Wednesday, January 17, 2018

EB-5 Legislation Update

The EB-5 Regional Center Program is set to expire on January 19, 2018. There has recently been proposed legislation in DC to extend the EB-5 Program to February 16th. We hope this EB-5 extension will be granted and a long term extension will be passed.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Indian EB-5 visa requests may dip as US plans hike in investment limit

(Source: The Economic Times) The number of Indians applying for employment-based EB-5 visas to the United States, which has been on the rise, is set to plummet because the US plans to increase minimum investment for such visas to up to $1.3 million, an expert has said.Read more at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/

Thursday, January 11, 2018

PERE Asia 2018 Summit to be held March 7-8 in Hong Kong

As the biggest private equity real estate conference in the region, PERE Asia consistently brings together the world's opinion leaders, fund managers and institutional investors. For the 11th year running, PERE will once again offer excellent opportunities for you to network with over 500 real estate professionals, including the most influential investors and industry leaders from across the globe. More info can be found here.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

SEC Is Investigating Kushner Cos.' Use of EB-5 Program

(Source: MSN.com) The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the real-estate company run by the family of President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner for its use of a federal investment-for-visa program known as EB-5, according to people familiar with the matter.  See more report at https://www.msn.com/

Friday, January 5, 2018

Lucky Dragon temporarily shuts gaming, restaurant operations

(Las Vegas Review-Journal) The Lucky Dragon, the one-year-old Asian-themed hotel-casino, is temporarily closing all gaming and casino restaurant operations as it struggles to attract customers. The move jeopardizes hundreds of jobs and $60 million in loans from Chinese investors seeking American citizenship.

“Effective immediately Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino is beginning the process of repositioning and, in doing so, will have a reduction in staff while it temporarily closes all gaming and restaurant operations,” the company said in a statement Thursday morning. The casino floor and restaurants will resume operations “within six months,” the company said in the statement. The 203-room hotel will remain open, as will the gift shop and the hotel’s Cha Garden restaurant and bar on the first floor.

Signs posted on the casino’s entrance doors read, “Casino temporarily closed.” Construction workers outside the building turned off water that spun a stone ball sculpture.  According to hotel workers, the casino closed at 7 a.m. Thursday morning. Only employees and hotel guests were allowed in the parking lot as of Thursday morning. The hotel’s 203 rooms are fully booked during CES, an international consumer electronics show that officially starts Tuesday, according to a hotel worker taking reservations over the phone Thursday morning. The Lucky Dragon declined to say whether “repositioning” implied the casino would change its name or focus on Asian clients. 

Small crowds
The boutique casino opened near the north Strip to great fanfare in December 2016 with plans to hire 800 people. But the casino never drew crowds to its small floor dominated by baccarat tables. Just a few months after opening, the Lucky Dragon shuttered one of its restaurants and fired about a hundred people, including the general manager, to cut costs. The property’s founders sought to tap the fast-growing Asian and Asian-American middle-class populations in Las Vegas and on the West Coast.

Nearly 6 million people of Asian ethnicity live in California, while more than 200,000 live in Clark Country as of July 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Los Angeles, a big feeder market, is just a four-hour ride from Las Vegas. While the strategy seemed credible, it nonetheless put the Lucky Dragon in direct competition with bigger players like Boyd Gaming and Station Casinos for the lucrative, local Asian client. 

Industry consolidation
And the launch of a stand-alone casino was running counter to the gaming industry’s growing trend of consolidation. Casino operators have been acquiring smaller competitors at a record pace over the past three years to widen their customer bases, cross-sell their properties and lower costs amid sluggish industry growth. The Lucky Dragon had to build its customer database from scratch. ”It is tough to compete in Las Vegas against major operators that have been around a long time,” said John DeCree, an analyst at Union Gaming. ”It takes a while to ramp up a new casino. If you don’t have deep pockets, it could be difficult to keep operating.” It could not vie with Boyd and Station on generous food comps, nor did it offer a diversity of amenities, Asian gamblers in Las Vegas told the Review-Journal last month.

