Select Highlights of the Interview with Sid from India
EB-5 Investor in the EB5AN Twin Lakes Rural EB-5 Project
Full Interview with Sid from India
EB-5 Investor in the EB5AN Twin Lakes Rural EB-5 Project
Transcript of the Full Interview with Sid from India
Why Did You Make an EB-5 Investment?
My name is Sid. Me and my wife, we are originally from New Delhi, India. We were born and raised there. Obviously, I met my wife much later in life.
My bachelor’s was in law, so I was a lawyer for about two years in India. And after that, I joined an entertainment management company where I was working with movie stars in India for about three to four years. I was basically a celebrity agent there. Right towards the end of that, sometime before I left that job, I had met my wife who was at that time doing her dentistry course from UCLA, and she was already in the US. I’m talking about 2016.
2016 was when I came here, then we got married, and in 2017, I permanently moved to the US with her. Initially, she got the H-1B visa and started working in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at a dental clinic. Then, I moved here. We’ve been here since 2017 in Milwaukee with her on the H-1B. Her company had sponsored her green card through EB-2.
But for a lot of people whose country of birth is India, the green card backlog for EB-2 is really huge. So the backlog, if nothing is done and the law does not change, can take up to 50 years or maybe even more than that. I don’t even know the actual number, but the estimates are 50 to 90 years for us to get an EB-2 green card. Now, we’ve been here since 2017. I did my master’s in IT management and am currently working in Molson Coors Beverage Company as a data architect, but I got in through an H-4 EAD. So, I have the work permit, and I’m not on H-1B: I’m just on a work permit here.
Being on H-1B or H-4, you face different hardships from time to time because you have to go through renewals every three years. Automatic 180-day renewals for H-4 EAD just came into play. But before that, you could file for your renewals six months before your EAD expired. If you were lucky enough to get your EAD, you would get it. Otherwise, you’d be out of a job.
There were a lot of uncertainties which we were facing. Like I said, we’d been here a long time. We were part of the community, and the opportunities that the US offers are basically second to none. The job opportunities and career growth opportunities that you get over here are pretty much unmatched anywhere in the world. That was the reason why initially we moved to the US and decided to stay here.
We did reach out to other attorneys just to see if EB-1 was an option either for me or my wife, but it really was not because you need to have extraordinary abilities. That’s what we were told—extraordinary abilities, top of the field in your profession, and you need to have some publications, being a member of some high profile groups, etc.
That was something that was not feasible for us. We did try going through that route, so that was definitely something we looked at. But that didn’t work out.
After that, we were pretty certain that we were probably going to either move back to India or move to Canada. We did get Canadian permanent residence, and we did go there. We did explore the Canadian market, and honestly, it’s not the worst. I think the opportunities over there—the standard of living, and career opportunities—are probably better than India. India obviously is up and coming. But again, nothing matched to the US.
That was pretty much our backup option, and we did look at that. But eventually, we decided to go ahead with EB-5. I think I spoke about this to you and to Mike as well, that EB-5 was an option. My dad was pushing me towards it for the longest time.
For the longest time, I had this false sense that it was all a scam. I kept staying away from it because I would go online type, “EB-5”, and get—obviously the updates on the news and stuff—but it’s really easy to go online and read everything negative about EB-5. There have been projects that have not gone well. There have been people who were basically scam artists, and there were deals which just went south, but these were far and few.
But I think, at the end of the day, any project can go south, but you have to do your due diligence and try to work with a group of people, do your own background research… If the US is where you want to be and there are no other feasible options for you to remain in the US or come to the US, then EB-5 is definitely a very realistic possibility.
My dad had been pushing me to go ahead with this process for quite some time, but I started seeing that there was a backlog initially for Indian nationals. There was a backlog of EB-5 applications. I think now they’re backlogged to 2019 under the old scheme. But last year after the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 came into the picture, things changed, and it was almost like a shot at getting a first mover’s advantage. Things sort of changed, and I’m pretty sure that the Chinese, Indian, and maybe a couple of other EB-5 markets will be pretty saturated and backlogged. That was something that I realized.
But to answer your initial question, what happened was I saw an email (because my dad had signed me up for all these email blasts regarding EB-5) that said, “If you apply now, you can get your EAD, and there are no backlogs for Green Cards for Indian or Chinese nationals. You can get your EAD and travel permit as soon as within a year.” Something like that. Timelines go up and down. If somebody’s saying one year, it might or might not be true. I don’t know. Hopefully, it is true. That is what caught my attention.
