Investing in the EB-5 Visa as a German National: Michael’s Story

I’m Michael, an EB-5 investor originally hailing from Germany. This narrative shares my family’s journey from Germany to the United States. I would like to help others see the potential of the EB-5 visa program as a faster path to a Green Card.


Why I Chose the EB-5 Visa for My Family

Towards the end of 2021, my family and I made a life-altering decision to move from Germany to the United States on an E-2 visa. My business had stakes both in Germany and the U.S., and the visa allowed us to oversee our new operations directly. However, this visa wasn’t an immigrant visa. That means it didn’t provide us a pathway to a Green Card or an immigration status.

After living in the U.S. for a year, our perspective shifted. My children had grown used to their schools, had made new friends, and seemed to cherish the American lifestyle. As a parent, I wanted to ensure their happiness and give them the freedom to decide their future.

The answer to our predicament was the EB-5 visa, which could pave the way to a Green Card. This would give my children the choice to stay or return to Europe.

Despite having a strong business back in Europe, expanding to the U.S. was a strategic decision. I had established my business subsidiary in Miami in 2019, right before the onslaught of the pandemic. Despite the hurdles, the travel bans, and not being able to enter the U.S. for nearly a year and a half, we still wanted to grow the business.

Our situation was further complicated when we realized that my children would eventually have to leave the U.S. upon turning 21—unless they secured their Green Cards. This was a significant factor that led us to consider the EB-5 visa.

Working with an Immigration Attorney

When it came to handling the complexities of U.S. immigration law, I was fortunate to have the support of experienced immigration attorneys. My first encounter with a U.S. immigration attorney was during the E-2 visa process, where I worked with a German attorney based in New York. The process was smooth.

However, the EB-5 visa process was a different ball game. It was considerably more complicated and required extensive documentation. We needed nearly 5,000 pages worth of paperwork focused mostly on the source of funds. The attorney who had helped us with the E-2 visa recommended that we work with a lawyer who specialized in the EB-5 application process.

The EB-5 process is very different from the E-2 process.

That’s when Anahita George, our immigration attorney, entered the picture. She came highly recommended. Despite interviewing multiple law firms, Anahita stood out. She was incredibly responsive, taking no more than an hour to reply to my questions.

Securing an EB-5 visa was an intense process. I divided the process into two phases. The orientation phase involved researching regional centers and understanding the various aspects of the visa process. This phase spanned about three to four months.

Then, came the execution phase. During the execution phase, we signed an agreement with Anahita and spent approximately six weeks gathering and translating ten years worth of bank statements from Germany. All in all, I spent about 40 to 60 hours in the execution phase.

For anyone considering hiring an EB-5 attorney, I recommend checking their reputation and responsiveness. Avoid attorneys who have vested interests in regional centers. Despite Anahita’s firm being smaller compared to others I had interviewed, she demonstrated professionalism and was prompt in her responses.

How I Chose An EB-5 Project

At the onset, my options for investment included direct investment in my existing business, investing in a franchise, or choosing a regional center. As a business owner, I was aware of the complexity of running another business, like a Burger King franchise, alongside my existing one. Also, I wanted to keep my immigration status separate from my current business, avoiding any constraints in case I decided to sell.

Therefore, I found the regional center option most appealing. I was drawn to the simplicity it offered. Among the regional centers, I was more inclined towards those offering a loan, rather than equity, due to a more straightforward exit strategy.

To choose a regional center, I evaluated around half a dozen of them. My focus was on the reliability of the project and its developer.

This is where the Saltaire project emerged as my top choice, primarily because of its developer, Kolter. They had been successfully in business since 1997 and had many, many projects (EB-5 and non-EB-5), under their belt.

The proximity of Saltaire to my location was another significant factor. I had seen the project even before I knew it was an EB-5 project because of my frequent trips to St. Petersburg, Florida. This proximity gave me a sense of familiarity and assurance about the location.

Another impressive aspect was that at the time of my investment, all apartments in the Saltaire project had been sold. Buyers were making a 30% non-refundable deposit. Additionally, all the jobs had already been created, indicating that the project was far advanced.

While deciding between rural and urban projects wasn’t a major consideration for me, the stability and financial health of the project were vital. Being located in the U.S. already, my filing process was for an adjustment of status, which didn’t alter my current situation drastically.

Among other projects I evaluated, many were also real estate projects, but none were as advanced as Saltaire. No other project had all the apartments sold, jobs created and proven, and a 30% non-refundable deposit from buyers already in place. This combination made Saltaire seem significantly less risky.

My Advice for Other EB-5 Investors

Working with the EB5AN team was a pivotal part of this journey. Trust was crucial in this relationship, given the two objectives: qualifying for the removal of Green Card restrictions and ensuring the return of investment. Saltaire seemed ideal for both, with jobs already created and apartments sold.

The importance of independence in terms of the regional center and the developer was a consideration. However, the developer’s credibility was the more critical factor for me. A defaulting builder could potentially derail the entire project. This made it crucial to choose a developer with a strong track record like Kolter.

For those looking to embark on this journey, I would suggest first deciding between a loan or equity investment. The next step is to consider the developer or company behind the project. This should narrow down the options to a handful of regional centers. Lastly, ensure to go over the contracts carefully, considering the senior loan and loan agreement between the builder and the senior lender.

A more advanced project generally indicates better chances of job creation. The earlier the stage of the project, the higher the risks, as unforeseen circumstances can always arise. It’s crucial to understand how the loan is structured, the terms, and when you can expect your investment to be returned. Good luck on your journey!