Comment: EB5 Grows Up

Today's issue of Immigration Daily carries a "big picture" article on EB5 by Reid Thomas of NES Financial. NESF has been involved in 200+ EB5 projects, accounting for approximately $1 out of every $2 in EB5 investments over the past 5 years, so Mr. Thomas certainly has the "big picture" perspective, one of the very few in the EB5 space who have such a vista, making the article particularly important for those connected to EB5. We make some observations below based on Mr. Thomas's article (comments are ours, and should not be imputed to the author):

  • NESF points out that the EB5 industry is experiencing explosive growth - numerical comparison from 2010 to 2013 captures the explosion - 325% increase in I-526 petitions filed, 577% increase in approved Regional Centers, and surprise, surprise, 400% increase in USCIS processing time
  • NESF points that that EB5 is now a mainstream source of capital, and importantly, what this implies for where the growth is right now - by a helpful chart which juxtaposes % GDP with % RCs, state-by-state. The chart shows that California and Florida have had their day in the EB5 sun, which is now shining on New York and Illinois. States which have not traditionally seen EB5 capital will likely see it in 2014.
  • An intriguing chart titled "Bifurcation in Project Size is emerging" shows that projects over $100million, while less than 10% of the total projects, represent about 40% of the targeted raise; this chart also shows that more than half the projects are under $20million, which amount to less than 10% of the targeted raise.
  • The article discusses typical range of Administration Fees and shows that both debt and equity models have their place currently (with bonds coming on strong as a third model).

  • Another chart in the article demonstrates the clear co-relation between "early-release" escrows and USCIS combined 924/526 processing time. While the wisdom of such escrows is unclear to us, the remedy is clearly in USCIS's hands - the agency must process the cases faster, which it appears to be on a trajectory of accomplishing.
  • The final two charts are perhaps the most important - "EB5 is receiving more oversight" "And the rules are evolving". The EB5 industry has grown under a loose set of rules, a circumstance that we expect 2014 to tighten. Experience with other industries which went thru the transition from wild west to orderly markets shows that such transitions are usually accompanied by some pain, and the landscape of the field morphs significantly. It is ILW.COM's belief that EB5 will be no different, and that 2014 is the year that the shake-out will begin.

The lessons for immigration attorneys from this EB5 "big picture" are clear. IMMACT '90 re-shaped the legal immigration landscape to favor high-skilled immigrants over lesser-skilled immigrants, and H1Bs reshaped the political landscape in immigration for the next two decades. Now, the next act is about to unfold - EB5 represents a different kind of immigration - too many attorneys have shied away from EB5 so far, out of fear of the wild west atmosphere and out of knowledge that EB5 was niche. This article shows that all this has changed, EB5 is now mainstream, and for better or for worse, the bar would be well advised to adjust to the new world - EB5 is here to stay.

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Article: 2014 Success Strategies for EB-5 Regional Centers by Reid Thomas


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