SLS Las Vegas, located just down the street from the Lucky Dragon, stepped up its efforts to attract local Asian players around the time the Lucky Dragon opened. SLS began offering weekly baccarat prizes of up to $30,000 in promotional chips, the players said. Boyd’s Gold Coast, a favorite among local Asian players, added more baccarat tables and prizes as well. A narrow choice of casino games may have also squeezed the Lucky Dragon’s revenue generation, DeCree said. The casino generated the majority of its revenue from baccarat, which DeCree said is ”low margin and very volatile.” 

500 employees, EB-5 funding
The Lucky Dragon had more than 500 full-time and part-time employees as of December. The company did not say how many people would temporarily lose their jobs. Laid-off staff will be able to return once the casino reopens, the company said in the statement.

The Lucky Dragon was funded with $60 million in loans from 120 Chinese families seeking a permanent green card through the EB-5 program. Under the program, foreign investors can receive permanent green cards if they invest $500,000 in at-risk projects that create 10 jobs. EB-5 investors are generally willing to accept a nominal interest rate in order to receive the green card.

The Lucky Dragon investors face the prospects of losing their money and right to a green card if the project fails.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

China's Belt and Road Miracles in Number in 2017

(Source: Xinhua News) The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in the autumn of 2013, was aimed to draw on the strength of each country to pursue a joint development through enhancing international cooperation and increasing the complementary between national strategies. 

Over the past four years, the Belt and Road Initiative has developed to a relatively large scale, demonstrating its progress and achievement beyond expectation. Every year, significant progress is seen in the Belt and Road construction. Again, there were miracles in numbers achieved in the Belt and Road construction in 2017. 

-- Reaching out more people, land 

The Initiative has in the past year responded to more calls for openness, inclusiveness, innovative growth, and freer and fairer trade at multilateral forums such as the World Economic Forum, G20 summit and BRICS summit. Its prospect charmed over 1,500 representatives from over 130 countries and 70 international organizations and effected the signing of close to 70 agreements at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing in May, a milestone marking a new implementation phase for the Initiative.
With policy support from the Chinese leadership on top of confidence built on China's steady growth, the Initiative has this year convinced more onlookers and skeptics than ever before. Notably, in November over 250 Japanese business leaders showed interest in playing a role in the Initiative's grand narrative. The infrastructure plan received a vote of confidence in December when the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a major source of funding for the Initiative, expanded in less than two years to a broader geographical area represented by 84 member countries and regions, up from its founding 57. 

-- 6,000+ China-Europe express trains dispatched 

According to the statistics from China Railway Corporation, by late October of 2017, 57 China-Europe rail lines have been launched from 35 Chinese cities to 34 cities in 12 European countries. More than 6,000 China-Europe express trains were dispatched in total.
It took four years and seven months to dispatch the first 1,000 trains, whereas for the sixth 1,000 trains, it only cost 2 months. While running on an irregular schedule in the beginning, the China-Europe express is now operated on a regular basis.A lot of local media and people expressed a positive attitude towards the China-Europe railway that China could help the cities along the rail line improve activeness globally, and at the same time boost development in economy, trade, culture and tourism for these countries. Since the remarkable reductions in transportation time and logistics cost are relatively more attractive to small and medium-sized enterprises along the railroad, more companies will choose China-Europe railway express as their choice of transportation. 

-- Total imports and exports reach RMB25.1 trln Jan.-Nov. 

