By Franklin Alli
DANIEL Ryan is the Managing Director, Emerging Markets, Atlantic American Partners, the organization behind United States Employment-Based (EB) -5 Investing Program.
He spoke to some Nigerian journalists last week on what the EB-5 program is all about, and how Nigerians, especially, high net worth individuals can key into the program and become American citizens.
What is the EB-5 Immigrant Investing Program all about?
EB-5 Investing Program is a convenient means to help potential investors across the world to secure a hassle-free immigration process to live, work, and attend school in the U.S., while also getting a reasonable return on their initial investment.
The EB-5 visa creates opportunity for foreign investors to invest in the United States and become legal permanent residents in America with a green card, along with several other benefits including the ability to travel to one’s homeland from the United States without a visa, ability to sponsor family members for a green card after becoming a citizen, access to low or no cost- high-quality primary and secondary public education; and thereafter public or private colleges and universities for participants and their children (21 years old and under, unmarried) at the same cost as US citizens. Down the road, if the applicant desires, they can apply for US Citizenship and sponsor other family members to move to and live in America.
The EB-5 visa was introduced in 1990 by the United States Congress and has since enabled a large number of families to live the American dream by granting them permanent residency through investments made in “trophy” new commercial real estate investments such as luxury hotels, luxury rental apartments/flats, and most recently; high – quality student rental housing at American Universities.
What are the conditions for returning the $500,000 invested in the program?
To begin with, in order to qualify for this programme, the applicants must t not have criminal records; so if you have a criminal record, you cannot apply and basically, it makes sense; we don’t want criminals coming to the country.
Now let me clarify what I meant by a criminal. if you get a traffic citation, that is not a problem but if you have been imprisoned, that is a criminal record.
The other thing is, you have to be able to document in writing that you have sources of funds, the sources of your $500,000.
So, presuming that the person is approved, he has no police record and has his $500,000, goes through the process and moves to America for 14 to 18 months.
Another condition is how you behave while in America, between the temporary green card and the permanent green card, it is about two and a half years period, and if you commit a crime and end up in jail you will be deported and you will lose your money.
So, you have to behave well; it is an important criterion.
After the end of the period, and you have shown that you behave properly, and have met all the conditions, we guarantee that at the end of six years maximum, you get the money back.
Out of the 600 families that have been part of the programme, how many are from Emerging Markets?
Most recently, we sign three families from South Africa, one from Nigeria, 1 from Kenya; 3 from Germany and we did a lot from China some years ago. In America, we issued 1 million Visas a year for new immigrants and out of the million, only 10,000 are for the EB-5 Investment Programme.
So, we have people from all over the world, China is big part but right now we are doing a lot in Brazil, South America and Hungary, Italy, and some parts of Europe, UK, people from all over the world who have a desire to come to America for work, study and live in America.
So, I would say in Nigeria, because your economy is the largest in Africa, my goal is to get 500 people to sign on the program.
The $500,000 investment peg is so high, do you have a lower package for the middle-class?
The law stipulates $500,000, so, the programme is not for the middle class, it is what the law says and we can’t change it. It is $500,000 and that means high net, worth individuals.
I want to highlight this important point because it came up in Accra, where a reporter said you are taking money out of our country, we need investment here; that is not true, and my reply was when you invest the money and go to America, it is not a social service, it is an investment and investment is about money, it is creating jobs and perhaps if you look at Visa lottery you can think about that but EB-5 Investing is not Visa Lottery, it is an investment that gives value. And the attraction in it is the value that you will get back your money plus the capital gain at the end of the period.
In Nigeria, do you have the number of people that you are targeting?
When I went to South Africa, I was asked that question and I replied we are targeting 100 people but we ended up with 400 people. We had over 700 responders in Accra, and I hope here in Nigeria, we are targeting 1000 responses and out of the thousand, I hope 500 that are legitimate can afford the programme.
Because of the size of the economy, Lagos State 25 million people compared to Malawi 15 million. So, I would say in Nigeria, because your economy is the largest in Africa, my goal is to get 500 people to sign on the program.
What happens if your investors have gotten the Temporary American Green Card and Visa, how do you help them to get accommodation?
Great question; First, we have a firm, an independent firm that does that for us and it is called Relocation Services Firms that help them find accommodation, get their bank accounts registered, hire apartment agents .so we refer them to a company that does that.
Can one who has dual citizenship invest in the program?
You can invest in this programme if you have dual citizenships and you have $500,000, you have a successful business in Lagos, you have a home in Lagos and you want to live and work in America and you want to educate your children in America at a school fee, purposed school fees and you still want to keep close contacts with Nigeria, you can, and that is the beautiful part of the EB-5 programme – it allows dual citizenships.