As a group, immigration Agencies in China suffer from what Immigration Daily calls “a notorious reputation.” Many investors, most of whom do not speak English, have been defrauded by unscrupulous Chinese businessmen. Some businessmen have opened migration Agencies and have misrepresented various and sundry details about the EB-5 process and individual EB-5 projects. This has already damaged their credibility among the Chinese people.
Chinese law requires that every Agency be licensed by the Bureau of Entry and Exit Administration under the Ministry of Public Security. However, sorry to say, not all Agencies have legitimate licenses. So, the best place to search for a reputable Agency is not by contacting or visiting Agencies, it is by contacting both the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and the U.S. embassy in China. Consult the ministry for a list of dulylicensed Agencies. Don’t accept a document from an Agency that they claim is their license. People can create incredibly realistic-looking documents thanks to digital technology. If you have already begun a search by contacting Agencies directly, you have already made a major mistake. Back away and start over again.
After obtaining all the pertinent information regarding EB-5 Agencies from the Ministry, the next step is to visit the U.S. embassy or consulate. The purpose of this visit is to ascertain any issues that the U.S. government may have had with any Agency, or, conversely, which ones have, to their knowledge, operated ethically and legally, and have truly provided the intended services to their clients without bilking or defrauding anyone. Before accepting to market a given project, an EB-5 Agency is supposed to use a given set criteria to find the best business partner. In the same way, an EB-5 developer needs to have some specified set of criteria to help him/her find a reliable EB-5 Agency.
Once you have begun the third step, actually making contact with Agency heads, you will need to carefully observe their interactions with you. Especially note their apparent level of interest in your EB-5 projects. This is vastly different than observing a glad-handed welcome. It is even different than expressing their desire to see your presentation material. There is a paradigm in American culture that paying a visit to a potential client and leaving a brochure is a successful sales call. All you have done is leave material that is an expense against your company’s advertising budget. If this is the extent of your visit with an Agency, you may have gained nothing at all. You must expect to invest some time creating a real relationship.
CAUTION: It has been the practice of some Agencies to extend you the courtesy of taking your portfolio of information and using it for nothing but evidence of their association with your Regional Center or EB-5 projects so that they have an easier time renewing their license with the Chinese government. A method worthy of consideration might be to invite the Agency executives to visit the U.S. and become familiar with your project first-hand. The trip, of course, would be at their expense. Leave little more than a business card with them. If they are interested in coming, then you are probably on to something. Once they are in the States, you then have the liberty to show them the project and, providing you still feel comfortable, share the greater details.
Established EB-5 Agencies usually have associate Agencies in other cities. If you have done the work of establishing the credibility of a major Agency, you may be able to extend your reach by utilizing that network to expose your project to more potential clients.
It is not uncommon for many Agencies to claim that they are the best. Keep in mind that U.S. Federal Trade Commission laws, which require proof of that claim, do not apply in China. Note, however, that such claims will be made off the record, because Chinese advertising law forbids comparatives and superlatives. A wise place to begin your search is not to look for “the best.” Obviously, all but one of them have to be prevaricating. It would be wise to seek Agencies that exhibit integrity. It may also wise to forget the idea that “bigger is better.” The fact is, that “bigger” is only “bigger.”
CAUTION: The reason that an Agency is bigger, other than that it is located in a densely populated area, may be that is has a “good relationship” with the Chinese government. EB-5 Agencies tend to do their homework in order to stay on top of their game and improve their image, in the sense that they can “speak the EB-5 language.” In fact, Chinese Agency personnel can typically be expected to know the intricacies of the EB-5 program much better than their American counterparts.
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