More than 95% of all investments in the
But how does an investor know which Regional Center to invest in? As a general rule, we are able to provide comparative
To make the selection process easier, more detailed Regional Center information is provided below.
What are the financial risks involved with the Regional Center investment projects?
All investments are risky by nature and the Regional Center projects are not exceptions. Under the law, the Regional Center cannot guarantee profit or the return of the principal investment.
How do the Regional Centers work?
If a Regional Center project is located in a TEA, then the minimum investment amount is $500,000 and the jobs must be created in the TEA. Regional Centers have the important benefit of being able to count both direct jobs (e.g., construction) and indirect and induced jobs (e.g., suppliers of construction materials, job creation resulting from spending).
After USCIS approval, the Regional Center usually sets up a limited partnership or limited liability company for an individual project (it can set up numerous entities for various projects within one Regional Center geographic area). The limited partnership has a general partner, usually affiliated with the
In general, there are two types of projects:
- the limited partnership offers equity ownership in a project, usually a real estate project, and each limited partner receives a share of the profits according to a percentage stipulated in the partnership agreement; or
- the limited partnership provides financing to a corporate third party (e.g., real estate developer, hotel chain), usually with some guarantee and/or collateral offered, and each limited partner receives interest on the loan.
The loan model greatly predominates because the overwhelming majority of
How to choose a Regional Center project?
Because of our longstanding
Because of the increasing popularity of the Centers, particular projects may sell out quickly, with new ones offered on a monthly basis. On the other hand, there are scores of new Regional Centers with no track record.
What exit strategy is usually offered for my investment?
In a financing arrangement, the loan to the third party is offered for a defined period, usually 5–6 years, after which the debtor is obliged to pay off the principal amount of the loan. It is at that point the investor receives back his principal. In an equity arrangement, the investor’s share can be sold after a certain period, usually 5 years.
Where can I find a list of Regional Centers?
A list of Regional Centers can be found on the USCIS website at this link: www.uscis.gov/
What questions should I ask the representative of the Regional Center?
The terms and conditions under which an investor will invest in a Regional Center are governed by the legal documentation. It is critical to understand that these terms and conditions vary depending on the Regional Center. We may assist you in this process or you may retain a 3rd party consultant to assist with due diligence. In any event, the investor should be asking the following questions:
Is an Escrow Account used? If so, what are the terms of the escrow? Some freeze the funds until there is an approval of the petition; some freeze the funds until a certain number of investors’ petitions have been approved by USCIS; some do not use an escrow account. Some may seek to gain your authorization to release funds from escrow because of pressure from the borrowing company, which does not want to wait for the funds.
What are the terms of refund in the event of petition denial? Within what timeframe are the funds returned? Some refund the entire sum transferred ($500,000 + administrative expenses). Some only return the $500,000. Usually the funds are returned within 30–90 days; some may delay a refund until a new investor is found.
What happens if the petition is approved but the visa is denied? It is possible that USCIS approves the petition, but at the consulate, the investor receives a denial on an admissibility ground (e.g., criminal, security, medical). Some refund the entire sum; some refund $500,000; some will refund depending on the reason for the denial; and some may not refund at all.
2. Management Company
Who will be managing the investment on a
Who are the individuals at the company with whom you will be interacting? Do any of them have a criminal record? USCIS does not carry out background checks on the managers of Regional Centers.
What is their
Will the management company allow you to use your own
Is the management company willing to meet with the lawyer and/or financial advisor of the investor?
3. Carrying on of Business
If the project is
Could the investor be subject to a cash call (required to put up additional sums, beyond the $500,000)? For example, if the real estate business plan calls for finding and leasing out the commercial space to tenants, what happens if no tenants are found? Who will pay for the cost of maintenance? Taxes?
What is the investor’s role in the business? Is there an annual teleconference? How often does the management company send out reports?
If there is any material change in the business over the
What happens if the debtor is unable to return the loan after five years? What security or collateral is being used? In a battle with other potential creditors, is the limited partnership first in line? 2nd? 3rd? What is the current balance sheet position of the debtor? Has there been an independent audit?
5. Investor Quota Not Met
What happens if a project does not fill up, i.e., attracts fewer investors than stipulated? Is another source of financing available? If a project does not commence operations, the
6. Condition Removal Stage
Will the management company prepare the documentation necessary for the condition removal petition? Will the investor have to pay an administrative fee for the documentation? What will the management company do if the condition is not removed? A project manager cannot guarantee return of invested funds if the condition is not removed, but can take steps to ensure that the investor can liquidate his investment.
7. Exit Strategy
What is the exit strategy? For debt arrangements, the strategy is usually to receive payment of the principal of the loan after a certain period of time (5–6 years). At that point, the proceeds are distributed to the investors (limited partners). For equity projects, at what point may an investor sell his share? What is the market for his share (usually part ownership in a particular real estate project)? How easy/difficult will it be to find a buyer? What assistance will the management company provide in finding a buyer? Will the value of the share appreciate or depreciate?
8. TEA — Targeted Employment Area
For investors in a Regional Center to be eligible for the reduced investment sum of $500,000, the enterprise must be located in a targeted employment area. A targeted employment area must be rural (population less than 20,000) or have an unemployment rate 150% of the national average at the time of filing the petition. The former is easy to prove; the latter may not be. The critical issue is how to define the area (census tract, city, county, ward, political district) and whether more than one area is aggregated to reach the 150% national average. Does the Regional Center project aggregate areas to reach the 150%? Has the state issued a designation letter? How recent are the unemployment statistics? It must be noted that during the course of attracting investors to a particular project, the TEA status may change: at the outset — for example, investors #1–45 — the project is qualified as a TEA; a year later, after the release of new employment statistics, the project may not qualify as a TEA for investors #45–50 ($1 million needs to be invested). This shift in TEA status and subsequent sums required from investors may also implicate other legal issues.
9. Project-Specific Issues
Just because a Regional Center has been approved does not mean that this particular project within the RC has been. USCIS can
What is the investor’s place in a current project? The place of the investor in the project can be important because newly created jobs are usually allocated in chronological order: the first investor is allocated the first ten jobs created, the second investor is allocated the second ten jobs created, and so on. Thus, it is of benefit to not be one of the last investors in a project in the event of a job shortfall. While this issue should be obviated by adherence to the business plan and adherence to the job creation methodology utilized, the issue can nevertheless become relevant at the condition removal stage.
10. Job Creation
What job creation methodology is used by the Regional Center project? How many direct, indirect, and induced jobs are being projected? What is the projected surplus of jobs beyond the minimum number required for all investors? Does the RC also count jobs created because of leverage (without the investment of the RC other investment would not flow. Because the RC invested, another funding source has also invested, and the RC counts jobs not only from the
If you would like assistance in screening out potential Regional Centers and