Select Highlights of the Interview with James from Canada
EB-5 Investor in the EB5AN Twin Lakes Rural EB-5 Project
We started to focus in more on the Twin Lakes project. In the event of a slowdown and a reduction in the speed of sales or the number of sales, the developer can slow down home construction correspondingly. There’s a flexibility to deal with slowdowns in the economy, which is not available for other projects.
We really liked the Kolter development company, Kolter Homes; they’ve been in business for over 25 years. I believe they’ve developed over 20,000 homes over that time. They have seen economic cycles before, they’ve been through recessions before. They have always remained solvent, repaid any capital, any loans.
A couple of things that I would note about EB5AN, your and Mike’s firm: I was very pleased to see, first of all, that you and Mike were available to respond specifically to questions with what I felt was a lot of expertise. You guys were available, you understood what you were doing. I felt that there was a level of professionalism and knowledge and experience that came through, and in the end, I had a very good feeling of confidence and trust in your firm.
Full Interview with James
EB-5 Investor in the EB5AN Twin Lakes Rural EB-5 Project
Today, we’re going to be speaking with a real Twin Lakes EB-5 project investor, a Canadian who’s graciously set aside some time to share his experience in hiring an EB-5 attorney, researching EB-5 projects and researching EB-5 regional centers. We’ll be sharing some of his thoughts on those topics.
Why Make an EB-5 Investment?
My name is James. I’m calling from Ottawa, Canada, where I reside. I have spent a lot of time, and my spouse and family as well, in the United States over the years. We have many relatives that live in the United States. Both of us were educated in the US as well and we’ve been considering, for some time, moving down to the States for several reasons. First and foremost would be opportunities for our children: economic opportunities, a larger labor market, more choices of place to live, better weather, better medical care. That’s the reason we have been considering moving down to the States. We ended up settling on the EB-5 visa option because we felt, after consulting with several different attorneys, that EB-5 is the best and most secure way to obtain a Green Card—and have the security of knowing that you will end up with a Green Card.
There aren’t that many interim steps, and you don’t have to reapply. Initially, it’s a conditional Green Card for two years, but as long as the job creation standards and requirements are met (and the forms are filed in a timely manner prior to the end of the two-year conditional process), you should be getting a permanent Green Card for your family and for any children under the age of 21 when you filed the application. We felt that EB-5 was really the most secure way of ensuring that we would end up with a Green Card and not an interim or an employment type of visa which could expire, might not be renewed—and then you might have to leave the country. That’s the reason we settled on EB-5.
No, we started considering immigrating to the United States several years ago. It’s been something we’ve had conversations about for many years; really started to look at it seriously maybe three years ago. It’s quite a long process of to educate yourself on the different visa options, and it’s a complicated technical space. I am an attorney by training myself, so I have an interest in trying to understand as much detail as I can. So, we really started several years back. Then the EB-5 program in the United States lapsed for approximately nine months: mid-2021 through, I think, March 2022, when it was reinstated. So yes, we started quite a while ago. Then, we started seriously working on picking a project and a regional center, I would say, during the last year.
Choosing an Immigration Attorney
There’s several key components and decisions an investor needs to make as part of this process of applying for an EB-5 visa. The first is choosing a knowledgeable attorney. That is absolutely critical in ensuring that you will have a successful and an approved application. So, we interviewed a number of attorneys. Most of them seemed very knowledgeable, with experience. My own personal background is working in a larger law firm, so I think there’s certain advantages to going with a firm as opposed to a sole practitioner. The EB-5 process is easily a 5- to 10-year process. From the time you file for your I-526E to receiving, it can be two or three years. Then there’s the time before you actually move down to the States. Then you have the two-year conditional period. Then, you have to apply for the I-829 90 days before the end of the two years.