After that, the first thing I did was to familiarize myself with the EB5 process. This was last year, I think about four to five months ago. I started familiarizing myself with the whole process. I had a full-time job, so I could not devote my whole time to researching EB-5. But I would research a little bit every now and then because, once I got to know that the RIA had just come into the play, I knew that the backlog would eventually happen, but not for a few months. It would still take some time, so I did have some time to go through it.
That is one of the reasons why, when my dad was pushing me towards EB-5, I kept telling him, “You want to do the research, you do it. Because I know for a fact that if I get into doing the research, I will spend a lot of time on it.” And at that time, I did not have the bandwidth to do so.
But I think the process that worked for me was the bottom-up approach. I did not know what a regional center was. I had no idea what an EB5 investment was. Was it just an investment? Was it $800,000? Was it $900,000, or $500,000, or did it go up to $1.8 million? I had no idea how it worked.
Somebody even suggested that I start my own dental practice. But that comes with a completely different kind of risk.
I started doing a lot of research on how these things actually work. I did not go through any agent or anything like that. I started reaching out to regional centers on my own, just a simple Google search for EB5 regional centers. You’ll have a bunch of names pop up, and then you can go through the news articles and see which regional centers have been in practice, and for how long. What has their track record been? Do they have any online reviews and stuff like that?
Again, it’s not the easiest to find because I still think that a lot of people who are moving to the US from abroad in non-English speaking nations have… It’s not the easiest to get in touch with them. So I know for a fact that once you’re here, and you know a lot of people are already here who are on the H-1B visa, so you go online and you can find a plethora of communities, but to find the EB5 community was not the easiest thing. So the only thing you can do is just read up as much as you can and research as much as you can. And obviously, things can go wrong. It’s not that your research can be 100%, but the more you read, the more knowledge you gather.
And then I started reaching out to regional centers. I spoke to probably all the top ones. I don’t even remember a single good regional center I had not spoken to. The approach I took was that I would approach each meeting with a completely blank slate. I realized that after every meeting, I would learn something new because it was a completely new industry for me. I’m not a finance guy. I don’t know how real estate development projects work. All I can do is reach out to people who have been doing this and who are in the business. I can reach out to them, ask questions, and learn as much as possible.
So that’s what I did, and I started learning about the projects. Initially, I had no idea how. I think the first meeting that I had was with a regional center that explained to me what a capital stack was. That was the first time I heard of the term “capital stack.”
Then, I started looking more into it. I would make a note of every bit of information that I didn’t know or that sounded alien to me, and I would go back and research it more. I started reaching out to family and friends in the US who were aware of the real estate business, who were maybe even remotely linked to real estate or who had been in the US for a long time. I tried to understand what they made of these [EB-5 projects]. “Does it seem legitimate?” For me, that was the most important thing, to see how legitimate a project or a regional center or an immigration attorney was.
I started asking them, and I started showing them different capital stacks and showing them conversations that I was having with other regional centers. It was a lot of information overload, but that was the process that I went through. I think it took me a few months.
I believe that the amount of time the whole process deserves is considerable because it is such an important decision in your life. I don’t think you can just make a decision quickly, unless you’re a multimillionaire and can throw away $800,000 at something. You could probably throw it away at a couple of projects, and something will stick. I’m sure that a lot of investors will either be selling their land back home or using their earnings to fund this project. For me, it was important to do as much research as possible and talk to as many regional centers as possible.
Also, something that I learned during my time as a celebrity agent was to mention other regional center competitors while talking to a regional center, and gauge what they had to say about the other entity. When you talk to a regional center, they will always give you only the pros. You will not hear about the cons unless you ask the other party. Then you can go back and cross-check if what you were told is true or not. It’s important for investors to have honest and open communication with the regional center and attorneys they’re working with.
Selecting an EB-5 Project and Regional Center
Like I said, I ended up talking to pretty much all the major regional centers: CMB, CanAm, EB-5 Capital, EB-5 United, Pine State, Golden Gate Global. Nothing against anyone. All of them were super helpful. I think Civitas as well. All the regional centers were really helpful, really informative. My conversations with them were really informative. I would ask them a lot of questions, and they were always pretty upfront about answering them.
But I think it’s a really peculiar combination that has to fall into place. A, that the regional center you work with, you have to be comfortable with it. And apart from that, the project that they’re offering at that time—it may be a great regional center, but maybe they don’t have a very lucrative project. That doesn’t mean that the regional center is bad. That just means that there aren’t enough projects in the market at the time. And coming from an Indian-born rural background was something which I was looking at. I wasn’t completely sold on, “You know what? I’m definitely going to go ahead with only a rural project,” but it was obviously something that I was on the lookout for. A rural project is going to be beneficial just because of the 20% set-asides that they have right now.
