An Investment Banker Explains How to Choose an EB-5 Project: Siddharth’s Story

My name is Siddharth, and I am originally from India. In this article, I’ll be sharing my experience making an EB-5 visa investment. I believe that my background as an investment banker will help other EB-5 investors make more informed decisions—and get a Green Card without losing their invested funds.


The EB-5 Visa vs Other Immigration Options

I came to the United States in 2015 to pursue an MBA at Duke University. After completing my degree, I started working in investment banking, initially on the East Coast and later moving to California, where I am currently based.

The decision to pursue the EB-5 visa was not an easy one, but it was driven by circumstances beyond my control. In 2022, the company I worked for faced several rounds of layoffs due to market conditions, and unfortunately, I was among those affected. Moreover, the process of my employer sponsoring my Green Card was put on hold due to these unfortunate events.

With my H-1B visa set to expire by the end of 2023, I faced a dilemma. I needed to either find a new job that would sponsor my Green Card or convince a potential employer in the banking sector to support my Green Card application from the beginning. However, given the challenging job market conditions, it proved to be extremely difficult to secure a job in banking or any other industry. Additionally, I wanted to ensure that I could remain in the U.S. since my wife also resides here on a separate H-1B visa.

Although some people suggested that I try to become a dependent on my wife’s H-1B visa, this would have resulted in an H-4 designation, which does not permit employment in the U.S.

Furthermore, my wife’s immigration process was not as advanced as mine. Considering both our family and career goals, we made the decision to make the United States our permanent home and pursue the EB-5 visa.

While exploring my options, I also considered the EB-1 Green Card, which has a specific category for international managers and highly qualified individuals in corporations. However, the success rate for this visa category is relatively low, and it requires significant evidence of high-level competence in one’s field, such as having one’s name published in prestigious publications. As a relatively junior professional, the chances of meeting these requirements were slim.

Ultimately, I chose the EB-5 visa because it seemed to offer a relatively straightforward process compared to other visas. I wanted to eliminate the uncertainties and find a permanent solution to my immigration situation.

Last year, while searching for ways to extend my stay in the U.S. and maintain employment, I stumbled upon the EB-5 program. Initially, I had heard about it through news reports about the increase in the investment amount required to obtain a Green Card. However, I had dismissed it as unattainable due to the substantial investment required. Upon closer investigation and considering my circumstances, I realized that the EB-5 visa could be a viable option.

How I Found My Immigration Attorney

Finding the right immigration attorney was crucial to the success of my EB-5 application. I sought recommendations from family friends and was fortunate to come across Anahita George. I carefully researched Anahita’s background and read online reviews dating back to 2018 and 2019.

Anahita proved to be an invaluable resource throughout the process. She possessed an intricate understanding of U.S. visa regulations and was familiar with the challenges faced by applicants from India. I greatly appreciated her availability and responsiveness, as she promptly addressed any concerns and guided me through the complex process.

The entire EB-5 application process took approximately two and a half months. During this time, I devoted significant effort to researching potential investment projects and ensuring all the required documentation was in order. Gathering the necessary funds and verifying their legality was a crucial aspect that demanded one to one and a half months of meticulous preparation. It was essential to demonstrate the legitimate sources of funds to satisfy USCIS requirements.

I must admit that I underestimated the level of effort and intensity required for the EB-5 application process. The extensive paperwork and documentation demanded by USCIS were more substantial than I had anticipated. However, considering that the government evaluates applications to permanently admit individuals and their families to the U.S., it is understandable that they place great emphasis on the legitimacy of funds and compliance with regulations.

To other EB-5 investors, I would strongly advise focusing on two key factors when selecting an attorney. Firstly, seek an experienced attorney who has successfully handled several EB-5 cases, preferably for applicants from your region. Secondly, ensure the attorney is communicative and responsive, as this will greatly ease the process and address any challenges along the way.

Online reviews, especially those spanning multiple years, can provide insights into an attorney’s reliability and ability to assist with the complex EB-5 process.

Finding Safe EB-5 Project for Financial and Immigration Success

My primary goal with the EB-5 program was not just to secure my legal employment status in the U.S., but also to ensure the highest probability of preserving my investment, which was a considerable $800,000. It was not an amount I could risk on any random project for the sake of a Green Card.

My research was initially focused on understanding the types of EB-5 projects available. My internet research, conversations with recent investors, and personal understanding helped me categorize them into three types: hospitality-related, infrastructure-based, and real estate development.

In my examination, I found that hospitality-related projects like hotels and resorts were losing traction due to the rise of Airbnb. The cash flow in these projects was often unstable and seasonal, which pushed me away. The second category was infrastructure projects like charter schools and warehouses. But with charter schools having a 50% failure rate and warehouses being a risky bet (think Amazon’s ever-changing real estate strategy), I decided against this category too.

The third category, real estate development for residential projects, seemed the most promising. Here, two subcategories caught my attention: rental properties and properties for outright sale. However, I had to be selective; some projects were in areas with unfavorable macro trends, like Oakland, where population decline and high crime rates made it a risky choice.

In the properties for outright sale, low-income housing didn’t feel like a good option due to rising interest rates that could adversely impact such projects. Consequently, I focused on projects aimed at middle-income or high-net-worth individuals and properties for senior citizens or active adults.

My research into real estate trends led me to areas with promising prospects such as Atlanta and Miami. My attention was drawn towards Twin Lakes, a project in Atlanta, developed by the well-reputed builder, Kolter. But trust needs to be earned, so I dug deeper. Going through the news about Kolter, I found they had a history of returning capital to investors even during the global financial crisis. This was a strong sign of their reliability.

Visiting Twin Lakes in person was a game-changer. I could see that the project was real, and it was indeed set to create 1,300 homes for senior citizens.

My wife (who is an economist) and I did extensive research on the Atlanta real estate market, finding encouraging trends. Senior citizens, who are financially well-off due to a lifetime of professional accomplishments, seemed like the perfect demographic for this project. They have the financial capability to buy retirement homes without a heavy dependence on mortgage rates.

I felt confident that even in the face of market fluctuations, the builder’s reputation and past commitments would ensure the project’s completion and the return of my capital.

As an Indian national, investing in a rural project like Twin Lakes will also allow me to get my Green Card significantly faster.

While researching the EB-5 program, it also became clear how important it was to choose the right regional center to work with. Some had a troubling history with legal issues, while others seemed unreliable. In my pursuit, I found EB5AN. The qualifications, transparency, and responsiveness of their team, including their upfront admittance of what they didn’t know, assured me of their credibility.

My Advice for Potential EB-5 Investors

My advice to potential investors would be to thoroughly research all visa options while also considering personal circumstances and career aspirations. Find a seasoned immigration attorney who understands your specific situation and can guide you through the process effectively.

Meticulously select your investment project, considering market trends, risk factors, and return prospects. Remember, in-depth research and strategic decision-making are vital in ensuring not only your legal stay in the U.S., but also the safety of your significant investment.

Finally, see this journey as more than just a pursuit of legal status; it’s also an opportunity to participate in the American dream.