So, you’re going to be working with an attorney for years, and if you go onto a citizenship application after that, it’s easily a 5- to 10-year relationship with the attorney. And during that period, things can happen to people, people can retire, people can move. Personally, I felt that I would be most comfortable working with a firm to ensure that, in the event there was some type of change over that 5- to 10-year period in the personal circumstances of the attorney we picked, that there would be a firm backing up the filing. Also, my own experience is that, when you are working in a firm, you have partners and other attorneys to discuss questions with, to bounce ideas off of. So you’re getting the brain power and experience of more than just a single attorney. You’re getting the group experience and knowledge to some degree.
I like that idea. I think it’s very, very important because of the very technical nature of the EB-5 application. Specifically, the source of funds documentation is very complex, has to be very, very carefully done. I think it’s very important that you go with a firm or an attorney, an individual attorney who specializes in immigration law and specializes specifically in EB-5 applications. So we picked an attorney, in an immigration firm with immigration attorneys with a lot of experience. This attorney had handled hundreds of applications, had seen what could go wrong, could see what type of questions the USCIS asks. He was able, based on that experience, to give us good guidance in terms of structuring the application and structuring the source of funds to be as clean and simple and documentable as possible.
We picked an attorney. Nicolai Hinrichsen is also very responsive, available quickly, happy to speak with us. He also doesn’t farm out the application to someone in the firm who is going to write it. He is intimately involved in the actual application writing itself. Also, you want an attorney that you feel comfortable speaking with where you get along nicely together; you have a nice rapport. You’re going to be relying on this person to help with a very, very… It’s more than just a financial investment and decision. This is a life-altering decision for you and your family. You’re talking about moving, you want to be with somebody that you trust and you have confidence in and that you have a nice comfortable working relationship with. And that’s what we ended up finding after talking to several very competent attorneys. And at a certain point, you get a gut feeling of comfort and the decision is made to go ahead with one particular person and firm, in our case.
Well, initially, you spend quite an amount of time looking at the various options for the source of funds, which is the most complex and technical part of the application. So, we had discussions that lasted for well over a month as to which would be the simplest, most documentable source of funds route to take. We ended up going with an intrafamily loan arrangement—that was the easiest, the simplest for us to document. It took maybe a month, six weeks to decide on the actual approach we would be using. Then the compilation of the documentation, in our case, was relatively quick.
We were able to do that over a period of about a month. I understand that, depending on the structure and the source of funds, it can take a much longer period of time, especially if you have to go back over a period of many years and retrieve bank records and property records, or tax filings for, sometimes, decades. In our case, we were able to identify a source of funds where we didn’t have to go back that far. So, we were able to compile the necessary documentation over a period of approximately a month, six weeks. And then the rest of the application: writing up the narrative, resumes of the applicant, filling out the USCIS forms. That also took another month, six weeks. So the entire process, in our case, I would say, was approximately a three-month process ( three to four months).
The most difficult part is really the source of funds and identifying what funds you’re going to use—how you’re going to structure it so that you meet the USCIS requirements for documentation. You’re relying on your attorney, who has seen hundreds of applications; you’re relying on their guidance to make sure that process goes smoothly and accurately.
Well, the first thing, in my opinion, is to find an attorney who specializes in the EB-5 space, who has been through many applications (preferably in the hundreds). So, they have seen and worked with USCIS, they know the requirements, they’ve been through it, they’re not on the steep part of the learning curve. They already have experience and knowledge. Then, of course, somebody that you have a rapport with, who can respond to you in a timely fashion, who is available for questions, and also, who is known in the EB-5 space. I think getting recommendations from credible people in the space adds to an attorney; this is also something that is beneficial to have. I would look for that as well.
Why Invest in EB5AN’s Twin Lakes Rural Project?
