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Questions and Answers
1. What is the EB-5 Regional Center Investment Program?
In 1990, under section 203(b)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. § 1153(b)(5) the US Congress created the fifth employment-based preference (EB-5) immigrant visa category. Each year, the provision grants 10,000 immigrant visas to qualified individuals seeking permanent resident status on the basis that their investment in a new commercial enterprise will benefit the US economy.
To encourage immigration through the EB-5 program, Congress created the Regional Center Investment Program in 1993. The program specifically sets aside 3,000 visas annually for foreign investors who apply through a United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) designated Regional Center Investment Program. An investor seeking an EB-5 immigrant visa through a designated regional center must generally make a qualifying investment of US$1 million. Certain high unemployment or target employment areas (TEA) qualify for a lesser investment of $500,000. Additionally, the foreign investor must demonstrate that at least 10 jobs were directly or indirectly created through the investment.
2. Who should invest in an EB-5 regional center?
EB-5 regional center foreign investors include people from all walks of life including: professionals, business people, persons wanting to facilitate a child's education, and retirees. If your goal is to become a permanent resident without actively managing a business, it is often less expensive and more convenient to utilize the regional center EB-5 category. EB-5 regional centers will use your investment funds in active projects.
3. What is the minimum required amount of capital to be invested in order to apply for an EB-5 visa?
When you invest through a regional center, the minimum capital requirement is US$500,000 when you select a project in a rural area or targeted employment area (TEA); for all other projects, the capital requirement is US$1,000,000.
4. What is the investors’ involvement in the EB-5 regional center program?
The EB-5 regulations deem a limited partner in a limited partnership that conforms to the Uniform Limited Partnership Act as sufficient engagement in the EB-5 enterprise. However, the Uniform Limited Partnership Act, adopted by most states of the United States, prohibits the limited partner from actively participating in management.
5. If I want to move to the United States and invest in a CCFI project, do I have to live in South Carolina or North Carolina?
No. The EB-5 visa program allows you to maintain your permanent residency by living anywhere in the U.S.
6. Are EB-5 visas available to people from any country in the world?
Legally yes. However, people from countries that do not have reliable tax and other financial documentation will need to be more actively involved in proving the authentication and source of investment funds to process an EB-5 visa application.
1. What is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)?
USCIS is a division of the Department of Homeland Security. USCIS is a government agency responsible for the implementation, administration of immigration and naturalization laws, rules and regulations, functions and policies in the provision of services.
2. Where can I find a copy of the relevant law and regulations to study?
Please go to the United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) website. A direct link to investment visa information is: http://www.uscis.gov/graphics/services/residency/investment.htm.
3. Do I need my own immigration lawyer to prepare and file my immigrant investor (I-526 and I-829) petitions?
No. Every foreign investor who invests with CCFI shall enter into a separate representation agreement with CCFI’s designated attorney, a highly qualified and experienced member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
Your relationship with the CCFI designated attorney involves you entering into a separate Agreement of Representation and a Conflict of Interest Waiver with the immigration lawyer. Ed Beshara is the designated attorney for the CCFI Regional Center because of his knowledge and experience, familiarity with the CCFI Regional Center and its projects, and to ensure efficiency, effectiveness and consistency with the Immigration Petition and Application process for Permanent Residency.
The designated attorney shall prepare the I-526 Petition for you as a Foreign National Investor. Upon approval of the Petition, the appointed designated Immigration Attorney can prepare your Applications for Conditional Permanent Residency. Before the end of the two year Conditional Permanent Residency, the appointed designated Immigration Attorney can prepare for you the Immigrant Petition to Remove the Conditions of your Permanent Residency; the final step necessary for you to obtain unconditional Permanent Residency.
4. What are the processing procedures?
The foreign investor must complete three phases of the application process become a permanent US resident:
To obtain immigrant investor status, the foreign investor to submit a completed Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur Form (Form I-526) to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with supporting documentation clearly demonstrating that the investment meets all EB-5 requirements. Upon approval of the I-526 Petition, this will be the foundation for Step 2.
If the foreign investor is residing within the US and has received Form I-526 approval, he or she may obtain conditional resident status by submitting a completed Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485) to USCIS. If residing outside the US, the foreign investor must apply for an immigrant visa at a US Consulate abroad.