China registered total goods imports and exports of 25.14 trillion yuan in the first 11 months of 2017, up by 15.6 percent year on year, including exports of 13.85 trillion yuan and imports of 11.29 trillion yuan, up by 11.6 percent and 20.9 percent year on year respectively; and trade surplus was 2.56 trillion yuan, down by 16.7 percent year on year, according to customs data. From January to November in 2017, China made a cumulative non-financial direct investment of 107.55 billion U.S. dollars in 5,796 enterprises in 174 countries and regions across the globe, down by 33.5 percent year on year, with irrational overseas investment effectively curbed. The trade volume between China and the countries related to the Belt Road Initiative has reached more than 25 percent of China's total foreign trade volume. In Zhejiang province, export-oriented enterprises gradually reduce their reliance on developed countries such as the Europe and the U.S. The top three trade partners have been changed from the EU, the U.S. and Japan to the EU, the U.S. and the ASEAN. What’s more, the economic and trade cooperation with the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe has also grown tremendously.
Outward investment has also fueled foreign trade growth. Chinese enterprises have constructed 75 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones along the Belt and Road. Data show that 3,412 Chinese enterprises have moved into these zones, with their taxes paid to the host country totaling 2.21 billion U.S. dollars and 209,000 new jobs being created for the locals. 

-- RMB100 bln added to the Silk Road Fund 

Since the beginning of this year, China has continued to advance the supply-side structural reform and implemented the strategy of innovation-driven development, laying a solid foundation for foreign trade development. China announced the decision to add another 100 billion yuan to the Silk Road Fund in May 2017. This move has further improved the Silk Road Fund's capability of providing sustainable multi-currency funds for the Belt and Road construction. Up until now, 17 project contracts have been signed under the Silk Road Fund, with an investment of around 7 billion dollars on the schedule. In the future, the fund will take further steps to diversify currency types for investment and financing. 

-- 12.5pct of global B2B-export volume 

The countries related to the Belt and Road Initiative own 40 percent of the world's population and contribute about 16 percent of the world's GDP. Their total cross-border e-commerce trade volume (B2B-export volume) accounts for 12.5 percent of world's total cross-border e-commerce volume. In different regions, Eastern Europe holds a large share of 72 percent in the Belt and Road digital trade market. On the one hand, Eastern Europe is superior to the other countries along the Belt and Road in economy and infrastructure, and highly accepts digital trade; on the other hand, digital trade in Eastern Europe have been further boosted due to the rapid development of the cross-border e-commerce and deep cooperation on economy and bilateral trade between China, Russia and Ukraine. In addition, at the 4th World Internet Conference held in December, China, Laos, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey and the UAE jointly launched an initiative to strengthen cooperation on digital economy, which marks a new charter for cooperation on the Belt and Road digital economy. 

-- Off-shore RMB bonds top RMB1 trln 

Transactions in the RMB have become more and more convenient whether for tourism or trade. The RMB is playing an increasingly important role on the world stage. According to the 2017 RMB Internationalization Report released by the central bank of China, the RMB secured its status as the second-largest currency in China's cross-border receipts and payments, and the internationalization of the RMB is progressing steadily. 
 
"The inclusion of the RMB into the SDR basket marks the internationalization of the RMB steps into a new stage," according to the central bank. With the continuous rise in the international status of the RMB, the international acceptance of the RMB will be increased constantly, and other countries will be more likely to hold the RMB as a reserve currency in their central bank and monetary authorities. 

The central bank also added that the international use of the RMB will be further popularized and the channels widened. In this context, the scale of RMB bonds held by overseas institutions has exceeded 1 trillion yuan in September of 2017, according to the latest data released by the China Securities Depository and Clearing Co., Ltd. and the Shanghai Clearing House. 

To learn more about "The Belt and Road Initiative Investment Forum" in Washington DC on March 14, 2018, please log on http://www.AmCenterBeltRoad.org

EB-5 Regional Center Termination Overturned: AAO Gets it Right

(Wolfsdorf Rosenthal) In a huge win for EB-5 regional centers, the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (“AAO”) overturned a previous regional center termination order by the Immigrant Investor Program Office (“IPO”) in Matter of P-A-S-, LLC, ID# 513109 (AAO Dec. 21, 2017).  This is the first time the AAO has overruled the IPO since creating the new standard for EB-5 regional center terminations articulated in Matter of S-D-R-C-, ID# 13768 (AAO Mar. 15, 2017).