My background is as an attorney, but I also have extensive experience in the real estate industry myself, various aspects of it: commercial and industrial development, as well as residential development. The process was simultaneously to look at a variety of projects on the market and at the regional centers that were associated with those projects. The first step was to narrow down the search to the top 10 regional centers in the country. From that point, we started to look at the various projects that those regional centers were offering to potential investors. And we looked at a variety of different kinds of projects. Some were infrastructure projects, some of them were reliant on tax incentives from the government to be efficient. We crossed those out in case tax policy changed in the States. Most of the projects are in the real estate area.
We looked at a number of different projects. Most of them, I have to say, are very attractive, well-structured projects. Because we were only looking at the major regional centers with a lot of experience, most of the projects that they had seemed like solid, good projects with good players, good developers. There are solid projects, but there are differences. We ended up settling in on the Twin Lakes project because we felt that, given the economic climate right now, residential projects would be the least risky.
Right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty, stock market uncertainty. We had the COVID pandemic, which led to supply chain issues and inflation and the response by the government to increase interest rates dramatically. We have a tragic war going on in Europe right now, with the uncertainty created by that. We have problems in Asia right now and a strain between China and the United States over Taiwan. So there’s a lot of uncertainty, and there is a lot of concern that we are going to be (or are already) in a recession. How is that going to affect the business generally, and what effect will that have on any new commercial enterprise or project that will be invested in for the EB-5 investment?
With that background, we started to focus in more on the Twin Lakes project. First of all, the demographics of the project look good: an aging population to some degree. The location of the project is in the Southeast, which is a growth area in the United States. There are some areas where people are leaving: the West Coast, for example, California. And a lot of people moving from northern regions down for better weather, especially as they get older, and for better tax environment, in many cases.
The demographics looked good for Twin Lakes and the Southeast, in general. The location looked good. There’s something about residential development projects that really appealed to me, and that I understand as having been involved in them myself: there is an inherent flexibility the developer has to respond to slowdowns in the economy or upturns in the economy. This may not be available with projects such as, for example, an office building or a hotel where the entire building is constructed and the funds are expended at the outset. If the economy slows down, and in the case of an office, let’s say rental slowed down, or in the case of a hotel, if people stopped traveling as much—the financing costs, the interest costs, the operating costs of a project like that are more or less fixed. The project is waiting for better times to return, and the developer has to carry the project through those times.
With a residential home development, there’s initial expenses for land, putting in the initial infrastructure, the roads, the utilities, the access, there’s marketing that has to be set up. All of that goes in, but the actual construction of the homes that can take place as sales come along. So, in the event of a slowdown and a reduction in the speed of sales or the number of sales, the developer can slow down home construction correspondingly. There’s a flexibility to deal with slowdowns in the economy, which is not available for other projects. That was one of the primary reasons why we went with Twin Lakes, given the fact that we are in potentially a recessionary environment. For sure, we’re in an environment where interest rates have gone up dramatically compared to where they were a couple of years ago. Twin Lakes also is a mid-market, I would say, home project. It’s not a luxury home project. I think the feeling we had is that it would be less affected and a little bit more resilient to a slowdown.
The buyers of the homes in the active 55+ community, generally seniors, they probably have paid off a mortgage on the home that they are in now. They have savings presumably over their lifetime, and given the reasonable price level for the homes in the Twin Lakes, they hopefully will be less affected by the interest rate climate. And that will encourage the project to continue moving forward even through a recessionary period. We liked the fact that it was mid-market pricing.
One disadvantage, I would say, of a project where the capital investment has to be made at the outset by the developer (let’s say the construction of a large resort project, a hotel project, an industrial building, or an office building) you generally cannot build half of a hotel or half of an office tower or half of a condo tower. You’re going to build the entire project, and you’re going to incur the capital expense of that. And then you have increasing interest rates, depending on what your capital stack looks like and how your projects have been financed. In most real estate situations, this involves senior and sometimes additional levels of lending.