During the 90-day period prior to the expiration of the conditional period, the investor should file a completed Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions (Form I-829) to USCIS. In this petition, the foreign investor must demonstrate that the investment was sustained over the two-year conditional period, and the requisite jobs were created. Upon approval of the I-829 petition, the conditional nature of the green card is lifted and full permanent residence is granted to the investor and the investor’s family members less than 21 years of age.
5. What information and documentation are required?
Professional Background: You must prepare complete biographical information for each applicant and the principal applicant must prove the source of the investment funds. A résumé with copies of college diplomas and other educational certificates, if applicable, should be included. Any memberships in professional organizations should be documented. Unless the investor inherited the funds, the investor should be presented as a successful professional or businessperson with a business, financial or family history that explains the accumulation of financial net worth that is presented in the financial information. Provide as much documentation as possible that pertains to the career and achievements of the Investor.
Source of Funds: Funds for the investment must come from a lawful source. Lawful sources of funds include: profits from the sales of a property, stocks or bonds, profits from business, business transactions, gifts, and inheritances. To prove the source of investment funds, USCIS requires five years of tax returns, five years of bank records, proof of ownership in any businesses, financial statements for each business and business licenses. The idea is to present a track record of an honest course of dealing. If your capital came from a specific transaction, such as sale of a house, inheritance or gift, you must prove the transaction occurred, by providing an official document, such as a closing statement or contract or other official documents. This is not an exhaustive list of documents. Other documents may be required and vary on a case-by-case basis.
Important: All documents included in the application must be translated into English in a proper Affidavit format.
6. What is the difference between "conditional" and "unconditional" green cards?
Under the regulations, an investor who is approved for the EB-5 immigrant visa receives a “conditional” green card, which must be reissued after two years, subject to removal of conditions. Otherwise, the two cards offer the same rights and privileges. A conditional Green Card is a temporary Green Card valid for two years. One year and nine months after it is issued, a three-month window opens up during which an individual must file another application with the USCIS to verify that all of the funds have been invested and the required employment has been created. When the conditional resident status has been lifted, full resident status is granted and a permanent Green Card is issued.
7. If my I-526 petition is approved by USCIS, what is the purpose of the Consulate application and Interview, and how soon do I get my “Green card”?
Upon approval of I-526 Petition: (a) If you are residing outside the U.S. you must wait for notification from the U.S. Consulate in your home country to prepare documents for the visa interview. The purpose of this procedure is to ensure that the investor and his or her family undergo medical, police, security and immigration history checks before the conditional permanent resident visas are issued. At the interview, the consulate officer may address these issues and information printed on the I-526 application, including asking the investor to summarize the nature of his or her immigrant investment. (b) If you are in the United States, then you may apply for adjustment of status by filing form I-485, and supporting documents, the application may be filed at the appropriate office of the USCIS.
8. Can I apply if I have been rejected or terminated in the past by USCIS for an L-1, E-2, B, or other visa?
Rejection in the past does not disqualify the applicant, unless the reasons relate to immigration fraud or other grounds of inadmissibility or removability. It is most important that all criminal, medical, or U.S. immigration history problems be disclosed to the limited partnership and legal counsel in advance of application.
9. After petition approval, can members of the family interview in different countries?
Family members can interview in different countries. The country of origin or where the family has current ties is the standard interview site. Often one member of the family is located in another country, such as a student attending school in the U.S. The student does not have to return to the country of origin and can adjust status in the United States at the district office of the USCIS.
10. Who receives the permanent residency ("green card")?
Husband, wife and any unmarried children under the age of 21. It is possible for adopted children to be included in the family. Upon approval you will receive the Conditional Resident Alien Card via the mail.
11. Must I be in good health?
Yes, you must submit to and pass a health medical examination so either as part of the US Consular or Adjustment within the U.S. process before a conditional EB-5 Visa is granted.
12. Is it required that I have previous business experience or education
No, you do not need any prior business experience or have to demonstrate any minimum level of education. The only requirement is that you have the investment capital as required by the regional center and proof that the source and path of funds are legal.
13. Do I need to speak English to become a permanent resident of the U.S.?
1. What investment options do I have for consideration in South Carolina or North Carolina?
The Carolina Center for Foreign Investment deploys immigrant investor capital into statewide projects that meet program criteria, including job creation in Targeted Employment Areas (TEA), to promote job growth, spotlighting sustainable LEED® certified development opportunities across South Carolina and North Carolina. CCFI primarily focuses on the following six target industries:
- Health Services
- Tourism and Hospitality
- Manufacturing and trade
- Automotive Research
- Mixed- use development: hotel, retail, office and residential space (16-Target Industries)
2. What is a limited partnership?
A limited partnership combines corporate limited liability with partnership taxation. The limited partnership, formed by filing a charter with a state government, consists of a general partner and one or more limited partners. The charter details the rights and powers of the limited and general partners, percentages of ownership, and distributions of profits. The general partner manages the business.
