EB5 Investors Magazine | Page 13

QSR Direct Investment Breaking down the elements of a typical QSR against the EB-5 program requirements, it becomes clear why QSRs and the EB-5 direct investment program are a perfect match for each other: • Investment in a new, restructured, or expanded business: a QSR can range from $350,000 to upwards of $2 million, depending on the franchise brand. The investment covers the franchise fee, leasehold, construction or tenant improvements, furniture, fixtures, and fittings, as well as insurance, marketing, payroll, operational reserves, and most importantly, food. An investment in a QSR in a targeted employment area that meets the $500,000 threshold can meet both the new business and minimum investment requirements of the EB-5 program. • Creation of 10 new full-time U.S. jobs: With the common complaint being that QSRs are always understaffed, QSRs actually employee a large number of people. QSRs are often open 7 days a week for 12 hours a day. The duration that the QSR is open for business results in three work shifts and 18 to 24 full-time jobs per location. A single investor opening a QSR could expect to far exceed the minimum ten full-time U.S. workers requirement of the EB-5 program. This large job number could also potentially support two or more investors per location. This affords the opportunity for investors with limited funds to attract and engage the more expensive QSR brands. • Management of the new business: The EB-5 Program requires the immigrant investor to be engaged in the management of the new commercial enterprise, either through the exercise of day-to-day managerial responsibility or through policy formulation. In regional center sponsored projects this is accomplished by providing investors with minimum or paired down rights, whereby the investors have the right to vote on policy formulation, but no right to exercise day-to-day control. In direct contrast with regional center sponsored projects, an investor owning and operating a QSR can/will bear the responsibility of policy formulation and day-to-day management. The last point, managing the new business, is really where there is a sharp contrast between the QSR direct investment and regional center sponsored programs. When performing an evaluation of regional center projects, the common criticism is that investors are putting their money and faith in a regional center or developer that they have never met or have had limited contact with. Without the ability to exercise day-to-day control, investors can be uncomfortable with a project’s ability to create the required jobs and to use the funds as detailed in the project business plan. While fully conceding that this lack of responsibility and control is attractive to the largest number of EB-5 investors, for an investor that wishes to be directly involved in the management of the business and partake in the potential profits and losses, the QSR direct franchise model provides that avenue. However, with long delays in processing and ever changing adjudication standards, we are beginning to see investors moving away from QSR direct investment and to regional center sponsored QSR projects. As detailed further below, delays are unfortunately an issue yet to have been addressed by USCIS. Continuing delays in I-526 processing times cause a shift in an investors job creation window. Investors owning and operating a QSR must be able to prove job creation by the time or shortly after the I-829 petition is to be filed. This means that an investor may need to operate the business and maintain the required job creation for upwards of 6 years to receive lawful permanent resident status, whereas a regional center sponsored project using indirect and induced job creation for hard construction costs could meet the job creation requirements in year one. Delays in Processing Times Current USCIS I-526 processing time is listed as 14 months1, a period that is difficult to corroborate if you don’t work inside the USCIS field offices. As practitioners, we see I-526 approval times ranging from 10 to 24 months. These long processing times create uncertainty, and are a direct reason for the move from QSR direct investment to regional center sponsorship. The filing of the Form I-526 petition does not provide for an interim visa to the United States, meaning a foreign investor investing into a new QSR does not have the ability to enter the United States and manage his/her investment at any point prior to I-526 approval and adjustment of status to the green card, either in the United States or at a consulate abroad. The investor may be able to apply for a B-1 business visa for intermittent business travel, but having a pending green card application muddies ѡ