In case you haven’t heard, EB-5 is back! On March 15, President Biden signed the Omnibus Spending Bill, which included the “EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022,” sponsored by Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). This bipartisan bill restores viability to EB-5 by reauthorizing the lapsed Regional Center Program, a component essential to the success of EB-5.
What’s different about EB-5 this time around?
While the basics of the program remain the same–foreign investors provide a specified amount of capital to development projects that create American jobs, and are put on a fast track to green cards for themselves and their families–some aspects of the Regional Center Program have changed. The Regional Center Program, which was authorized until June 2021, allows investors to pool their resources to finance new projects and enterprises. Regional centers also have different requirements for the types of jobs created by a development project.
The new bill raises the minimum investment in qualified projects to $1,050,000, except in Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) where the investment minimum will be $800,000. TEAs are areas that the program prioritizes for job creation, usually rural or areas with high unemployment–where the investment minimum remains $800,000. The new minimum investment requirement will hold for the next five years, and then will be subject to reevaluation. The bill also puts a premium on investment in rural areas by expediting visa applications for investors involved in those projects; ten percent of EB-5 visas are set aside for these investors. Infrastructure projects are also subject to lower minimum investment requirements, but do not qualify for expedited visa processing.
Regional centers are now the only way for investors to pool their resources, and existing centers will need to refile to comply with new requirements. They cannot be owned by non-US citizens, and will be subject to additional regulatory filings, multiple certifications, audits, inspections, filing fees and compliance. Experts expect that these changes will greatly reduce the number of regional centers to those who truly intend to be active in the program.
Why should developers be paying attention?
The renewed EB-5 program revitalizes a source of hard-to-find financing for new construction and development projects. We expect high-quality projects, like hotel and other real estate projects, to continue to be favored by foreign investors. The funds obtained through this program are relatively low-cost, in the six- to seven- percent range–much cheaper than typical mezzanine financing.
There’s a lot of new energy and excitement following these developments in the EB-5 program, and we see that attitude reflected in two big conferences scheduled for early April: The EB-5 & Global Immigration Expo in Miami on April 7-8 and the IIUSA Conference in Orlando on April 11-13. We hope to see you there!
More than ever, the key to successfully financing a project with EB-5 funds will hinge on finding a reliable source of financing to raise capital, and knowledgeable advisors who can help developers avoid costly misadventures. Our Global Hospitality Group® has closed $1.5 billion in EB-5 financing, and has a 100% successful track record on deals with signed term sheets.