EB5 Business Plan Guide for Direct Investors
Immigration adjudicators are just like immigrant investors.
They want to know their work will lead to something great.
Convincing them of this is the main purpose of the EB5 business plan.
The Employment-Based Immigration Fifth Preference, better known as EB-5, is a United States immigration visa and green card program that can ultimately lead to citizenship. The program allows for entrepreneurs or investors, their spouses, and unmarried children under the age of 21 to travel in and out of, reside in, attend schools, and work in the United States. About 2500 investors are granted EB5 visa is every year. This expands to the 10,000 visa cap when the families of these investors are added. This visa program has become popular with citizens of China and India as the United States does not have a treaty with those countries that allow for E2 opportunities. EB5 Business Plan is a requirement for a successful EB5 petition.
An EB5 application is an attractive option for investors that qualify, but substandard business plans submitted with the application could put the immigration process at unnecessary risk. A great EB5 business plan will ease the approval of the I-526 (Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur). It does this by addressing the requirements of the program as well as demonstrating the likelihood of the downstream I-829 (Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status) approval.
Before we explore the elements of a business plan geared for EB5 success, let’s refresh our understanding of the characteristic traits of an EB5 eligible business.
- The business must be located in the United States.
- The business must employ people eligible to work in the United States.
- The business must effectively use capital in a way that empowers employee growth.
This last part is tricky in that you can use EB5 capital to purchase inventory or equipment, but not to buy land or an existing real estate property. EB5 capital could be used to improve the existing property in such a way that it would create jobs. This could take the form of more office space or manufacturing equipment. Essentially the investment must be spent on an activity that creates jobs. This last part is tricky in that while you can use EB5 capital to purchase inventory or equipment, you cannot use EB5 capital to buy land or an existing real estate property. EB5 capital can, however, be used to improve the existing property in such a way that it will create jobs. This could take the form of more office space or manufacturing equipment. Essentially, the investment must be spent in a way that creates jobs.
The actual investment must be at least $1 million (or potentially $1.2 million with the pending H.R.5992).
The investment must be made prior to submitting the I-526. This could also mean that the investment amount is placed in escrow. Keep in mind that escrow deposits must be no longer in the control of the investor. Most investment agreements contain some kind of language that says that the investment amount will be placed into the business after the approval of the I-526. The investment is returned to the investor if the approval doesn’t happen.
Currently, the investment amount can only come from family members. This may change with H.R.5992, but we certainly hope that pending language is removed. Today it is a common occurrence for 10 individuals to transfer funds into a domestic account on behalf of the investor to overcome international transfer limitations from China.
That investment hurdle can be lowered to $500,000 (or potentially $800,000 with the pending H.R.5992) if the investment is made in a Targeted Employment Area.
A Targeted Employment Area is a region designated as follows:
- A rural area with less than 20,000 people
- A metropolitan statistical area or subset with an unemployment rate >1.5x the national average
This sounds simple, but the real opportunity is in the details.
Different Types of EB5
There are essentially three different types of EB5 investments. Investing in a Regional Center, making a direct investment with a pool of other investors, or investing in a domestic company on your own (someone else’s company or your own).
- A Regional Center is essentially an investment immigration fund. A Regional Center can fund several projects. Dozens, and often times hundreds, of investors, make their investment into a non-controlling entity within the regional center typically through some kind of debt structure. Due to their large scale and federally mandated mix of domestic fund sources, Regional Centers can benefit from economies of scale and even economies of labor. Since these business plans have their own unique concerns, we will focus solely on direct and direct pooled EB5 investments.
- Direct EB5 investment is just as it sounds: an investment the EB5 applicant makes directly into a company. Direct investments are typically made through some kind of equity structure. For example, a single investor may make a $1 million investment into an American company in exchange for 10% of the company valued at $10 million dollars*. An entrepreneurial investor could also choose to invest at least $1 million into their own domestic company.
- A Direct Pooled EB5 investment is much the same. In this case, multiple immigrant investors invest in the same company. Using the same example above, five investors that each make a $1 million investment into a company valued at $10 million would each receive 10% equity*.
*I have used a very simple equity example above. Most investor equity situations will be a bit more complex and could involve several rounds of investments using different company evaluations.
You may be thinking:
“I could use a business plan geared towards investors for my EB5 visa”.
You would be wrong.
Joorney has covered Matter of Ho requirements and their importance to the EB5 program in the past. I’m going to explore and expand on a few of them to illustrate their significance to the I-526 approval through effective use in an EB5 business plan.
This should start with a detailed description of your target market and prospective customers. Who would buy what you have to sell, why do they need it, and what purpose does it serve? This is a crucial starting point of your market analysis as it frames how you will serve targeted customers and who your competitors are. This section should include names of competing businesses and their products or services.
