美媒:EB-5移民新提案将对行业带来的5点新变化

今天继续来谈下EB-5新提案,最近正是EB-5业内在积极游说美国国会之际,美国一些专业媒体也在发声,指出参议院EB-5新提案可能会给行业造成的种种障碍。今天我们来看下业内的专业媒体,Law360.com的报道,比较专业的媒体分析,分享给各位朋友,由业内朋友义务翻译,特此感谢。

Eb5

纽约——最近美国参议院提出的一项提案,让大家对EB-5区域中心投资签证计划在9月30日到期之际,再次获得三年的延期十分乐观,EB-5区域中心计划是开发商十分依赖的一种融资工具。但专家也表示,最新的提案还包括至少五项改革,这可能会给未来的项目造成麻烦。

律师说,虽然开发商呼吁修改立法,且许多业内人士已经表示支持对快速增长的EB-5行业进行改革以提高监管力度,但在6月4日参议院的提案中,从目标就业区的计算到新的监管方案等一系列建议,会造成项目成本的大幅增长。

提案中的以下5项变革,将会对寻求利用EB-5计划的开发商造成损害。

一些项目可能更难卖

为了通过EB-5计划获得绿卡,投资人需要投资1百万美金到一个项目里,除非投资的这个项目位于一个特别的区域——目标就业区。如果一个项目位于目标就业区域,也就是我们所熟知的TEA地区,那么投资人只需要投资50万美金就可以获得绿卡,这么定义的原因在于目标就业区的失业率往往在国家平均失业率的150%或以上,所以这些区域更需要资金来建设和发展。

根据美国SEC律师,Arnstein & Lehr LLP律所合伙人 Ronald Fieldstone表示,美国国土安全部部长Jeh Johnson在4月下旬呼吁参议院立法委员会对这个方案进行改革,他在控告TEA失业率计算方法时使用了“gerrymandering - 杰利蝾螈”这个具有强烈指控弄虚作假的词语,他表示有些地区为了达到TEA的要求使用了过多的人口普查区域。

(EB5Sir注:gerrymandering - 杰利蝾螈:乃指选区划分之方式是专为某方选举利益而设计的,用在这里表示在计算TEA时选取的区域都是有利提高失业率的地区)

政策允许州政府通过计算得出TEA地区。据专家说,这早不是什么秘密,在一些大的州,根据计算就可以任意地将很大的一些区域放在一起而得出TEA地区。

“他们将人口普查区大片拼接相邻的土地接在一起,但是他们的项目地点可能是在10英里外的一个失业率只超过9.3%的地方,” Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP公司的融资专家Jonathan Bloch指出。

根据参议院的,被称为2015美国就业创造和投资促进改革的议案,这个计算漏洞将被修补,取而代之的将是一个更加系统化的联邦标准,这很可能将某些项目踢出这个低融资成本的投资梯队。

来自Gibson Dunn的Daniella A. Katzir表示,如果这个方案通过,那么它会对那些在城市地区的项目产生重大影响,这些地区可能不能再被认定为TEA地区。

目前,提案要求只能使用单一的人口普查区作为认定TEA的标准,虽然Bloch认为这只是一个监督的草案,还是应该有更多的区域可以被用作计算TEA,不过TEA的计算将会变得相当保守。

几乎可以肯定的是,任何重新授权的EB-5计划的立法都会有新的计算方式以取缔现有的TEA计算方式,但对于那些还没有排上队,正在做计划的项目而言,目前计算公式的不明确性将导致他们不知道应该如何在下一财年开展融资方案,Bloch说。

“我们现在有一些我们正在做计算的项目。我们已经做了经济分析,我们知道在旧的方案下得到的数字是什么,“Bloch说。 “但我们知道将会有一个新的计算标准。现在的问题是怎么对现在正在进行的项目进行锁定,以便在明年得以筹集资金......这肯定是必须要确定的。“

一项关于就业计算必须和每一个投资挂钩的提议,将会限制可以使用EB-5资金的项目类型。目前,项目可享受区域中心试点计划方式下创造的就业,只要证明是此项目间接或衍生创造的就业都可以被计算 - 如供应商,某些建筑承包商和其他1099-paid(支付类型)的厂商。但是根据参议院新的提案,10%以上要求被创造的就业机会都必须直接和开发商相关联。

一位专家表示,它还不明确USCIS对这10%的就业要求,是不是就是,EB-5投资人和业主雇佣的W-2员工,如果是这样,那么大多数的项目将很难达到这个要求,因为大多数的房地产开发商不会为了这一特殊目的项目而直接雇佣员工。(EB5Sir注:这里说的是,新提案未明确,所谓的10%的直接就业,是要求开发商直接雇用的员工,还是通过经济模型计算出来的直接就业。)