An increasing interest rate can have a very significant financial impact on the project; the developer now has to carry a much higher interest expense on a much larger amount because the entire project has been built. At the same time, you may be having a slowdown in demand for the service offered by that project. In the case of a hotel, people may be slowing down some of their discretionary spending, they aren’t traveling as much, so you’ll have fewer customers, fewer reservations, room bookings. In the case of an office, there may not be expansion, there may be layoffs—in fact, as we’re seeing in many areas right now, in the tech sector, for example. Similarly, companies are not expanding into more industrial space, they may be contracting, so not taking up all that space that has been built, all those rooms that have been developed, all that office space that has been built.
Absolutely, there’s a risk factor associated with interest rate increases and possibly, a corresponding recessionary environment with a project where all of the, or the vast majority of the capital expenditures, are made at the outset of the project. With many of these projects, let’s say a resort, you don’t have to flex their operation intensively. For example, a hotel operation requires a certain level of staffing and maintenance and marketing. It’s really more or less fixed in terms of the operating expenses associated with that type of project, and it’s less easily controlled. You can’t really slow it down once it’s open.
So, you have more flexibility. The developer has a lot more flexibility with a residential project to slow down the construction and tailor the construction to the demand at any particular time. The project may extend out further than was initially anticipated, but that’s okay, as long as it gets done eventually. And the developer’s not carrying excess financing charges because the capital and the entire project had been built at the outset. For Twin Lakes, It’s a 1,300-home project. They aren’t going out and building all 1,300 homes at the outset. They build the homes as they receive sales.
The rural project designation would probably have less impact for a Canadian such as myself than, let’s say, somebody applying from either India or China, where there is retrogression and there’s a backlog. The set asides for the rural project visas are really, really critical to them. For someone coming from a country where there is not a backlog, probably, it is less of a critical factor to try to choose a rural project. However, USCIS is giving what they call priority processing to rural projects. So there probably will be some benefit to an application even coming from somebody in a country without retrogression and backlogs, such as Canada. Maybe we’ll end up getting the I-526E approval six months to a year earlier. But six months is still a significant amount of time. So that was a consideration.
We were happy to invest in a project that we liked anyway, where, if anything, the timeline would be a little bit sped up for us. For an investor going into the EB-5 visa process the number one priority (from my perspective), is that the application is accepted, that the conditional Green Card is received. And that the job creation requirements are met, so that when the I-829 application is filed, the permanent Green Card will be received by the investor and their family. That’s the most important element, and the most important part of that is to ensure that the job creation requirements are met. So, we really like the Twin Lakes project, from that perspective, because not only is it rural and has the priority processing ( and hopefully, we’ll get the conditional approval faster), but the job creation requirement for the 50 EB-5 investors has already been met.
So, the job creation is already in place. And whatever happens with the project, after our investment, we should be receiving the conditional Green Cards. When we file the 829 two years after coming down to the States, we should be able to already satisfy the job creation requirements and receive that permanent card. That is the primary objective that we have in going through this visa process. The secondary is to ensure that your capital will be returned to you. We felt that the Twin Lakes project has a very, very good chance of having that take place for a number of reasons. Of course, to comply with the USCIS rules, the funds have to be at risk.
There cannot be a guarantee that the money will be returned. So you try to find a stable project, where the greatest likelihood is that the capital will be returned to you after all the job creation requirements are met. Especially in terms of real estate, where experience and expertise and having a good track record are absolutely critical. We really liked the Kolter development company, Kolter Homes; they’ve been in business for over 25 years. I believe they’ve developed over 20,000 homes over that time. They have seen economic cycles before, they’ve been through recessions before. They have always remained solvent, repaid any capital, any loans. They have the experience to weather economic storms. They have the experience of having developed partnerships with contractors.
