纽约开发商直面EB-5移民改革难题

6月3日参议院的EB-5新提案,所涉及的重大变革中有一个就是TEA(目标就业区)的认定问题。有一个很明显的趋势,也是美国政界和媒体一直在呼吁的,那就是EB-5最低投资额是100万,只有在高失业去或者乡村的项目才能是50万美金的最低投资额,但是从纽约到西雅图、旧金山、洛杉矶等等大都市区,吸收了绝大多数的EB-5资金,引起向参议院立法委员会主席Grassley这样乡村选区的立法者的异议,这也当前新提案所试图扭转的。

美国移民

6月3日新提案抛出之后,纽约等大都市区的项目方也都开始积极游说,力图影响TEA的认定。今天EB5Sir提供的是一篇业内朋友钟岚转来的Bloomberg的报道,采访了不同立场的声音,供朋友们了解当前EB-5法案推动的艰巨性。当然,需要注意的是,这篇文章所提到的项目,并不代表项目本身有任何问题,EB-5改革也尚无任何定论,此报道的目的是通过这些项目来解释立法的复杂性而已。本文由Daisy Zhu义务翻译,特此感谢。

在华盛顿,纽约开发商直面签证计划难题

当Related耗资200亿的房地产综合体在曼哈顿西面地平线升起的时候,华盛顿的立法者们正在辩论该项目所赖以生存的签证计划之命运。

该项目占地28英亩(11公顷)的Hudson Yards,以及从西雅图到洛杉矶的建筑铁塔,都依赖于同一个地基:中国的现金“岩石”。开发商们正在通过EB-5计划获得破纪录的资金,该计划授予绿卡给将50万美金投资到项目并创造就业的外国投资人。

当EB-5在9月份需要被国会重新再授权之际,立法者们正在施压进行变革,迫切要求在九月续期国会上修改EB5法案。 拟议中的法案,旨在重新将投资方向,转到更多穷的和农村社区。并且这将会使得开发商在大城市的项目募集资金变得困难,如纽约,自2010年以来,在那里至少有32亿的EB-5资金用于修建摩天大楼,根据纽约大学斯特恩商学院珍Jeanne Calderon和Gary Friedland教授的研究报告。

“这并非是丧钟,不过将会带来极大的改变”,一家EB-5融资领域的纽约Dai & Associates律所的合伙人Dan Dwyer说。

提案,S.1501由佛蒙特州民主党参议员Patrick Leahy和爱荷华州共和党参议员Chuck Grassley提出,目的在于确保该项自1993年开始的计划,能够充分服务于贫困地区 。 该措施还提出了更严格的监督,以防止欺诈行为,将提高最低投资至80万美元。

更高利润

2009年,在金融危机期间,其他的融资渠道枯竭之际,房地产企业锁定EB-5,同时,就业创造的计算变化使得建筑工地容易合格。 从此便掀起了热潮,根据USCIS(移民局)的数据显示, 美国区域中心数量由2007年的16个激增至689个。

通过承诺永久居留权所吸引的海外投资者,收取的贷款利率,低于获取收益为目的的借款机构,使得开发商大大提高了利润率。 政府数据显示 ,去年85%的EB-5签证由中国家庭获得。

反对者说,该计划使得有钱的外国人购买公民权太过容易,而没有真正地采取足够措施来帮助经济拮据的社区。 国会当前的提案,将会在欣欣向荣的大都市街区限制使用EB-5资金,通过约束gerrymandering(EB5Sir注:意指类似划分选区)的方式来制造高失业区。

“这将制造一个机会,让农村议员们站出来说道:我们一直是认为该计划是为农村发展打算的。 我们要怎么才可以将资金再引回农村?”Dwyer 说。

Hudson Yards

在Hudson Yards,由Stephen Ross的Related集团,作为美国历史上最大的私营房产项目,已经通过EB-5募集了6亿美元。 该公司正着手进行第二轮筹款,据其发言人Joanna Rose说。她未就EB-5拟议中的变革做评价。

EB-5可以使该项目按部就班进行,否则将不能,Related的CEO在4月份一个中国投资论坛上说。

Related和Larry Silverstein,这个世贸中心重生项目背后的大人物,都是这些组成自己的团队来直接寻找EB-5投资者,加速建设进程的大开发商。

EB-5计划也很受州政府和市政府欢迎,并从它的成功中受益。从2011年到2014年,至少创造了103,000个工作岗位,在25个州和地区,根据EB-5投资联盟的报告,一个商业合作机构旨在使EB-5计划获得永久授权。

