March 20, 2015
Jeanne Calderon and Gary Friedland have posted A Roadmap to the Use of EB-5 Capital: An Alternative Financing Tool for Commercial Real Estate Projects. The paper provides a great overview of a relatively new source of funding for real estate deals. The introduction opens,
From an immigrant’s perspective, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program (“EB-5” or the “Program”) represents merely one of several paths to obtain a visa. The EB-5 visa is based on the immigrant’s investment of capital in a business that creates new jobs. However, from a real estate developer’s perspective, the immigrant’s investment to qualify for the visa creates an alternative capital source for the developer’s project (“EB-5 capital” or “EB-5 financing”).
Despite the Program’s enactment by Congress in 1990, for many years EB-5 was not a common path followed by immigrants to seek a visa. However, when the traditional capital markets evaporated during the Great Recession, developers’ demand for alternate capital sources rejuvenated the Program. Since 2008, the number of EB-5 visas sought, and hence the use of EB-5 capital, has skyrocketed. EB-5 capital has become a capital source providing extraordinary flexibility and attractive terms, especially to finance commercial real estate projects. Consequently, many developers routinely consider EB-5 capital as a potential source to fill a major space in the capital stack. As the financing tool becomes more widely known and understood, this source of capital should become even more popular.
The EB-5 investor’s motivation for making the investment accounts for the relative flexibility and favorable terms afforded by EB-5 capital compared to conventional capital sources. Unlike that of the conventional capital providers (such as banks, private equity funds, REITs, life insurance companies and pension funds), the EB-5 investor’s reason for making the investment is to secure a visa. Thus, his primary objective at the time of making the investment is to satisfy the EB-5 visa requirements. Consequently, so long as the investor believes that the investment will qualify for the visa and result in the safe return of his capital, he is willing to accept a below market, if not minimal, return on the investment. Furthermore, the investor might not require some of the other protections that more sophisticated, conventional real estate investors typically seek.
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Simply stated, the Program requires that the immigrant make a capital investment of $500,000 or $1,000,000 (depending on whether the project is located in a “Targeted Employment Area”) in a business located within the United States. The business must directly create 10 new, full-time jobs per investor. Thus, the number of jobs that a project will create is a key determinant of the amount of the potential EB-5 capital raise. (3-4)
This once exotic funding technique is now becoming quite mainstream. Of interest to some readers of this blog, the paper describes at various points how EB-5 funds have been used in residential projects. The paper is a useful introduction for those who want to know more about this program.