Those are two things that I was looking at. Another thing I was looking at when evaluating regional centers and projects was the capital stack. How much money is the senior loan? How much money are the developers putting in place? How much money is the EB-5 capital going to be? In my opinion, you want to go with a project which has about 40% to 50% senior funding. They have the developer’s capital, and a small amount of EB-5.
I think something also worked in our favor in the past. I might be absolutely off here, but my understanding is that the earlier interest rates that projects were getting in the US were lower. So, getting on board with EB-5 capital was not something that was always extremely lucrative for any project. But I think, because of the current market situation, getting a lower interest rate is really difficult. So EB-5 capital automatically becomes lucrative. This means that earlier projects that were not getting funded by banks would turn to EB-5 capital, but I think that was a red flag. It’s a red flag in my opinion that a project is not getting the required funding. If the bank does not think that this is a good enough project, then why would anybody else?
But I think in the current market, some really good projects have also turned towards EB-5 capital because they end up saving a little bit when it comes to interest rates. I spoke to a lot of regional centers, and looked at a lot of projects, and there are a lot of good projects out there for sure. I went with Twin Lakes because I thought that my money would be the safest there, but there are other great projects as well. And I think EB5AN has another great project in Saltaire, which is a really good project, definitely. Again, for different reasons, which we will probably go into later on, I went ahead with Twin Lakes. For me, long story short, Twin Lakes was a good project that was already being constructed, a good project with developers who were reputable and had a good track record, and a regional center that had a good track record who had been in the business for a while and that was responsive and willing to answer most of your questions. Because, if you’re spending $800,000, you are bound to have a lot of questions. That is what led me toward EB5AN.
There are two aspects to the EB-5 process: Your investment capital coming back, and the green card, you’re applying for. For me, it was really important for the job creation to already be there, because you never know how a project is going to go. But if the job creation is already there, you at least know that you’re getting your green card.
That was something really helpful for me. Twin Lakes had—and Sam, this is something that piqued my interest initially and that you and Mike confirmed multiple times—all the required jobs for all the EB-5 investors in the Twin Lakes project had already been created. So, if your source of funds is clean, there should be absolutely no reason why you do not end up getting a green card and, depending on where you’re coming from, continue to live in the US or move to the US.
As part of my research on the project, I ended up visiting a few projects because I wanted to go to the ground level and see what they were actually talking about. Seeing pictures is one thing, but when you actually go there and you get the feel of things is when you understand what a project is all about. We went to Atlanta to look at the Twin Lakes project. We did not go there as EB5 investors. We went there as potential clients looking for a house for our parents to move into. So we went close to Atlanta, actually. It’s 50 minutes from Atlanta. We went to the actual project location.
And when we went there, we were pleasantly surprised at how well the project was already doing because it was almost like walking into a project that was a few years into the process. There was construction work, which was still going on on one side of it; there are 1,300 homes to be built. I think they have about 300 homes already there. So, there’s still a lot of construction that’s going to happen. At least that was definitely there. It doesn’t seem like the construction is going to stop anytime soon.
The community was already there and there were people living there. And when we went to the information center to look, when we told them that we were investors and we wanted to look at the houses, that experience was extremely good because we were taken through the project. The Kolter representative who was at the location was really helpful. He spent about an hour with us answering all our questions. He took us through some of the previous projects that Kolter had built and how successful they were.
It is very obvious to us that this is a formula that has worked in the past. The chances of this formula working again are only higher, higher than the rest. And the age group that they’re targeting, which is 55+, that community already has the money. Also, they don’t have to take out a huge amount of loans because this is not very, very expensive housing. This is good, reasonable housing for people who probably already have the money. They don’t have to take on a huge amount of loans, so the interest rate’s not going to bother them. These are people who are living in cities, but now obviously, they’re 55+ and they want to live in a community with people who are in the same age group. They want to live in a community where they have similar activities that they can do with people who are in the same age group. Like I said, it seemed like a pretty safe bet.
So that is why I think we were already interested in the project before we went there, but once we were there, we were pretty certain that this seemed as legitimate as possible. Hopefully, as the projections say, they’ll be completely sold out by ’27, ’28; if they’re sold out by then, amazing. What better can a project do for an EB-5 investor?
And some of the houses we saw—because they took us through some of the model homes—they were pretty decent. They were pretty good. The houses, when we went there, we could see the appeal which it would have for people who would want to live there. They’re pretty neat houses.
What Was it Like Working with EB5AN?