This is not their first rodeo. They are experts. They currently have, I believe, approximately thirteen or fifteen 55+ [age-restricted] active adult communities under development. They have another one that’s (I don’t know if it’s finished yet or it’s close to being completed) in the Atlanta area right now. So, they have a formula that has worked over a number of years for literally thousands of homes. They have many of these types of project in active 55+ communities under development right now. So, you’re dealing with a firm that has experience, has the marketing know-how, and are well capitalized. They’ve been through tough economic times before. They know how to respond. They’re experts. That’s something that we really liked about Twin Lakes. Another thing we liked is that the project with 1,300 homes is already well advanced. The land has been purchased, all the permits are in place. Many of the road networks and the common area facilities such as the Clubhouse, the Pickleball Center, all of that has already been built.
They have already sold approximately 500 homes out of the 1,300. So, the project is already an established, viable going concern. They have already built, I believe, in excess of 250 or 300 homes. There are many, many people living in the project. This is not a startup at this point. This is a project that already has a track record, and they have been selling well through this past year and through the interest rate environment that we’re in—or a possibly recessionary environment or uncertain environment. They’re succeeding right now in that environment. We like the fact that it’s not a brand new project on paper; this is a project you can go and visit. You can see reviews about it, they have a track record. It’s a successful project; they’ve sold almost a third of the actual planned homes.
The project has all of its financing in place. There’s a great senior lender in place. The EB-5 is actually a relatively small part of the overall capital stack, which is, I think, a benefit. There is a lot of information right now. I did not go down to Atlanta to visit the project, but there is so much marketing information out there from Kolter, from EB5AN, and also on YouTube. Generally, the different projects in Atlanta real estate are showcased on YouTube, so you really can get a good overview and a look at the project as it’s being built right now online. I don’t think it’s necessary [to go in person]. Of course, it’s always great to be able to go and see something in person with your own eyes, but watching videos of people going through the project and talking about it over an extended period of time—that is very helpful.
For somebody who lives maybe even further away than Canada, let’s say somebody in Asia, it may not be feasible or easy for them to travel and visit the project in person. But there’s a lot of information available online right now that they can educate themselves. Also, the type of interview that I’m giving you: you have a number of them, Sam, that you’ve posted with other investors in the project. You learn from those investors and their experiences. I believe a number of those individuals have, in fact, actually visited the project, so you can hear about their experience. The fact that they invested, obviously, lends support to your own decision to go forward with the project.
The main reasons [for investing in Twin Lakes]: (1), Kolter is experienced, knowledgeable, a long track record, in this type of project; (2) the demographics of the project growth in the Southeast, in the 55+ market; (3) the fact that much of the infrastructure is in place, the common areas, many hundreds of homes built, over 500 homes approximately already sold. All of those things gave us a lot of comfort that this project will actually go through to completion and be successful. Another factor that I should mention is the sustainment period and the redeployment of capital.
The investors’ funds have to be at risk for, at a minimum, the entire two-year period after the conditional Green Card is received—up until the I-829 is filed. In some of the other projects we looked at, the projects look like they might actually be wrapping up in the next few years. I actually see that as a disadvantage to an investor because the investor cannot receive their capital back until they get their conditional Green Card and have held with the conditional Green Card for the two-year job creation period. That is probably somewhere between five, six years total.
You don’t necessarily want a project that’s going to wrap up in the next two or three years—what happens then is the funds have to be reinvested in another project. The funds would still need to be at risk. So, what project will those funds go into? That’s going to be up to the regional center, at that point, to decide. Presumably, you’ve picked a project after analyzing and looking at all the various options. Ideally, you’d like to see your funds stay in that project for the duration of the sustainment period.
So, the Twin Lakes project is expected to extend out that five to seven-year timeframe. And that is a good thing; you don’t want to have the capital come back too soon. And if it does come back, I believe it will be reinvested in another Kolter project with financial guarantees as to loan to value in that project ratio. So, if the project sells out and the money is returned for some reason, it will go into a similar type of project with Kolter. Kolter has been in business for 25+ years with over 20,000 homes built. That was another reason we liked Twin Lakes. That’s why I think it’s important to go with a development where the developer is going to be a going concern and will be in business. And in the future, in case there is a redeployment of the capital, at least you have an idea that it’s going to be with a credible, experienced developer—hopefully the one that you already have decided to make an investment with as the initial investment.
