Invest in the USA -IIUSA – is the national organization which represents the EB-5 Industry. Although it was formed in 2005 by one of the brightest minds in U.S. immigration law, AVS EB-5 only JUST became a member. Here’s what took us so long….
BY JOSE E. LATOUR
Way back in 1990, the year Congress created the EB-5 immigrant investor visa category, I left my diplomatic/consular career with the U.S. State Department to begin private immigration practice. Back then, we didn’t have smartphones, the word “blog” didn’t exist, and answers were not a click away. While I felt confident that my consular experience adjudicating literally thousands of visa cases of all kinds put me in a good position to begin private immigration law practice, I was sadly mistaken and woefully unprepared for the very different demands of representing private clients. I spent the next few years in law school libraries, at seminars, and devouring books to learn what I needed to know.
But if books and events were the core of my post-diplomatic education, there was a single source periodical through which an immigration attorney could keep up with the latest developments in the law in REAL time: Interpreter Releases, a weekly publication which included every important development in the world of U.S. immigration. Steven Yale-Loehr was its Managing Editor, and proved to be an invaluable resource both in his stewardship of the publication and in his willingness to answer the questions of an all-too-eager but all-too-clueless young attorney. In the years that would follow, Steve became a leading expert in EB-5 and in 2005 founded “Invest in the USA” – IIUSA – as a not-for-profit trade association for the EB-5 industry. Six years later in 2011, my EB-5 Regional Center, American Venture Solutions, was USCIS approved and my life has since been centered around EB-5.
Despite my respect for Steve and my appreciation of the importance of IIUSA, AVS Regional Center did not become a member of the organization. My concern was that by then, the EB-5 message was getting increasingly skewed by the most powerful players in the industry. As I saw it at the time – and it would only become more evident in the years that followed – a small Regional Center like American Venture Solutions, committed to bringing EB-5 capital to the poor American communities for which Congress had intended it — had little to benefit from joining an organization which was increasingly dominated by massive development groups more focused on gerrymandering census tracks to create false TEAs and circumventing clear SEC prohibitions on paying “finder’s fees” to unlicensed foreign agents.
It was not until 2019, when AVS EB-5 was wrapping up the first group of EB-5 projects and had a solid record of job creation, investor approvals and divestments that I revisited my view of IIUSA. While the organization had continued its core mission of advancing awareness on the powerful and positive economic impact the EB-5 program had on America, its biggest constituency was pushing very hard to keep the playing field intact, permitting big-city projects to continue to procure investors at the 50% investment amount reserved for rural and impoverished areas. Incredibly, despite the millions spent by the EB-5 giants to maintain the status quo, the reforms passed and, for the first time in two decades, EB-5 projects in bona fide rural or economically distressed areas could compete fairly with their big-city rivals, no longer allowed to hide behind false TEA claims. Now these mega-projects had to find investors at the $1.8M investment threshold, and the handful of us with projects in bona fide TEA and rural areas were the only ones able to offer EB-5 at 50% of that figure. (Soon thereafter, some of the biggest EB-5 groups in the nation -still flush with billions — stopped making payments to investors and closed their websites, leaving thousands of EB-5 investors in limbo, a situation which continues today.)
American Venture Solutions Regional Center will soon announce the launch of our new EB-5 offering. We believe these projects — loan-based, real estate deals – will be the best, most compelling, and sensible EB-5 projects the industry has ever seen…each of them located in legitimately poor areas which qualify under the new federal TEA rules. The EB-5 industry is at a crossroads today; fortunately, IIUSA has followed this sea change in the industry in real time….and this week, American Venture Solutions is proud to have FINALLY joined IIUSA. American Venture Solutions Regional Center will work hand in hand with IIUSA to rebuild EB-5 as a powerful economic engine for foreign direct investment…but this time with the transparency and integrity which was sadly lost over the years.
Two years ago, AVS Regional Center was a tiny fish in an EB-5 pool of megadeveloper sharks. Today, AVS is the “little engine that could”: a testament to the reality that it IS possible to use the EB-5 program to transform poor parts of America, to develop a reputation that leads prospective investors to the project without relying on unlicensed migration agents and kickbacks, and to STEER foreign direct investment to those parts of our beautiful, embattled nation as envisioned over 30 years ago by Congress.
This morning I had my first call with IIUSA Executive Director Aaron Brau. Our call cemented my belief that the noble purpose behind Steven Yale-Loehr’s inspiration to create IIUSA in 2005 remains, with the noise and dishonesty of the past decade erased by the 2019 reforms. I am fired up to work with Aaron, the IIUSA team, and all the other EB-5 stakeholders still in the game….and ready to play by the rules.