Investing in the EB-5 Visa as a Canadian: James’s Story

I’m James, a resident of Ottawa, Canada, and an EB-5 investor. My journey towards the American dream began with a desire to provide better opportunities for my family, a larger labor market, and improved living conditions. The EB-5 visa seemed to be the most secure way to obtain a Green Card, offering a sense of certainty that other visas couldn’t.


Why We Made an EB-5 Investment

My family and I have spent considerable time in the United States, with many relatives residing there. We were educated in the US and have always contemplated the idea of moving there. After consulting with several attorneys, we decided on the EB-5 visa as it seemed the most secure way to obtain a Green Card. The EB-5 visa process is straightforward, with few interim steps and no need to reapply. As long as the job creation standards and requirements are met, and the forms are filed in a timely manner, a permanent Green Card is almost guaranteed.

Our decision to immigrate to the United States was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. It was a process that took several years of serious contemplation and research. The EB-5 program in the United States had lapsed for about nine months, from mid-2021 to early 2022, which further delayed our plans. However, we used this time to educate ourselves on the different visa options and the technicalities involved.

Choosing an Immigration Attorney

One of the critical decisions in this process was choosing a knowledgeable attorney. We interviewed several attorneys, most of whom seemed very knowledgeable and experienced. However, considering the long-term nature of the EB-5 process, we decided to go with a firm instead of a sole practitioner. We wanted the assurance of a firm backing up our filing and the collective brainpower and experience of more than just a single attorney.

We eventually chose an attorney from an immigration firm who had handled hundreds of applications and had a deep understanding of the EB-5 application process. The attorney was responsive, available, and intimately involved in the actual application writing. We felt comfortable speaking with him and trusted him to guide us through this life-altering decision.

The most complex and technical part of the application was determining the source of funds. We spent over a month discussing the various options and finally decided on an intrafamily loan arrangement as it was the easiest to document. The compilation of the documentation took about a month, and the rest of the application process took another month or so. The entire process, in our case, was approximately three to four months.

My advice to any potential EB-5 investor is to find an attorney who specializes in the EB-5 space and has handled many applications. Choose someone you have a rapport with, who can respond to you in a timely fashion, and who is known in the EB-5 space. Recommendations from credible people in the space can also be beneficial. Remember, this is more than just a financial investment; it’s a life-altering decision.

Choosing an EB-5 Project: The Research Process

I’m an attorney with extensive experience in the real estate industry. I’ve been involved in various aspects of it, including commercial and industrial development, as well as residential development. My experience in these fields helped me make an informed decision about which EB-5 project to invest in.

I started by narrowing down my search to the top 10 regional centers in the country. From there, I began to examine the various projects these centers were offering to potential investors. Some were infrastructure projects, others were reliant on tax incentives from the government to be efficient. However, I decided to focus on real estate projects, given my background and the current economic climate.

After considering several attractive and well-structured projects, I settled on the Twin Lakes project. I believed that, given the economic uncertainty caused by factors such as the COVID pandemic, the ongoing war in Europe, and tensions between China and the United States, residential projects would be the least risky.

The Twin Lakes project appealed to me for several reasons.

Firstly, the demographics of the project looked promising, with an aging population and a location in the Southeast, a growth area in the United States. Secondly, I appreciated the inherent flexibility of residential development projects. Unlike projects such as office buildings or hotels, where the entire building is constructed and the funds are expended at the outset, a residential home development allows for the construction of homes to take place as sales come along. This flexibility allows the developer to respond to economic slowdowns, making it a less risky investment in potentially recessionary environments.

Furthermore, the Twin Lakes project is a mid-market home project, which I believed would be less affected and more resilient to a slowdown. The buyers of the homes in this active 55+ community are generally seniors, who are likely to have paid off a mortgage on their current home and have savings accumulated over their lifetime. This, combined with the reasonable price level for the homes in Twin Lakes, would hopefully make them less affected by the interest rate climate, encouraging the project to continue moving forward even through a recessionary period.

In addition to these factors, the Twin Lakes project is already well advanced, with the land purchased, all permits in place, and many of the road networks and common area facilities already built. Over 500 homes out of the planned 1,300 have already been sold, and many people are already living in the project. This is not a startup; it’s an established, viable going concern that has been selling well even in the current uncertain environment.

Finally, the Twin Lakes project is expected to extend out over the five to seven-year timeframe, which is ideal for an EB-5 investor. The funds have to be at risk for at least the entire two-year period after the conditional Green Card is received, up until the I-829 is filed. Therefore, it’s beneficial to invest in a project that won’t wrap up too soon, as the funds would then have to be reinvested in another project.

What to Look for in a Regional Center

My research led me to a shortlist of about ten major regional centers, each with its unique offerings and strengths.

My initial research was primarily conducted online, using resources like Google and YouTube. The major regional centers quickly became apparent, and I was able to identify the ones that stood out. At the same time, I was interviewing different attorneys to choose one for my case. Their insights also helped confirm my findings about the major regional centers.

The next step was to engage in conversations with these regional centers. I was impressed by the level of professionalism and knowledge exhibited by most of them. They were transparent, forthright, and honest. The materials they presented were clear and professionally compiled. They were also very generous with their time, answering questions and explaining the different investment options they had.

However, one regional center stood out for me: EB5AN.

Unlike the others, I had the opportunity to speak directly with the principals of the firm. Their quick responses and willingness to engage directly with me were commendable. Moreover, EB5AN seemed to be pioneers in educating investors through video interviews and explanations. They provided a list of questions that should be asked by any investor to any regional center, which I found very helpful.

EB5AN’s availability, educational materials, and industry involvement gave me confidence in their expertise. Their academic backgrounds, experience, and successful track record were impressive. They had completed or were undertaking approximately 15 projects, all of which had been accepted by USCIS. Their longstanding relationship with Kolter, a well-recognized, experienced, and well-capitalized professional real estate development firm, was also a significant factor in my decision.

The EB-5 investment process is a long one, and the regional center’s role doesn’t end with the investment. They need to be diligent and timely in the I-829 filings, which is why I appreciated EB5AN’s infrastructure and experience. I was confident that they would be there to help with the filing when the time comes.

When it came to the Twin Lake project, I was pleased with the level of expertise EB5AN demonstrated. They were able to answer my specific questions and educate me about the job creation requirements and the complex subscription documents. Their professionalism, knowledge, and experience gave me a sense of confidence and trust in their firm.

The EB-5 investment process is not just a financial decision; it’s a life-changing one. It involves moving to a new country and starting a new life. I appreciated that EB5AN understood this and provided as much information as possible to help with the decision. Their human touch and genuine concern for the investor’s well-being were evident and important to me.

In terms of potential conflicts of interest, I appreciated that EB5AN represented the investors in the project, not the developer. This eliminated the possibility of any conflict of interest. Their primary responsibility was towards the actual investors, which was something I valued.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, my advice to future EB-5 investors is to educate yourself about the process, take your time in picking an attorney and a regional center, and start thinking about the source of funds early on. Go with experience, history, and a track record. Trust your gut and build relationships. The EB-5 investment process is a journey, and it’s important to have the right people by your side.