By David Hirson, Esq. and Mona Shah, Esq.
If this month’s EB-5 & Global Immigration Expo in Ho Chi Minh City were any indication, Vietnam is brimming with candidates for this program—a welcome sign as the entire EB-5 industry bubbles with curiosity about the upcoming U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) engagement. Indeed, speculation on the subject has become so intense that many practitioners are convinced the agency will at least partly turn over a new leaf with regard to procedural clarity and stakeholder communications.
“There is a sense that USCIS is becoming more open to interacting with stakeholders, which likely will fuel greater interest in the EB-5 program as a viable, investor-friendly option for attaining permanent residency in America,” said David Hirson, Esq., Managing Partner, of David Hirson & Partners, LLP, and Co-Founder of Gravitas Strategies and Compliance, LLC. “This is especially important at a time when countries such as Portugal and Ireland are closing up shop on their golden visa initiatives. Prospective immigrant investors in Vietnam, already subject to a substantial application processing backlog at USCIS, are particularly keen on accessing the market stability, potentially faster processing time, and solid ROI that the U.S. brings to the table under the latest EB-5 law. The EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (“RIA”) provides for faster processing of new cases in rural areas.”
Such sentiments were evident at the expo, held by eb5 Investors Magazine and Uglobal from April 4-5 at the InterContinental Saigon. Garnering approximately 900 registrations in total, the event attracted developers, regional center representatives, migration agents, and immigration attorneys, as well as investors—who showed up in greater numbers than in the past. The expo, however, adroitly accommodated the crowds, with attendees networking among the myriad exhibits while partaking of the various presentations and panel discussions (of which the morning installments were packed, even reaching standing-room-only levels).
These sessions offered a mix of guidance and potential solutions for both local and international initiatives. Among them were “Vietnamese Investors 101,” which covered global mobility options, solutions for fund transfers, and key factors to consider for applications and program selection; “VIP Panel – Migration Agents,” which addressed trends and considerations for the global migration industry in 2023; “EB-5 Routes,” which tackled expedited options for investors and developers, including concurrent filing, adjudication trends, the E-2 path, and smart project selection; and “EB-5 Project Considerations,” which covered successfully selecting and moving forward with EB-5 investments and best due diligence strategies.
A carefully curated selection of speakers bolstered the event. They included Hirson; Lulu Gordon, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at EB5 Capital; Trevor Anderson, Director of EB-5 Financing at HomeFed Corporation; Matthew Galati, Principal at The Galati Law Firm; and Abteen Vaziri, a Managing Director at Brevet Capital Management—all of whom participated in a panel, moderated by Hirson, titled “Promoters & Projects Under RIA.” (This panel covered the requirements for filing I-956K forms for agents and what to disclose, as well as the new rules for EB-5 projects). Other experts who spoke at the event included Daisy Andall, a Partner at Joseph Rowe, and Trudi Hoang, Founder and Managing Director of Citizen Pathway.
Top of mind was the USCIS engagement, which generated conversations about the likelihood of the fee increases prompting litigation if the amounts are not decreased fairly. Some observers speculated as to how the effective date and the probable rush to file by the new deadline would play out. The consensus: Although the traditional cautious pessimism is in order vis-à-vis the prospect of USCIS making any substantive improvements to EB-5 processes, one can assume that the engagement is at least a step toward more open communication.
“This is undoubtedly a positive, because the industry has not had this type of close relationship with the agency for many years,” said Hirson. “If the engagement is successful, it could lead to more—perhaps a regular, ongoing series of open discussions. USCIS can only get better if it continually fosters dialogue with stakeholders.”
A responsive USCIS also is a selling point in a country such as Vietnam, whose aforementioned backlog of EB-5 cases is sizable. Hirson noted that for the most part, attendees seemed undaunted by the wait times and other logistical complications that typify the experience for applicants from the country. They were, on the other hand, encouraged by the prospect of faster adjudications and the streamlining of case processing going forward.
“The expo was about opportunities, not obstacles,” noted Hirson. “People were there because Vietnam remains an integral market for EB-5. That isn’t likely to change, even if the engagement elicits no transformative USCIS action to mitigate delays, fees, or other inconveniences. But it is probable that it will.”
Simon Butler contributed to this article.
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