“酒店可能是适应这种变化最好的资产类别,因为独特的结构,让酒店可以直接将运营就业计算到新的商业体系,”Katzir说,“但如果是住宅或写字楼的项目那么就很难达到这一要求,特别是现在的项目中他们计算的就业机会往往是排除后期运营就业的。”(EB5Sir注:这是因为,酒店的运营有直接就业,而住宅或写字楼只有建筑就业,而基本没有建筑完工后的运营就业。)

就业计算会给高级融资方案带来致命打击

另一项关于就业计算的提案,可能会对EB-5开发者使用何种融资方案产生影响。Katzir介绍到,根据参议员的提案,即使非EB-5资金在项目中占比超过30%,非EB-5资金创造的就业最多也只能有30%用于EB-5。

目前还不清楚,这些不同的投资资金将如何计算和分配就业,并且按照怎样的比例 - 对于EB-5作为唯一夹层贷款的大型项目来说将会是个威胁。

“这将是具有挑战性的,因为我们发现越来越多的EB-5项目,有着传统的高级建筑贷款作为第一还款顺位,“ Katzir指出。”这对于满足就业要求意味着什么呢,如果超过30%就业不能给EB-5的话?”

项目成本将大幅提高

据专家介绍,根据美国国土安全局提出的一系列监管改革提议,可能间接额外提高开发商成本。其中一条是区域中心每年需缴纳2万美金的费用,以便建立一个基金来支撑联邦的实地监管和考察,这笔费用很有可能会以某种方式转嫁给借款人。还有一个值得注意的问题,在现在的法案下,EB-5因为满足Reg S(S条款)证券条例所以可以豁免注册,新的提案中,可能要求EB-5项目也需要注册,这样无形中会增加成本。

“如果你开始叠加注册费用和报告费用,再加上潜在的对监管的额外的支付,如实地考察和审核。虽然这不能说明EB-5不再是一个低成本的融资替代方案,但这些实际成本将很有可能以某种方式直接转嫁给开发商,”Katzir说。

新的联邦监管可能增加风险

虽然许多业内人士对于联邦监管提案中的一些新近条款表示支持,但是一些人也注意到,这样的条款会使许多开发商不再考虑使用EB-5资金。

“在提案中给予了国土安全部十分广泛的监管权力,在一些情况下对国土安全局的权力描述是‘唯一和不容复审’。我认为在对随意决策这个定义没有标准和复审程序的保护下,企业在做一些重大决定时将会十分的困难。”Katzir说。

签证的计算方式不会改变

这次参议院改革的提案,在很多方面都与之前业内人士预计的一致,但是出人意料的是,这次提案起草的立法者并没有正面解决大众所关心的是否调整每年1万张签证的数量,Bloch说。

根据现行的法案,一位投资人不仅仅是自己可以获得签证,还可以让配偶和21岁以下的子女一起获得签证。也正因如此,每年1万张签证很快就会被瓜分掉。业内人士已经对这个问题进行了大量的游说,包括将签证上升到2万或3万每年,或每一个家庭的投资只计算单一签证。

“提高签证上限是众议院在提议延长EB-5方案时的几点提案之一,而非参议院提案。”

“在美国众议院的提案中,有一些十分积极的提议,我们希望可以增加到参议院的提案中,” Greenberg Traurig LLP.律所的移民合伙人Laura Foote Reiff在近期的一次播客中说道。“这些提案中最重要的几点是让EB-5区域中心变成永久法案,增加额外的签证以及消除对中国配额的限制。”

原文

作者:Jacob Fischler,文章来源:www.Law360.com。

Law360, New York (June 16, 2015, 4:19 PM ET) -- A recently introduced U.S. Senate bill to extend the EB-5 regional center investment-for-visa program has developers that rely on the financing tool optimistic about its reauthorization as the clock ticks down to a September expiration. But the latest proposal also includes at least five reform provisions that could cause trouble for future projects, experts say.

While many in the industry were already braced for reforms that would tighten regulation of the fast-growing EB-5 industry, several proposals in a Senate bill introduced on June 4 — from how target employment areas are calculated to new oversight that could drive up project costs — have developers calling for changes to the legislation, attorneys say.

Here are five ways the proposed bill could hurt developers looking to use the program.

Some Projects May Be a Tougher Sell

To score a visa through the EB-5 program, investors currently have to offer up $1 million — unless the project is in a special zone known as a target employment area. If the project is in one of these zones, better known as a TEA, an investor only has to put in $500,000 because the argument is that the funds are needed in these areas, which have to have unemployment rates that are 150 percent or more of the national average.

But when U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson urged a Senate committee in late April to reform the program, he used the particularly strong accusation of “gerrymandering” when complaining about how TEA unemployment rates are calculated in some areas by using too many census tracts, according to Ronald Fieldstone, a partner with Arnstein & Lehr LLP.

States are allowed to come up with how they calculate TEAs and it's no secret that some large states have taken fairly liberal positions on how tracts can be pooled together to come up with a calculation, according to experts.

“They stitch together census bureau tracts that are adjacent, but they might go 10 miles to come up with an unemployment area that exceeds 9.3 percent,” noted Jonathan Bloch, a capital-raising expert at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP.

