Guest blogger Samuel B. Silverman of EB5 Affiliate Network breaks down the largest EB-5 markets by investors’ country of origin
Each year, the Department of State publishes the Report of the Visa Office, which provides information about the number of visas issued in each category, including EB-5 markets, for the previous year. A review of these reports for the 2016 to 2020 financial years, focusing on each country’s percentage of the total number of EB-5 visas issued, shows us which countries’ investors have taken advantage of EB-5 the most.
Established EB-5 markets are often the best sources of EB-5 capital, in terms of not only demand but also local knowledge of the EB-5 program and existing infrastructure such as marketing and broker networks. Before choosing a market in which to source EB-5 capital, business leaders should learn more about the unique aspects of each of the five largest EB-5 markets.
From FY2016 to FY2020, most EB-5 visas were issued to Chinese EB-5 investors, despite a visa backlog that began in 2015. Although the percentage of EB-5 visas issued to Chinese investors decreased from 75% in FY2017 to 46.9% in FY2020, Chinese applicants still dominate EB-5 visa issuance statistics.
In the December 2021 Visa Bulletin, the cut-off date became current for Chinese EB-5 investors for the first time since 2015. The main cause is the June 30, 2021, sunset of the regional center program, as most Chinese EB-5 investors’ applications were based on regional center investments.
This could provide an opportunity for those making direct EB-5 investments to jump the EB-5 visa queue if they act quickly. Fortunately, for both business leaders seeking capital and potential investors seeking direct investment opportunities, the well-established Chinese EB-5 market includes a network of knowledgeable EB-5 brokers and marketing professionals.
The Indian EB-5 market can be considered a rising market, as it moved from fifth position to second in FY2019. In FY2016, only 1.5% of EB-5 visas were issued to Indian EB-5 investors; this increased to 8% in FY2019 and 17% in FY2020.
India is one of the fastest-growing emerging economies. According to global wealth intelligence firm NW Wealth’s India Wealth Report 2021, only Vietnam, China, and Mauritius outpaced India between 2010 and 2020. In that same period, India experienced growth of 63% in high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs). Statista sets the number of dollar millionaires in India at 698,000 in 2020.
Historically, Indian EB-5 investors have been more interested in direct investments than other investors, although most still invested through regional centers. Since direct EB-5 investment is currently the only option, this trend, coupled with the lower investment amount of $500,000, could see India taking a greater share of EB-5 applications.
Although India overtook Vietnam in the EB-5 visa issuance rankings in FY2019, the percentage of visas issued to Vietnamese EB-5 investors increased slightly from 7.2% in FY2018 to 7.6% in FY2019, and more substantially to 12.7% percent in FY2020.
According to CNBC estimates, Vietnam experienced the greatest GDP growth in Asia during 2020, outpacing Taiwan and China, despite the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been attributed to its handling of the pandemic and to its strong manufacturing sector and exports.
Vietnam’s economy is expected to keep growing—and with it the number of HNWIs who are ready to invest in the United States through the EB-5 program.
South Korea is currently fourth in the rankings, at 4.2% of all EB-5 visas issued in FY2020, down from 7.3% in FY2019. While this may seem like a considerable reduction, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide may have skewed more recent visa numbers.
Although economic and political stability have incentivized Koreans to remain in their country of birth in the last decade, the United States is still a popular immigration choice and home to the largest South Korean population outside South Korea. The desire to reestablish relationships with family members and friends, as well as better academic and economic opportunities, continue to motivate South Korean investors to apply for EB-5 visas.
Compared to the top four countries, Brazil’s share of the EB-5 visas issued annually seems relatively small: 2.6% in FY2020, 5.2% in FY2019, 4% in FY2018, 2.8% in FY2017, and 1.5% in FY2016. However, from FY2016 to FY2019, EB-5 visa uptake shows clear growth.
In its 2019 Global Wealth Report, the Credit Suisse Research Institute lists the number of HNWIs in Brazil as 259,000, an increase of 42,000 from 2018. This number has fallen to 207,000 in the 2021 Global Wealth Report, largely due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region. However, as economies begin to recover in the wake of the pandemic, HNWI numbers may return to their previous growth trajectory.
What the numbers can tell us about EB-5 as a whole
Data shows us that the EB-5 program is by far the most popular with investors born in Mainland China, followed by India, Vietnam, South Korea, and Brazil. With four of the top five countries being in Asia, it is thus unsurprising that more than 80% of EB-5 visas have historically been issued to investors from Asia, with South America a distant second (between 4.4% and 8.3%).
Therefore, for those seeking capital, connections and expertise in these Asian markets are highly valuable, as that’s where the greatest familiarity with EB-5 lies. There is of course great potential in other markets, but investors, marketers, and brokers in those countries might not be as familiar with the process and will require education, potentially increasing the outlay required to secure capital.
Dealing with Challenges in EB-5 Markets
Each EB-5 market poses unique challenges, often related to the movement and documentation of investment funds. The simplest solution is to seek expert advice from an immigration attorney who not only specializes in the EB-5 program but also has extensive experience working with investors from the target country.
Experience is key, as the right professional team knows the technical aspects of the capital-sourcing process unique to the market in which it operates. This can include which documentation United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is known to accept, which EB-5 brokers have excellent reputations, and which translation services effectively capture the nuances of marketing materials.
Working with experienced professionals ensures that the offering adheres to all legal requirements without dealing with time-consuming snags. EB5 Affiliate Network has helped investors from more than five dozen countries invest in the US, and we work frequently with JTC Americas because their technology helps us provide greater transparency for investors.
Together We Grow
Learn more about JTC Americas’ technology-based EB-5 solution by downloading our EB-5 Administration Solution Sheet.