With over 9,000 EB-5 applicants emerging from East Asia each year – one would think that in a place like the Middle East and South Asia, demand would be at similar or higher levels. However, as a cursory glance at recent statistics shows, the program’s awareness in the region is incredibly low. It took until FY 2015 for India’s EB-5 applicants to creep over 100, despite that country’s size, economic success, and strong relationship with the US. There isn’t a single Arab country that is near the level of India, which is already an order of magnitude below Asia. I believe there are several reasons for this lack of development.
1. Program awareness is extremely low. Compared to the Asian and Chinese market, very few people in the Middle East and South Asia know what “EB-5” means.
2. There are a range of low credibility entrants in the market. These low credibility companies are plentiful and not trusted. Except in the most dire of circumstances – people in the Emerging Market will avoid associations with these brands. For example – receiving an unsolicited, bulk text message for you phone that says “GREEN CARDS FAST CONTACT US NOW” is incredibly unwise. How can people trust someone with a large amount of money, if they don’t have to intelligence to see how ineffective that type of marketing and corporate identify is?
3. Prospective EB-5 applicants do not place high confidence in projects and regional centers that rely on temporary offices, short local visits, and culturally unsophisticated marketing. Arriving in town for 2 days, having an “information session”, and leaving again quickly afterwords does not build the trust that the market is craving. People want to be able to call a local number with questions, or have the ability to casually get to know the client in a relaxed setting.
4. The dominance of the East Asian market in EB-5 has oriented US projects and RCs towards distribution, marketing, and product strategies conducive to that region. Very few projects are willing to take the time and expense to really develop the opportunities with the Middle East and South Asia, because it is theoretically much easier to go to East Asia and try and compete in a more mature market.