Absolutely. That was, as you put it, the icing on the cake. That was not a motivation to go with the project. We liked the project for the other reasons: the developer experience, the demographics, the location, the fact that the project is already established—in my view, a successful project right now. The fact that it’s a residential real estate project that has flexibility, where the developer can respond with flexibility to a slowdown in sales, in a recessionary environment. The rural and priority processing aspect was, as you said, just icing on the cake.
Initially, we did our research in terms of the regional centers, and I believe there are many, many hundreds that are registered with the USCIS. But if you start to look and do your research on the internet through Google or YouTube, the major regional centers will quickly become apparent. So, once we had identified what we felt were the major regional centers, at the same time we started to interview different attorneys to choose an attorney. We also got confirmation from the various attorneys as to which are the major regional centers.
At that point, we started to have conversations with the different regional centers, and I have to say that we were very impressed with most of the regional centers we spoke to. The people that we had the opportunity to speak with were knowledgeable, generally. They were helpful. There was a level of transparency that we appreciated, and forthrightness and honesty. The materials that were presented to us were professionally compiled. They were clear, the different regional centers were available in a timely fashion and available. Very giving of their time to answer questions, to explain the different projects that they had as investment options. So, the experience was pretty good, of talking with the major regional centers.
A couple of things that I would note about EB5AN, your and Mike’s firm:, in most cases, with the regional centers, we did not actually speak with the principals, the owners, or the founders of the firms. We were talking to very knowledgeable senior people, like VPs of sales. Very knowledgeable people, but not with the actual principals themselves. So, having the opportunity to speak with you directly and easily; you returned calls quickly, emails quickly, I was really amazed. I really appreciated that. I also find that EB5AN has… I see that some of the other regional center centers are starting to follow suit, but from what I can tell, you guys were really the first in the space to make an effort to help educate investors through a whole variety of YouTube interviews and explanations.
For example, I know that you have (and this was very helpful to me) a YouTube video with a list of questions that should be asked by any investor to any regional center about the projects that they’re proposing. We used that list of questions that you have made available to everybody in the space as a template for asking questions—not only about the Twin Lakes project but about the other projects that we looked at as well. So, I think you guys have provided educational materials for people who are looking at EB-5, are working to become educated in it, and are looking to selecting a project for their investment. I really appreciated that, even having the interviews (I don’t want to call them testimonials) from past investors in some of the projects that you’ve done. That has helped us to understand the type of questions that should be asked, how other investors are viewing the various projects, the type of things they’re looking for.
So, I found that the materials that are available through your firm have been very helpful to us, not only in analyzing your project, but in looking at the other projects. Your availability, the educational materials, the fact that you are a well-known, recognized participant in the various panel discussions. You are involved with the industry at an overall level that I appreciated. I looked at your academic background and Mike’s academic background and was very impressed by your experience. The fact that your firm has been in the space for, I believe, over 10 years at this point, where you have over several thousand investors, where you have seen projects through from the initial I-526E approval through to the I-829, the final Green Cards.
You have a number of projects, approximately 15 projects that you’ve already completed or are underway. So, you have a track record, a successful track record. They have always been accepted by USCIS. The fact that you have, I believe, approximately 10 projects, something like that, that you’ve done with Kolter—there’s a working relationship with a well-recognized, experienced, well-capitalized professional real estate development firm. That relationship, all of those factors, give us a lot of confidence in going forward with EB5AN. Also, as I was saying about picking an immigration attorney, it’s a long relationship. The investment is not the end of the relationship that the investor has with the regional center. Then, it takes years, generally, to get the I-526E approval, the conditional approval, and then a couple of years after that until the I-829 is filed.