Although much of the business plan is a document based on internal speculation, it is very important to point to an external industry report for your marketing analysis. Joorney Business Plans are based on IBISWorld reports.
Now that opportunity, overall market, and competitors have been clearly defined, it is time to go into detail about how you will capture more than your fair share of this market. A detailed SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis is also great.
You have already named your competitors. Now it is time to see how you will stack up. If your competitors are not precisely targeting or well aligned with your target market, this is your opportunity to illustrate that.
Let’s be honest. Some things you can’t do well or there are large obstacles to overcome. If you are starting with 0% market share against one or a few large incumbents, that is a weakness you should reveal in order to be credible.
What makes your company, product, or service unique in a way that has its own advantage? Perhaps you have a better solution. Perhaps you have a better cost structure. Perhaps you have a better or more direct channel into the market. This is the part where you will qualitatively describe how the company knows what it is doing.
Is there a possible technology or change in regulation that would put your venture at risk? Could a misaligned competitor copy your positioning and take over? These possible threats are risks, and revealing risk is actually vital to an EB5 business plan. You have to show that you realize success isn’t guaranteed.
Marketing strategies may also get into customer channels and pricing outside of the SWOT analysis. An adjudicator may explore this here or skip it to dive into your financial projections.
Both the Market Analysis and Marketing Strategy should be used effectively to give your EB5 business plan credibility.
Manufacture, Production, or Service Process
How will you do the thing you plan to do? This is your opportunity to clearly state how your company operates to produce a profit. A simple table with a fixed cost and operating cost is great. Explore WHO & HOW will work to produce profitable value rather than diving too deep into your fixed and variable cost structure. Remember that you need to invest to create jobs. This is the section that will show the importance of those jobs to a profitable business.
Here is where you describe the executive team’s experience, staffing requirements, and a timetable for hiring to achieve growth. A simple table with employee job descriptions and staff number requirements by year are great. The key is to highlight the total number of jobs created in the next two years as this is a requirement for EB5 investments.
Although a regional center can benefit from indirect and induced jobs, jobs for a direct or direct pooled EB5 investment must be direct. This means actual employees in the United States that receive a W-2 and verifiable through an I-9 audit.
Take into account that you will need to add at least 10 direct employees per EB5 investor in about 18 to 24 months after the I-526 is approved so that they may apply to remove the conditions on the green card. This is the time for the I-829.
Part-time employees are fine but recognize that these will be partial jobs. 20 part-time jobs could be more or less considered 10 full-time employees depending on the number of hours worked. This is one reason that investing in a restaurant is tricky in that most jobs are part-time. Proving the full-time equivalent number of jobs is also tricky at the I-829 time.
Although permanent part-time employees may count at a reduced rate, contractors do not count.
Both the Process and Organizational Structure should be used effectively to show your EB5 job creation.
Permits, Licenses, Contracts, Leases, and Initial Purchase Orders
You need to show that you are aware of the required state and federal regulations to operate your type of business and that you have already received this approval or are actively planning on seeking that approval upon funding of the business.
Upstream supplier contracts and downstream purchase orders are also great. Again, if you do not have them, illustrate where you are going to go get them.
Describe your initial quote or bill of sale needed to purchase property or plant equipment. The same holds true if you need to lease office space or other facilities that are appropriate for your business.
Briefly describe any lengthy documents while pointing the adjudicating officer to the appendices that contain the full evidence.
Your five-year projections are fixed based on a few assumptions, but what if those assumptions are incorrect? If the adjudicator does not believe your assumptions, then the adjudicator most likely will not believe your projections and therefore may not believe that the business plan is credible.
A feasibility assessment, sometimes called sensitivity analysis, is a method of identifying the most influential points of your financial projections and showing how small changes can affect the overall outcome. Typically, this is through changing your projected demand, variable costs, and overall fixed costs. A lower demand, smaller margins, and higher operating costs will cripple any business. The feasibility assessment will show at what point one or all of these will hinder your business.
The Permits, Licenses, Contracts, Leases, and Initial Purchase Orders as well as the Feasibility Assessments should be used effectively to enhance your EB5 business plan credibility.
An EB5 investment plan must describe risks the venture will encounter.
Your business plan should not be the cause of risk.
An EB5 business plan must be believable and credible.
If you do not show how it is credible, you are leaving it up to the adjudicator… which is not a strategy Joorney recommends.
Partner with the team at Joorney to write your EB5 business plan. Not only does Joorney have the fastest turnaround time in the industry, your plan will be written to exceed the expectations of adjudicators at the time of I-526 and I-829.