How can an EB-5 investor determine regional center quality?
I want to find the top ten EB-5 regional centers in the country. What should I be looking for to determine regional center quality? Also, if some regional centers are better and more well-known than others, then do they ever run out of spots on a project? Or do they allow an unlimited amount of EB-5 applicants to invest?
There is no single standard to use to determine the quality of a regional center. Do you want the 10 regional centers with the largest projected return on investment? - - - the 10 with the most conservative estimate of jobs to be recreated for the most security on having the condition removed 2 years after you enter the United States as a conditional lawful permanent resident? - - the 10 with the most on-going projects? - - the 10 with projects currently accepting investors? - the 10 with the most social benefits?- - the 10 most likely to complete the proposed business plan? - - the 10 who have successfully completed the most projects? There are always a certain number of investors for each project. If one project is closed, check out another. I know of no regional center project that allows an unlimited number of EB-5 investors.
It depends on what your personal preferences are. What do you mean by top ten? How much do you care about generating a financial return? Do you care about the what types of project the regional center handles (e.g., real estate, finance, etc.)? Generally, I recommend using a regional center with a good track record, with approved I-526s and I-829s for more than one project. But individual EB-5 investors will favor various qualifications of different regional centers.
There is no best way to find a quality regional center. However, regional centers with a good project track record are usually more reliable and experienced. Such regional centers are Canam, CMB, American Life, etc. Also, you can check blog boards with reviews. The most important issues are whether the investors get their permanent green card and investment funds back. Yes, popular regional center projects fill up quickly, but generally you can be placed on a waiting list if full or be given priority on the next project.
Each regional center will tell you it is top notch. And unfortunately for your list of top 10 regional centers, each attorney will give you one with different names. This industry is far less transparent than one would assume. Within the reach of my experience, there were regional centers that ran out of spots in a matter of a few days and some could not fill the entire roster and had to extend deadlines as a result.
The retaining of an experienced EB-5 attorney will be able to assist you. Please note regional centers may only rent out their designation to projects who are owned by separate developers or owners. Each project has to EB-5 compliant and the immigration attorney can offer immigration due diligence on the project.
Regional centers should be able to answer questions you have about the details of the investment, including the business plan, job creation projections, I-526 and I-829 approval statistics, and future return on investment. Regional centers have limits on the number of investors they can accept per project.
There are several good regional centers with multiple years and a number of projects with nearly 100 percent approval track record. Out of hundreds of approved/designated regional centers, there are less than 10-15 regional centers that fall into that category of multiple successful track records. All the regional centers do multiple projects each year and each project is reviewed and approved separately and independently by USCIS. However, these successful regional centers have followed stringent guidelines they set themselves with the interest of their EB-5 investors as priority. This way, you could find out what types of projects they may have in the pipeline and work with your immigration lawyer to have your source of funds ready to subscribe and file when the project comes out. Due to their successes, most of these really successful regional centers' projects do not remain open too long and fill up rather quickly.
Remember, you are investing in a project, not a regional center. A good regional center may be more likely to have a good project, but at the end of the day, the success of the project determines whether you will get your permanent green card and get your money back. The regional center is important, but be sure to evaluate any project on its own merits also. When looking at a regional center, the first question we ask is what is their track record? Do they have approved I-829s? Have they paid investors back? The only problem is that most regional centers have not been around long enough to have either I-829 approvals or to have had their projects pay people back. This is because the industry has grown dramatically in the last three to four years, and the life cycle of an EB-5 project is longer than that, so a limited track record should not be the end of the story. There have been a couple of regional centers that had great track records that have deteriorated and that I would no longer advise an investor client to invest in, so even when a regional center has a good track record, it is important to look at the project and the other factors here. Next we look at I-526 approvals. Does the regional center have a history of I-526 approvals? How many projects have they sponsored? We also look at the quality of a regional center as an operator. Do they have a plan to keep all the documents and data they need to ensure compliance with the regulations and to make sure investors are going to get their permanent green cards after the I-829 petitions are due? Running a regional center takes a staff, and office, and resources. If the regional center does not have the infrastructure to manage one or more offerings and track the investment activity and job creation, then it may not be a good bet for investors who are going to be counting on good record keeping at the I-829 stage. Finally, the single most important factor in whether a regional center project is likely to get approved is the team of lawyers and professionals working on the project. If the team is experienced in EB-5 and has a track record of approved deals, it is less likely that a project using that team will be denied. There are many law firms and consultants out there that claim to be EB-5 experts, but the reality is that most of them do not have significant experience putting together EB-5 deals. This includes law firms that may have filed hundreds of I-526 petitions on behalf of investors. Many of them simply do not have experience structuring EB-5 transactions or dealing with the intersection of business needs and immigration limitations. Keep in mind though that the track record, back office support, and legal and professional team cannot help if a project is not a good business deal, so always look at the deal itself and consult with your financial advisers before making an investment decision.
To evaluate a project, you can look at their past EB-5 track records or their industry profession records (e.g. if it is a real estate development and they do not have a lot of EB-5 records, then look to see if they have developed similar real estate projects in the past). There is no official rating of projects and regional centers, but always do your due diligence; at least research the project, the regional center and all professionals involved online. Bigger projects or older regional centers are not necessarily better. Sometimes you can find smaller projects or newer regional centers that have a more personal relationship with the investors. Once you have narrowed down the ones you are interested in, have your attorney look through the project offering paperwork to filter them further. Every project is looking for a set amount of investment and a set number of investors. If you wanted to work with a specific regional center or developer and their project is already full, they are likely to have another project in the pipeline that you can sign up for. However, be aware that every project has different levels of risk and are structured differently. Even if you have done the due diligence on the regional center or the developer, if it is a new project, you will need to investigate on the details of that specific project, as well as to determine whether it is a suitable one for you.
There are not really rankings of regional centers. Each regional center will vary in their offerings. Retaining experienced EB-5 counsel will help with the immigration due diligence, and we can refer investors to registered broker-dealers for the investment due diligence. While each EB-5 raise will be for a specific amount, the larger, busier regional centers will continue to put forth new offerings as older ones fill up.
You need to retain counsel and an accounting firm to assist you in performing due diligence on potential opportunities. Just because one opportunity has numerous investors does not mean it is right for you. Every investor is different, has their own objectives, and needs to review potential investments given their specific objectives and station in life.
John J Downey
Usually there are a certain number of investors for each project. I know of no regional center project with unlimited slots. You can contact a regional center to obtain statistics as to how many appellations they have processed and what is their success rate.
Many EB-5 regional centers that have been around for some time have information on their approvals for both I-526 and I-829 petitions. If a regional center has not been around for at least two years they likely would not have information as they may not have any approvals. (this would be most regional centers). Each project has a certain number of spots, but often regional centers will start up another project once one fills up. There are a few big names that have been around for a long time and with a little bit of research you can easily find. (Sorry, we cannot recommend any here).