The regional center has to be very diligent and timely in the I-829 filings. I believe it’s a 90-day period over which that has to be done. So, the investor is relying on the regional center to have a good infrastructure in place, to be diligent and to be set up properly, to answer any questions and to help with that I-829 filing. Considering your firm’s experience and the number of projects, I have confidence that EB5AN will be there to help with that filing when the time comes in, approximately, five years from now.
When I started to develop specific questions regarding the Twin Lakes project, I was very pleased to see, first of all, that you and Mike were available to respond specifically to questions with what I felt was a lot of expertise. I spent quite a bit of time with Mike questioning the economic analysis, which is what the job creation requirements are based on. The RIMS to economic analysis model, I had to become educated about that. I really wanted to feel comfortable that the job creation requirements had already been met for the investors. You guys were definitely able, over a series of conversations, to educate me regarding that and to leave me with a very comfortable feeling that the critical aspect of the application as already in place.
I also felt that there were complex documents, subscription documents, that were explained to me clearly over a number of different conversations. You guys were available, you understood what you were doing. I felt that there was a level of professionalism and knowledge and experience that came through, and in the end, I had a very good feeling of confidence and trust in your firm.
It’s an important financial decision. Of course, $800,000 is a significant sum of money, but it’s much more than that. This is a life-changing decision for an investor in their families. They’re talking about moving to a new country, starting a new life. I would say the concern and the interest you have for the investors and the fact that this is a big life decision for them, not simply a financial investment—that has come through in your approach. And I appreciate that you understand the importance of this, and as you’re saying, you want to give the investor the most information possible, the most to help them with that decision.
You’re caring concern, frankly, at a human level, for what the investor is doing for themselves and for their family. That has come through and that was important to me. Relationships are important for me. I do, to a certain degree, go with a gut feeling on things. Same thing with picking an attorney. I needed to find somebody that I felt I had a good rapport with, that I felt was concerned, cared—as well as being professional, an expert and having expertise. That human contact and element was really important to me, and that’s something I really appreciated from dealing with you and Mike.
The regional centers that we looked at are all legitimate, and I believe they’re quality companies. I do appreciate the fact that EB5AN is representing the investors in the project. Their client base, first of all (with the specific projects) are the investors. It’s not the project itself or the developer of the project. So, I have appreciated the fact that there is not even the possibility for some type of conflict of interest to arise because you are specifically representing the project investors and not the developer.
At the same time, you do have a longstanding relationship with Kolter Homes. You have had multiple successful projects with them and have projects ongoing with them right now. So, I think that’s really nice that there is a great working relationship that will hopefully continue into the future between the regional center and the developer, but still the fact that your primary responsibility is towards the actual investors, as opposed to the developer. That’s something that I do appreciate.
Well, there’s such a long history of contact, connections between Canada and the United States, so I did have a little chuckle over that. He actually went to an old alma mater of mine. One of the schools that I graduated from, he also had graduated from. I did notice it. Did it have an impact in terms of our decision? Probably not, but it was good. I did have a good chuckle.
Well, the first thing is that an investor should take the time to educate themself about the space, about the visa process. There is a wealth of information available online right now, and I spent months and months of my spare time watching videos, reading articles, and learning about a fairly complex and technical process. So, give yourself the time to do that and put in the effort, because I think that you will understand and feel more comfortable as a result. Hopefully, you will make better decisions. The three critical decisions that have to be made: first of all, picking the attorney. We talked about that. Take your time, interview different attorneys, and you’ll eventually get comfortable with a particular attorney and make that decision. That’s very important. Pick somebody with experience, as we talked about, who’s done it hundreds of times, who is a specialist in immigration—and EB-5, specifically. Take the time to research the different regional centers and speak to them.
