A young journalism student at Northwestern University called me with some questions about the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program, generally, and specifically the pitch by an outfit in Dubai that was seeking to raise EB-5 funds in that part of the world, so I decided to look into it.
The EB-5 program routinely gives a family-sized set of green cards to aliens putting $500,000 in government-approved, but not guaranteed, investments, usually in big city real estate.
The financial firm — and I did absolutely no editing of the text from the website — is called AVG America Investments. Its initial message on EB-5 follows:
The EB-5 program enables non-US citizens to achieve an American PR (Permanent Residency) by investing $500,000 in an EB-5 compliant project. Via this investment, the alien investor, spouse and kids under 21 years, can get green card approval in under 24 months from investment. The investment must create 10 American Jobs and remain invested (At Risk) throughout the EB-5 process which could last upto 5 years.
The name "AVG America" has a down-home feel, with the first three letters suggesting average but probably reflecting the initials of some Middle Eastern male. The use of the word "achieve" when it means "buy" is either a nice, delicate touch, or simply the misuse of the language.
The phrase "the alien investor ... can get green card approval in under 24 months from the investment" is a wildly optimistic take on the time involved in the process, as is this: "The investment ... must remain invested (At Risk) throughout the EB-5 process which could last upto 5 years."
Many regional centers hold on to the money for much longer periods of time than five years.
But when the message turns from some misguided words to hard numbers it runs into real trouble. The website continues:
Proven EB-5 Track Record
- 1800+ Investors
- $700+ Mn assets under management
- 1400 + I-526 approvals
- 5000+ Permanent Residents (Green Cards)
- 350+ I-829 approvals
I have no reason to doubt (and no way to check on) the 1,800 investors, the $700 million under management, or the number of form approvals. Let's assume that all those numbers are accurate. The I-526 is the initial application for admission to the EB-5 program, and it gives the alien and his or her family a batch of conditional resident cards, each good for two years. The form I-829 comes along later, after the two years have passed, and the whole investment process has proved to be a legitimate one. Its approval is marked by the actual issuance of the green cards.
The problem number above is the 5,000-plus, as the number of green cards issued can be estimated with some accuracy from the form approval numbers. The number 5,000-plus is an impossible tally of the green cards claimed above.
Since most investors have families, albeit usually small ones, the typical approved petition (both kinds) produces about 2.5 green cards.
So when you take 1,400 I-526 approvals and multiply by 2.5 you get 3,500 conditional cards, not full green cards. If you multiply 350 (I-829 approvals) you get 875 full green cards, a number that should be subtracted from (not added to) the 3,500 conditional cards.
So, given the firm's own data, that produces 875 green cards and 2,625 conditional cards, for a total of 3,500 documents.
Let's turn from numbers to politics on the "About AVG" page:
Republican Hindu Coalition
The Kumar family is also the biggest Indian-American supporter and donor of the American Republican Party and was instrumental in coining Ab Ki Baar, Trump Sarkar campaign. The family founded and chairs the Republican Hindu Coalition which boasts of a member base of 400,000+ professionally successful and personally endowed Indian Americans.
Setting aside the interesting concept of "personally endowed Indian Americans" we have a truly blatant political pitch — I have never seen anything like this before in an EB-5 website. A somewhat more sophisticated writer would have found a less glaring way to mention the family's political connections.
One of the ironies is that, except for this posting, the few Americans who would have read the statement are Homeland Security civil servants, some of whom are sure not to admire the current occupant of the White House.
So, three thoughts:
I gather that many such pitches, in Mandarin, are far worse.
The Northwestern student found something interesting.
And, to Middle Eastern investors: Caveat emptor!