I think my interaction with EB5AN was really positive. Again, I’m not just saying this because it’s your interview. I spoke a lot with Mike, and he was really, really good to work with. Same for you. Everyone was really responsive. I would get a response through email or through text message as fast as reasonably possible. It’s not that I’ve dropped an email, I’m just waiting for a couple of days for a response. So the response time was excellent. The transparency was really good. I remember asking for a lot of documentation with regards to the developer and different letters. I sent a huge list of questions, which I wanted in writing, that told me exactly whether “this” had happened; how many projects had you structured to date? How many projects have had rejections? I did have that questionnaire answered, which was really good.
And the surprising thing is that one of the other regional centers never got back to me with the answers. So I have no idea what they were trying to hide, but that was a clear red flag for me: if you’re not getting back to me with clear cut answers, that means something’s amiss.
Overall, my experience had been really, really smooth. It seemed from our conversations, everything was matching up. Everything was pretty open and honest communication. That’s exactly what I was looking for.
Concluding Advice for Investors
One thing is that, I’m not sure how many investors know about this, but from what I hear the application fee is going to skyrocket pretty soon. So I think from $4,000, it’s going up to $11,000 or something like that.
Definitely, the fees are something you want to be aware of; the more you delay, that’s an additional cost, which you can probably avoid right now. And trust me, with regards to all the costs and everything, I think you would want to save as much as possible. This is definitely, definitely something that you might be able to save on, because a few months down the line, you never know. Probably this will come into law, the fee expansion will become law. You’ll be spending more than almost three times the current amount of the fees. And I’m pretty sure by the time I get to file my I-829, the fee structure will be there. So I would be spending a huge amount of money over there. Yeah.
That is one thing. The fee structure is going up. Second, the backlog is definitely going to be there for some of the countries, so you have to be very, very cognizant of that fact. If you are investing, again, like I’ve repeated multiple times, do as much research as possible. I know, I mean, it’s really difficult to dedicate all your waking hours on this, but try spending as much time, this is probably one of the most important decisions of your life, so try spending as much time researching as possible.
You see a lot of negative articles out there, which is also fine. But I would encourage you, if you see a negative article, reach out to the regional center— or if you can reach out to someone from the project, great, but I don’t think that’s possible. But you can reach out to the regional center, who has that negative article about them, and just ask them, “What happened over here?” And you’ll be surprised that you’ll get an honest answer, because they do own up to that. There’s no hiding. Some projects will go south. So that is absolutely fine. And again, the negative articles sensationalize the whole thing. They will just turn around and say, “Oh, you know what? The whole EB-5 program is a scam. So many people lost money.” Well, another question to ask, is, “People lost money, but at least did they get their green card?”
At the end of the day, your money is supposed to be at risk. There’s no guarantee that you’re supposed to get your money back, so it’s a risk that you’re taking. But at the end of the day, did they get their green cards? That is another question which you would want to ask. Investors would ideally want to prepare a set of questions, just as many questions as possible, and share that with all the regional centers that you’re talking to, and see their responses and compare their responses. You also want to do due diligence on the developer, to see what their track record has been. Have they ever defaulted on loans? What has their performance been during some of the tough economies like the 2008 economy, or during the COVID period? How did they respond to such market changes? Because you keep hearing about the fact that there’s a recession coming. So what happens if there’s a recession? Will your developers still be good with the project? Will they still stand by the project? And will they allow the project to suffer?
These are some of the important questions you want to ask, some of the important questions that you want to ask the regional centers. It’s really important to interview as many attorneys as possible, and with attorneys, at the end of the day…. I think if the attorneys are filing EB-5 petitions on a regular basis, there’s hardly anything… I mean, they can obviously go wrong, but 90% of them would still be able to file and get approval if everything is in order. But it’s really important because it’s a really stressful time, because it’s a huge amount of money you’re investing. You want to talk to an attorney who is responsive and who gives you the responses and answers to all the questions that you’re asking. Because, trust me, if you are stressed about something, and if you ask the attorney and you’re getting response after a day, those 24 hours are going to be pretty stressful. You’ll want to avoid that as much as possible.
You want to have an attorney who is responsive in that sense. Obviously, they’re not going to be at your beck and call, but at least respond to your questions within an hour or two. Those are some of the suggestions that I would give to future investors.
Absolutely. And I forgot to mention one other thing that really helped out with you guys: that Mike was able to break down the whole finance part of the project and really explain to the minutest detail how the project was structured and how we were going to get the money back. When were we expected to get the money back? Nobody’s saying that we are getting the money back, but if everything goes well, when do we get the money back? As I said, I’m pretty new with all these complex deal structures, but you and Mike did a great job at explaining, making things extremely simple and just explaining it in the best possible manner.