They are very open and forthcoming, with a lot of material, and you’ll become educated about the process of doing an EB-5 application. You’ll also, obviously, learn about the regional centers themselves so that you can select one. You’ll also learn about the various projects that are out there. My own advice: go with a major regional center that’s going to be around over the life of this investment and the life of your visa application, which can extend 5, 6, or 7 years. You want to go with somebody with a track record, with a good infrastructure that has done projects before, that has seen projects through the completion, that has had investors go through their I-526Es, that has had I-829s processed.
Go with a major regional center that has the experience. The other thing to start thinking about, early on, is the source of funds. If you want to try to shorten up the time period to get the application prepared, start thinking about the source of funds. Start looking at the various options for your source of funds, and start thinking about and working on compiling documentation: bank records, tax forms, property records, whatever’s necessary. There can be a lot of legwork involved in putting together the materials. Start putting all of that information together as early as you can, so that when you finally are ready to go forward, you’re going to save some time.
My main advice: go with experience, with the attorney, with the regional center, with the project or the project developer. Go with experience and history and a track record. That’s very important. And then go with your gut. Hopefully, you’re going to meet some really great people, the way I have. And you’re going to get comfortable. There is an element of trust that you are going to need. The funds do need to be at risk, which means that you are trusting in people and you have to get comfortable. At a certain point, you try to go with your gut based on your research. That’s my advice.
Concluding Advice for Investors
Well, the first is I think I would try to develop a list of questions that you prepare. As I said, you have a video or an article with a template of questions, and there may be others out there. Develop that list of questions and make sure that you get responses to those questions. Write them down for each project that you are looking at. Make sure not to be shy to take the time to speak over a lengthy period of time, in many conversations, with the different regional centers regarding the projects that they’re currently offering. You will not understand the project on the first go around. It’s a process. There are complicated legal documents. You’re going to go through them. If you take the time and put in the work, the meaning of the different documents and the structure of the project will become clear.
You’ll be supported in developing that understanding by speaking about your questions to the regional center. If you encounter a regional center that does not respond to you quickly or is not available to take the time to explain things and to answer questions (and many follow-up questions), I would probably not want to go forward. I would not feel that I had enough education about the project. There are good marketing materials out there on the different projects. Most of the projects that are out there are credible, legitimate. Hopefully, they will all succeed. If you have somebody that is involved in business (maybe specifically in the real estate industry), whom you can talk to and run things by, who can take a look at the project overall… By all means, go ahead and do that.
But the regional center should be able to guide you through. Still, develop your questions and ask them and write them down. If you want to become educated, you will have to put in the work, wherever the project is located. You’ll have to say, “I’ve got a project that’s located in (let’s say) Wisconsin. Let me study Wisconsin. What’s going on in Wisconsin, economically? What is the forecast? What are the demographics of the project I’m looking at?” You have to almost analyze the business. And you can do that. The materials are out there to do that, but you’ll have to put in the work.
I guess one approach to help augment that research is to look for proven results. A project that is planning to rent hotel rooms or rent apartments in an area when it gets completed—versus a project like Twin Lakes, which has already proven its business model with hundreds of home sales. That can help an investor get comfortable with the idea that yes, this project will be able to sell homes at this price point in this particular area because they’ve been doing that already—they’re likely to continue.
Yeah, absolutely. First thing is, look at the developer, do they have a great track record? Do they have experience? And then if you can find a project where it’s not a paper project, that’s already underway, that’s only beneficial and it’s going to be an advantage. That’s one of the primary things that we liked about Twin Lakes, when we started looking at it. There have already been at that point, approximately 500 homes sold in the 1,300 home project. It’s well on its way to being successful. Is the financing in place? Is it underway? That’s the best thing, if you can find that, for sure.
I hope it can be helpful to people. Some of the interviews that I had an opportunity to watch helped me, so hopefully, I can pass it along a little bit, and add a little bit to that body of knowledge and experience that’s out there for people who are watching. It’s been a pleasure working with you, Sam, and with Mike. I look forward to continuing to work together as the years go by.