Under the Senate bill — dubbed the American Job Creation and Investment Promotion Reform Act of 2015 — this loophole would be closed and there would be a more regimented federal standard, which is likely to kick certain projects out of the lower investment tier.

“If passed as is, it will have significant impact on projects in urban areas that may no longer qualify for a TEA designation,” said Danielle A. Katzir of Gibson Dunn.

Currently, the legislation calls for only a single census tract to be used to calculate TEA, though Bloch expects that was a drafting oversight and that more than one tract will be able to be used, though it will likely be a conservative calculation.

It's almost certain that any legislation reauthorizing the EB-5 program will clamp down on how TEAs are calculated, but the uncertainty of where that formula will end up means that projects currently in the planning stage — but not yet in the pipeline — are uncertain how to raise money in the next fiscal year, Bloch noted.

“I’ve got projects where we’re in the process of doing the calculations right now. We’ve done economic studies and we know what the numbers were under the old program,” Bloch said. “We knew there would be a new program. The question is how do we just lock it down and raise money next year … and that is definitely to be determined.”

A proposal to change the job-creation requirements tied to each investment could also limit the types of projects that can use EB-5. Currently, projects can qualify for a regional center pilot program if they show indirect or induced jobs — such as suppliers, certain building contractors and other 1099-paid vendors — being created. Under the Senate bill, at least 10 percent of the requisite number of created jobs would have to be linked directly to the developer.

It is still unclear whether that means U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is going to require 10 percent of the project’s jobs to appear as W-2 employees of the EB-5 borrower and property owner, which could be difficult since most real estate companies aren’t in the business of having direct employees for the special purpose vehicle that owns a project, according to experts.

"Hotels are probably the asset class best equipped for this change, because with creative structuring you can attribute direct employees coming out of that kind of operating business to the new commercial enterprise,” Katzir said. “But if you’re just talking about residential or office building — in particular now because they have also excluded the ability to count jobs that are created by tenants — it's going to be much harder to show.”

Job Counts Could Kill Senior Financing Options

Another proposal to change the job creation calculations could have ramifications for what kind of additional financing an EB-5 developer can secure. Under the Senate proposal, no more than 30 percent of the jobs can be attributable to non-EB-5 investment capital even if that capital represents more than 30 percent of the total project costs, according to Katzir.

It is unclear how jobs would be allocated to the varying classes of investment capital, and a proportional take — where the number of attributable jobs are divided proportionally to the various investments — could threaten the use of EB-5 as only mezzanine financing for larger projects.

“That would be challenging as we’re seeing more and more EB-5 being integrated into larger capital stacks where you may have a traditional senior construction loan in the first position,” Katzir noted. “What does that mean for meeting the job requirements if more than 30 percent of the jobs are attributable to the senior lender?”

Projects Could Become Costlier

A number of the oversight reforms proposed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security could result in additional indirect costs for developers, according to experts. Among these are a new $20,000 annual fee that regional centers would have to pay to help establish a fund for new federal site visits and examinations — a fee that is likely to get passed on to the borrower in some way. There is also a concern that the current bill eliminates an often-used securities offering exemption — known as the Reg S exemption — that could result in more costs.

“If you start to pile on registration costs and reporting costs — plus potential cost to cover additional regulatory oversight, site visits and audits — it's not to say it stops being a low-cost alternative, but those are real costs that will be presumably in some way directly passed on to developers,” Katzir said.

New Federal Oversight Could Add Risks

While many in the industry welcome some of the additional federal oversight that is being proposed in the bill, some note it could discourage certain developers from using the program.

“The proposed bill gives the Department of Homeland Security really broad oversight in some instances and in many cases it uses the language ‘sole and unreviewable discretion.’ I think it's going to be very difficult for businesses to make major decisions when there are no standards and no review procedures to safeguard against arbitrary decision-making,” Katzir said.

Visa Counts Wouldn't Change

While many of the reform proposals in the Senate bill were expected, what was unexpected is that the lawmakers did not address head-on highly public concerns that the program’s 10,000-visa cap needs to be adjusted in some way, according to Bloch.

Under the current program, an investor can score a visa not only for him or herself, but also for a spouse and any children under 21 years old. Due to this, the 10,000-visa pool gets eaten up fairly quickly. Industry players have been lobbying for a number of fixes to this issue, including raising the cap to around 20,000 or 30,000 or requiring that each investment only cover one visa.

"Raising the visa cap is one of several proposals in a U.S. House of Representatives bill to renew EB-5 that aren't in the Senate bill.

“The current bill in the U.S. House of Representatives has some very positive reforms in it that we would like to have included in the Senate bill,” said Laura Foote Reiff, an immigration partner with Greenberg Traurig LLP, in a recent podcast on the topic. “These include, among other things. making the program permanent, adding additional immigrant visa numbers and eliminating the China country quota.”

--Additional reporting by Jacob Fischler. Editing by John Quinn and Kelly Duncan.

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