Soho公寓

由开发商Michael Shvo 建设,位于25 Greenwich St.的住宅楼据称将会是曼哈顿金融区最高的住宅大楼,此项目是从中国投资者通过EB-5筹集的资金。他还计划继续通过EB-5筹集的资金建设位于100 Varick St.的Soho公寓项目。

“EB-5可以使得开发商触及更广泛的投资者,”Shvo在一封电子邮件中说到。 这是特别有帮助的,比较传统的建筑贷款,他说“包括施工程序,项目要求和合理的成本等。”

事实上,每一个使用EB-5资金的建筑商都在努力的寻找TEA - 目标就业区域,据纽约大学的Friedland说。 目前,相比100万美元的项目,投资者只需要投入50万美元在TEA的项目。

“高度政治化”

作为目标就业区,失业率至少是有超过150%的州平均水平,或者是在农村地区。 在纽约和其他大城市,多个区域人口普查是紧密连接,从而一起创建高失业率的区域,这就是为何曼哈顿以远的西边区域为什么能满足TEA的要求。州政府决定什么满足TEA的要求。

“这是一个高度政治化的过程,” Friedland说。 “州政府的目的显然只为吸引并留住投资者,发展自己的州,并且不要输给别的州。”

一些大都市选区的国会议员,包括纽约州民主党参议员Charles Schumer,正在推动以保持TEA的灵活定义,据一位不愿披露姓名的民主党助手说,因为谈判正在进行中。

至关重要的是,TEA“被定义为,可最大限度的发挥EB-5项目的能力,继续刺激经济增长,并实现其根本目的——创造就业,”Jeff Campion,EB-5投资联盟指导委员会委员,在一份电子邮件声明中说到。Related、Silverstein Properties、希尔顿、万豪都是该组织的成员。

九月生死线

让资金流向能获得最大收益的地方,是EB-5计划吸引投资者的关键,Steve McMillin说,其为U.S. Policy Metrics - 位于华盛顿的研究机构的合伙人。 此外,在施工现场工作的工人可能生活在几英里外的贫困社区,即使该项目正兴建在一个富人区。

EB-5计划是否会应被延期仍存在一些小的争议,其不确定性可能会阻碍投资,McMillan说。 立法者可能被迫使用一个临时的解决办法,如果无法在9月30日的最后期限之前达成妥协,问题也将进一步被复杂化。

“提案已在两党的支持下被延期过多次,但是今天有很多,看起来容易解决的事情,却并非那么容易。” McMillan说。

原文出处:BloombergBusiness。

NYC Developers Face Clash in Washington on Visa Program
by Sarah Mulholland
July 20, 2015 — 5:00 PM HKT Updated on July 21, 2015 — 2:41 AM HKT

As Related Cos.’ $20 billion real estate complex rises on the far west side of Manhattan, legislators in Washington are debating the fate of a program that has been critical to building it.

The caissons underpinning the 28-acre (11-hectare) Hudson Yards project, and steel beams rising for towers from Seattle to Los Angeles, are resting on the same foundation: a bedrock of cash from Chinese individuals. Developers are taking advantage of a record amount of money that’s flowing through the EB-5 program, which grants green cards to foreigners that invest a minimum of $500,000 in projects that create jobs.

Lawmakers are pressing for changes to EB-5 when it comes up for renewal by Congress in September. Proposed legislation seeks to redirect investments to poor and rural communities and would make it tougher for developers to access funds in big cities such as New York, where at least $3.2 billion of EB-5 cash has gone toward building the skyline since 2010, according to a study by Jeanne Calderon and Gary Friedland, professors at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

“It wouldn’t be the death knell, but it would change everything dramatically,” said Dan Dwyer, a New York-based lawyer with Dai & Associates who specializes in EB-5 financing.

The bill, S. 1501, sponsored by senators Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, aims to ensure that the poorer areas that were the intended beneficiaries when the program began in 1993 are being adequately served. The measure also proposes stricter oversight to guard against fraud, and raising the minimum investment to $800,000.