In the non-precedent decision, the AAO issued a thorough and balanced analysis of the negative and positive factors for EB-5 regional center authorization.  This decision provides a particularly just outcome for the EB-5 investors, since all I-526 petitions would have been denied if the regional center’s termination had been sustained.  Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP has previously written on the types of “positive and negative indicators” that IPO is to balance when determining whether an EB-5 regional center is continuing to promote economic growth in accordance with 8 C.F.R. § 204.6(m)(6).

The EB-5 regional center in this decision, Path America SnoCo LLC, was first designated in August 2011.  In August 2015, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a complaint in federal court alleging that the former principal of the EB-5 regional Center fraudulently raised EB-5 capital and misappropriated investors’ funds for other projects or his personal use.  As part of the SEC litigation, a court-appointed receiver took possession and control of the regional center’s projects in October 2015.  Due to the SEC allegations, IPO terminated its regional center designation in November 2016 for failure to promote economic growth.

On appeal, the regional center provided documentation from federal court and the receiver indicating that the former principal accused of stealing the money is no longer a principal of the regional center and no longer controls its activity or EB-5 investor funds.  The regional center provided evidence of positive steps it took to overcome the diversion of EB-5 investor funds and to rectify the lack of procedural safeguards that allowed this to occur, including a new management company to run the regional center’s operations.  The regional center also presented evidence to show that the sponsored EB-5 project continued to make significant progress on construction before and during the SEC proceedings, and included evidence that the project was operational and creating jobs.  These positive factors outweighed the negative factors related to the diversion of funds, mismanagement, and lack of monitoring safeguards.

EB-5 regional centers struggling with a dreaded Notice of Intent to Terminate (“NOIT”) should look to this pivotal decision with cautious optimism.  While it may be difficult to acquire traditional financing while under SEC investigation for budgetary shortfalls, and to recover misappropriated funds, the AAO appears to be looking more at the “whole picture” surrounding the regional center’s termination to determine whether it is more likely than not to promote economic growth in the future.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Belt and Road Initiative Investment Forum announced



"The Belt and Road Initiative Investment Forum" on March 14, 2018, the one day Washington DC event jointly hosted by Artisan Business Group and American Center for the Belt and Road Initiative, provides an overview of China's global economic development strategy "The Belt and Road Initiative" initiated by President Xi Jinping, the topics range from background, opportunities and challenges for US companies, and outlook, etc. It will offer useful insights and outlook of the Belt and Road Initiative and opportunities for US business and industrial sectors. To learn more about the event and register online, please log on https://www.artisanbusinessgroup.com/events

Monday, December 25, 2017

Smart City Technology Demonstration Center project comes to Puerto Rico




A new Smart City Technology Demonstration Center project is announced in San Juan Puerto Rico. VIP guests and officials attended the announcement ceremony.  The demonstration center will be the first smart city technology related project in Puerto Rico.  To learn more about inbound investments, log on http://www.ArtisanBusinessGroup.com

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

LA-based firm allegedly swindled regional center out of EB-5 spoils: suit

(Source: The Real Deal) A Los Angeles-based firm that specializes in deploying EB-5 capital allegedly shut an Atlanta-based regional center out of profits made from marketing projects to Asian investors, a new lawsuit claims. The projects mentioned in the suit include the Ace Hotel in Manhattan. Read more story at https://therealdeal.com/

Monday, December 18, 2017

Las Vegas’ Lucky Dragon Casino Low on Luck, as Asian-Themed Resort Reportedly Struggling

(Source: Casino.org) The Lucky Dragon on West Sahara Avenue, located just steps from Las Vegas Boulevard, opened with much fanfare a year ago this month. But by all apparent signs, the Strip’s first newly constructed casino to debut in some six years has failed to live up to expectations. Read more at https://www.casino.org/news/

Friday, December 15, 2017

Why are the January Visa Numbers for the EB-5 Regional Center Program Unavailable for January 2018? And What’s In Store for the Year of the Dog?