The limited partners are passive investors liable only for the value of their investment. The limited partnership income is taxed at the partner level, not at the entity level.
3. How is my limited partner interest protected?
The Certificate of Limited Partnership must be recorded with the State of South Carolina or North Carolina as a public record. The Certificate refers to a Schedule A of the limited partnership agreement, which lists the names and percentage interests of the limited partners. The deed for the investment property is held in the name of the limited partnership. The deed is also of public record. This means the property cannot be sold, mortgaged or altered without complying with the terms of the limited partnership agreement.
4. Is my investment guaranteed?
No. The law requires an "at risk" investment without guarantees or redemption rights.
5. What are my risks?
As in any investment there is a risk of total loss. By U.S. regulations, all funds must be put at risk. All investors are provided with sound references to permit independent verification of the information contained in the investment prospectus.
6. Should I consult my own financial advisor before investing?
Yes. CCFI urges prospective foreign investors to please consult their own financial advisors for advice on investing through this program.
7. Why must I invest before you will apply for my green card?
Investment companies and designated regional centers accept EB-5 investors by placing funds in a trust or escrow account pending I-526 Petition approval. The funds may only be released upon approval of I-526 Petition unless otherwise agreed upon in the Offering Memorandum.
8. Can money gifted by a parent or other relative be used for an EB-5 investment?
Yes, provided that any applicable gift taxes are paid. It must be demonstrated that the gift is an actual arms length transaction and is a not a mere ruse or that the gifted funds will be given back after permanent resident status is granted.
9. Can several investors combine or “pool” their investment capital through one limited partnership?
The regulations specifically allow for pooling of funds by several investors to establish a limited partnership sufficient to qualify all participating investors. The only requirement is that each investor individually must qualify for the minimum at risk capital requirement and new job creation requirement.
10. What issues have been problematic in EB-5 cases?
The most common problem area has been insufficient documentation of the source of funds. Many people try to disclose the least possible information only to have the file returned with a request for further information. It is better to provide too much information rather than too little information. In this era of terror alerts, and suspicions about money laundering, USCIS case examiners require a well-documented source of funds.
11. Can I visit the project location?
Definitely! CCFI looks forward to coordinating your visit anytime.
12. What is the rate of return on investment?
EB-5 Program regulations and USCIS rulings require all EB-5 investments be “at risk.” As outlined in the Confidential Investment Memorandum, each investment is specific to its risk reward analysis and pro forma analysis. While CCFI cannot guarantee a specific rate of return, CCFI believes it can achieve results consistent with or exceed those of other regional centers.
13. What exit strategies will CCFI use to provide investor liquidity?
CCFI will invest in real estate development projects that it expects can be profitably liquidated, sold or refinanced within a 3-5 year period. The exact strategy used to exit each project investment will be determined based on then available options that, in the opinion of the Manager, will produce the highest risk adjusted returns to CCFI and its investors.
There are numerous exit strategies available to the Fund to provide investment liquidity, including;
- Outright sale of the property to another public or private investor;
- Non-recourse leveraged refinancing of the property and distribution to investors of the excess proceeds as “return of capital;”
- Sale of the Fund’s interest to a third party investor, including another GCMA managed fund, or co-investor or co-developer;
- Tax-free exchange or swap;
- Listing the Fund as a REIT on a public or private exchange and exchanging Membership Units in the Fund for its newly issued exchange listed shares.
Links to Additional Information Sources:
USCIS & General:
- Invest in America: www.investamerica.gov
- US Citizenship and Immigration Services: www.uscis.gov
- US Department of State’s Visa Office: www.travel.state.gov
EB-5 & Regional Center:
- The Association to Invest in America: www.iiusa.org
- AILA: www.aila.org
- Regional Center Designated Attorney: Edward C. Beshara, P.A., www.besharapa.com
- Moneycorp: Commercial Foreign Exchange: Moneycorp is a trading division of TTT Moneycorp Ltd and is a market leading international foreign exchange and payments specialist. The Company has been providing innovative foreign exchange and international payment services to both private and corporate customers for over a quarter of a century. www.moneycorp.com
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