Bigger Profits

Real estate companies latched on to EB-5 funds in 2009 when other sources of capital dried up during the financial crisis, and changes in the way jobs were counted made it easier for construction sites to qualify. That set off a boom, with the number of EB-5 centers in the U.S. ballooning to 689 from 16 in 2007, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Overseas investors lured by the promise of legal residency charge less than lenders motivated by high returns, enabling developers to boost profit margins. About 85 percent of EB-5 visas obtained last year went to Chinese families, government data show.

Detractors say the program makes it too easy for wealthy foreigners to buy citizenship while not doing enough to aid financially strapped communities. The bill before Congress would restrict the use of EB-5 funds in thriving metropolitan neighborhoods by reining in gerrymandering used to create impoverished zones.

“This creates an opportunity for rural representatives to step out and say, ‘We always intended this for rural development. How do we push this money back to rural areas?’” Dwyer said.

Hudson Yards

At Hudson Yards, billed by Stephen Ross’s Related as the largest private real estate development in U.S. history, about $600 million has been raised through EB-5. The company is embarking on a second round of fundraising, according to Joanna Rose, Related’s spokeswoman. She declined to comment on proposed changes to the program.

Using EB-5 allows projects to proceed at a pace they otherwise wouldn’t be able to, Related Chief Executive Officer Jeff Blau said in April during a forum on Chinese investment.

Related and Larry Silverstein, the real estate mogul behind the rebirth of the World Trade Center, are among large developers that have formed their own groups to connect directly with potential EB-5 investors, speeding up the process.

The program is also popular with states and municipalities that have benefited from its success. From 2011 to 2014, at least 103,000 jobs were created across 25 states and territories, according to a report this month by the EB-5 Investment Coalition, a business group working to reauthorize EB-5.

Cash from EB-5 investors is funding real estate projects as diverse as a Marriott hotel in Los Angeles and a skyscraper in Seattle. In New York, the program is helping finance construction in some of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods.

Soho Condos

Developer Michael Shvo is raising money from Chinese investors through EB-5 for 125 Greenwich St., what he says will be the tallest residential tower in Manhattan’s financial district. He also plans to seek EB-5 funds for a proposed condominium project at 100 Varick St. in Soho.

“EB-5 has allowed developers to reach an even broader spectrum of investors,” Shvo said in an e-mail. That’s especially helpful when traditional construction-lending contracts, he said. “We look to it only in scenarios where timing, program requirements and cost make sense.”

Virtually every development using EB-5 funds today finds a way to qualify for a lower investment hurdle by being designated a targeted employment area, or TEA, according to NYU’s Friedland. Currently, investors need only invest $500,000 in a project that falls within a TEA, compared with $1 million for other projects.

‘Highly Politicized’

To be counted as a TEA, a district has to have a jobless rate that’s at least 150 percent of the national average, or be in a rural area. In New York and other large cities, multiple census tracts are stitched together to create zones of high unemployment, enabling areas like Manhattan’s far west side to qualify. States decide what constitutes a TEA.

“It’s a highly politicized process,” Friedland said. “The states obviously aim to retain and attract investors and development to their state and not lose it to another.”

Some lawmakers with large urban constituencies, including Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, are pushing to keep the definition flexible, according to a Democratic aide, who asked not to be named because talks are ongoing.

It’s critical that TEAs “be defined to maximize the ability of the EB-5 program to continue to spur economic growth and fulfill its fundamental purpose, which is creating jobs,” Jeff Campion, a member of the EB-5 Investment Coalition’s steering committee, said in an e-mailed statement. Related, Silverstein Properties Inc., Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. and Marriott International Inc. are among the group’s members.

September Deadline

Allowing dollars to flow to where they will earn the greatest returns is key to attracting investors to the program, according to Steve McMillin, a partner at U.S. Policy Metrics, a Washington-based research firm. Also, workers at a construction site may live in impoverished neighborhoods miles away, even if the project is being built in a wealthy area, he said.

While there is little doubt the program will be renewed, uncertainty over its final form may hinder investment, McMillan said. Legislators may be forced to use a temporary fix if an agreement can’t be reached by the Sept. 30 deadline, further complicating the issue, he said.

“It has been renewed several times with strong bipartisan support in each case,” McMillan said. “But there are a number of things these days that seem like they should be easy to legislate that aren’t.”

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