(Source: Wolfsdorf Rosenthal) The U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) has just published the Visa Bulletin for January 2018, and the Final Action Dates for the EB-5 $500,000 (I5) and $1 million (R5) investment in the EB-5 Regional Center categories have been listed as “Unavailable”. The Visa Bulletin states: The continuing resolution signed on December 7, 2017 extended this immigrant investor pilot program until December 22, 2017. The I5 and R5 visas may be issued until close of business on December 22, 2017, and may be issued for the full validity period. No I5 or R5 visas may be issued overseas, or final action taken on adjustment of status cases, after December 22, 2017. The final action dates for the I5 and R5 categories have been listed as “Unavailable” for January. If there is legislative action extending them for FY-2018, the final action dates would immediately become “Current” for January for all countries except China-mainland born I5 and R5 which would be subject to a July 22, 2014 final action date.

So, in a nutshell, no EB-5 regional center visas can be issued in January 2018, unless Congress extends the EB-5 Regional Center program beyond. In some ways it is helpful that the regional center program is linked to many other key programs that require re-authorization. Presently, the expectation is that Congress will pass another short term Continuing Resolution to January 18, 2018. Thereafter, there are several possibilities as to what may occur, but the two most likely are yet another short-term extension to April 2018, or possibly to September 2018. If EB-5 reform legislation is not enacted before April 2018, it is likely that DHS’ EB-5 regulations (including a minimum investment amount increase, TEA changes, and other “integrity” reforms), currently scheduled to be finalized by April 2018, will be implemented. The USCIS’ new director L. Francis Cissna has made it clear that he favors regulations over policy memoranda, and we can likely expect to see him support regulatory changes.

On a related issue, DOS also recently announced that, as of November 1, 2017, there are 30,259 EB-5 cases registered at the National Visa Center (NVC) processing center, waiting for final interviews, and in the case of mainland Chinese EB-5 applicants, waiting for their priority dates to become current. This is an increase of nearly 23% from last year. Each I-526 petition takes about 3 visas on average, so it will take about 3 years to clear this group of EB-5 visa applicants.  The report also states that 26,725 Chinese EB-5 visa applicants are waiting at the NVC, accounting for 88% of the entire waiting list for EB-5 visa.  This means that a mainland Chinese investor whose I-526 petition has been approved today, must potentially wait at least 3 years to get a final green card interview, as there are 30,259 cases ahead of the applicant. There are 9,940 EB-5 visas allocated annually.  This means that a Chinese investor whose I-526 petition has been approved today must potentially wait about 3 years to get an interview, as there are 30,259 cases ahead of the applicant.   Since it is taking about 2 years to get a Form I-526 approved, the waiting line for mainland Chinese nationals, is presently about 5 years for people whose case has just been approved. For those filing now, it will be longer unless we get new legislation such as HR 392 (see below), or one of the other solutions.

Note, when trying to calculate the waiting line for Chinese applicants with pending Form I-526s, merely adding the number of pending, initial EB-5 applications to the number of people in line at the National Visa Center and with pending adjustment applications, is not likely to provide a precise answer to determine the mainland Chinese waiting line.  Why?  Neither USCIS nor NVC factor in the attrition rate. There are simply too many variables. For this reason, the State Department tends to provide a best case and worst-case scenario in terms of wait times. Also because of these variables, the DOS is reluctant to make long term predictions where there is no “clear visibility on number usage”. Is there an issue or problem, yes? How bad is the problem, it is serious? However, there are several solutions. At this time however, it is important to understand the attrition rate will be impacted by several variables. There are visa petition denials, and final immigrant visa interview denials, and there are people that drop out, and there are people that get divorced. There are even people who die. Hence, our four Ds: Denial, dropout, divorce and death all contribute to attrition. While we have been hoping congress will correct the program to 10,000 investors, not 3,000 investors and their families. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely at this time absent successful litigation.

