silicon Valley startup, he said.
Why did you decide to use the EB-5 program to immigrate to the United States?
I was on an F1 visa studying at a university in Los Angeles, CA. Around my Junior/Senior year, I realized how much the U.S. had to offer for someone like me and the professional opportunities I would have access to rather than in India. I was majoring in Information Systems at the time and I had just finished an internship with a tech company. Keeping this in mind, I began to research all my immigration options. At one point, attorneys from Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP came to my university and gave a presentation on visa options available to students after graduation. This was the first time I heard of EB-5 and when I realized that the H1-B wasn’t the only option for someone like me, I began to consider the program.
What did you choose to invest in and where are you at in EB-5 process to get a green card?
With regards to the EB-5, I spent almost a year researching different projects and regional centers. I finally settled on the Four Seasons project from EB-5 United. I liked the fact that they had a strong track record with getting EB-5 approvals and were working with experienced real estate developers, who had over 17 years of experience and $16 billion of completed real estate deals. The other thing I really liked was that EB-5 investors for this project were secured with a First Deed of Trust which meant that not only would the investors be first in line to be repaid but also, even if the project were to fail, as lenders we can recover the value of the collateral for the loan much more quickly. My investment was $500,000 and I received my I-526 approval within 10 months. I applied in September of 2016. Within the next few months, I hope to complete my visa interview and get my provisional green card.
What was the biggest challenge during the EB-5 process?
I’d have to say the research aspect. Deciding which Regional Center to work with was a tough and very important decision to make. I remember making a long spreadsheet, which listed all the projects and their pros and cons. The other stressful aspect I’d have to say was the wait. While I had full faith in my attorneys, my application and the quality of the project and its documentation, waiting for the I-526 approval was grueling. I consider myself very lucky to have been approved before the expected processing time.
What do you work with and where do you live now?
I was residing in Los Angeles, CA on a student visa when I started my EB-5 application. I am currently back in New Delhi, India, working with EB5 United, the company that I had originally chosen for my own EB-5 investment, to help other potential immigrants like myself to find a path to reside in the United States.
What is your professional and educational background?
My background is in Information Systems. Right after I graduated college in 2016, I began working for a tech company in Hollywood. Since I wasn’t able to get an H1B visa to stay and work in the US, I had to return to India once my F1 OPT period expired. The EB-5 program has given me another opportunity to move to the U.S. and build my career there.
What advice do you have for other investors who wants to use this program?
Do your research! Read as much as you can! When I first learned about the EB-5 program I spent hours mulling over the advice and articles on www.eb5investors.com.
Once you have a good understanding of how the program works and the risks involved, take your time and figure out which investment sounds right for you. The other important piece of advice is something a lot of potential investors don’t always remember: The regional center and the immigration attorney are two separate entities. The regional center is responsible for handling your investment, tracking the creation of jobs, providing all necessary project documentation for an investor’s I-526 and I-829 petitions, and monitoring the status of each EB-5 investor until they receive their permanent residence and return of capital. The immigration attorney represents your interests throughout the entire process and guides you through the preparation of your source of funds documentation, helps plan a comprehensive immigration strategy, and reviews your immigration history and any issues of inadmissibility. If the project you select were to fail, your immigration attorney would be the first one to approach to help get your investment back.
What is the most unforgettable memory from your EB5 journey?
I’d have to say when my attorney called me late at night to tell me that my I-526 petition was approved. I was expecting to wait another 7-8 months but hearing that it was approved early made me ecstatic.
How do you think being both an EB-5 investor and working in the EB-5 field will benefit you and your clients?
I remember back when I was in college, watching all my peers go for job interviews and get multiple offers – and me getting rejected 80 percent of the time because I didn’t have permanent status. It made me feel disappointed and made me doubt my professional skillset. It took me a while to make the decision to apply for a green card through the EB-5 program and even longer to figure out where I wanted to invest. Because I went through the same struggle as other potential investors, I can truly empathize with them and their plight. When I meet clients, I always encourage them to do the same kind of diligence I did when making my investment and by sharing my experiences with them I hope to help them make their decision on where to invest. I hope to assist other clients in achieving their goal of immigrating to the United States.
What benefits and challenges do you think Indian EB-5 investors are faced with?
Benefits: Unlike Chinese citizens, there is no backlog or waiting time for Indian citizens. Indian families, who have children who plan to go to college in the U.S., can benefit from in-state tuition costs at most public universities.
Challenges: Lack of awareness in India is a big challenge. Not a lot of people know about the EB-5 program and those who do, don’t know a lot about the basics of the program. Also, a lot of Indian investors don’t realize that the main goal of an EB-5 investment is to receive a green card, rather than to earn a high return. The return on investment is a path to legal immigration to the United States and investors should focus on which project has lower risk factors rather than which projects have better yield.
What advice do you have for people who wants to immigrate to the United States?
Over the last few years, I have come across a number of people who wish to immigrate to the U.S. on L-1/E-2/H-1B visas. While those visa options can usually result in a faster entry to the United States, they must remember that they are all non-immigrant visas and require renewals every few years, which might require additional investment or documentation etc. Each renewal application carries its own risk of denial whereas the EB-5 (which is an immigrant visa) has two main application points, the original I-526 petition and the I-829 petition to remove conditions.
The other thing I would remind potential investors is to avoid anyone that says they can “guarantee” your investment back. This goes against the regulations and the very spirit behind the EB-5 program. The guidelines set by the USCIS state that investors “must put their capital at risk” and it’s important to remember that when selecting a project. My advice? Find a project that minimizes the risk factor as much as possible. For example, picking a project with a “loan-model” vs “equity-model” was important to me, simply because as an investor, I know that in a loan-model the investment’s mode and timing of the exit are better defined.
In short, do your homework, speak to as many (qualified) people as possible and work with good legal representation to maximize your chances of achieving a successful outcome.