There is however some potential good news for mainland Chinese investors in the EB-5 waiting line.  A new bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives called the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017 which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to: (1) eliminate the per country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants and (2) modify the Chinese Student Protection Act of 1992 to eliminate the provision requiring the reduction of annual Chinese immigrant visas to offset status adjustments under such Act.  This immigration bill has significant congressional support, with 301 current co-sponsors (nearly 70% of all representatives in the House of Representatives). Moreover, Senator Grassley and Representative Goodlatte, the two most powerful politicians in the Senate and House handling this immigration issue, have indicated they support the “Hatch” proposal, which, in general, endorses H.R. 392. If enacted, Chinese EB-5 investors with priority dates in 2014 and 2015 would be able to obtain an immigrant visa much more quickly, as one’s place in the waiting line will no longer dependent on the nation of chargeability.

Though there is still too much uncertainly to determine what will occur, it appears there is hope that meaningful EB-5 reform will occur in the coming year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

EB5 Visa scheme, the best route to US, gets December 22 extension

(The Economic Times) The US' EB5 visa scheme, also known as the Golden Visa, has been extended till December 22. "It is good news for all the applicants since we are seeing another short-term traditional extension here. However, it should be the last one," said Tanuj Patel, MD at LD Capital Bridge, a US-based commercial lending firm.

Introduced by the US Congress in 1990, the EB5 visa programme allows an individual to invest $500,000 in either of two Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) -- a high unemployment area in a US metropolis or a rural area outside of a metro -- or $1 million in a non-TEA area that can create 10 or more jobs and get US citizenship in a shorter time than H1-B visa holders.

The EB-5 program gained popularity as the laws for H1-B got tougher and uncertain this year. Currently, more and more Indians graduating from U.S. universities are opting for the EB-5 visa which grants them the green card in the shortest span. "At present India stands in the sixth position for EB-5 and with more awareness spreading about the various programs, EB-5 applications from India shall rise," said Patel.

The visa programme has come under controversy with critics saying that it puts up US citizenship for sale. However, the US Congress in September extended the scheme by three months. This is the second extension this year.

What does it mean for Indian applicants?

Asked what it would mean for Indian applicants, Mark Davies of Davis and Associates LLC said that Indian applicants needed to be very mindful of two issues looming over the EB5 scheme: A likely price increase and retrogression.

Asked about the demographic profile of Indians applying for the EB5 visa, he mentioned students studying in the US, workers on H1B visas already in the US, business owners looking to expand into the US and families looking to relocate to the US.

According to DeCicco, the Trump administration has brought all visas under hard scrutiny. "They have implemented tougher regulations on immigration and have increased the screening process of applicants under each category.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Chinese delegation visit Puerto Rico




Mr. Brian Su led a delegation from China Travel Services to San Juan Puerto Rico December 3-5. The delegation met with Secretary of Luis Marine and Tourism officials to explore tourism opportunities in Puerto Rico.  As Air China will soon start weekly flights to Panama in Summer 2018, more Chinese tourists and business travelers will have opportunities of visiting Puerto Rico.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

State paid $60,000 for advice on future of Vermont EB-5 Regional Center

(Source: VTdigger.org ) he state commerce agency hired two securities law firms last year to field questions from a federal agency after allegations of fraud were brought against the developers at Jay Peak Resort.

The fraud, which involved $200 million in allegedly stolen EB-5 money, occurred under the state’s watch. The misuse of foreign investor funds began in 2008 when the developers used EB-5 money to buy the resort. Federal regulators say that act of fraud launched a Ponzi scheme that continued unabated for a decade. Read more at https://vtdigger.org/

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

South El Monte lawyer pleads guilty to $50M EB-5 visa-fraud scheme in San Gabriel

(Source: San Gabriel Valley Tribune)  A South El Monte attorney pleaded guilty Monday to federal fraud and money laundering charges stemming from a $50 million visa fraud scheme that gave green cards to Chinese nationals, including criminals on China’s most wanted list.

Victoria Chan pleaded guilty to exploiting the EB-5 visa program, which allows immigrants to the United States to receive green cards in exchange for investing at least $500,000 in an American business that creates jobs. See more report at http://www.sgvtribune.com/