Clear, Credible & Consistent Business Plans for EB-5 with Suzanne Lazicki – Episode 52
With cross-training at the Immigrant Investor Program Office, a new level of detail is necessary in writing business plans for EB-5. Today, Mark and Mona are joined by Suzanne Lazicki of Lucid Professional Writing to discuss common adjudicator complaints around credibility and consistency. They also cover the current EB-5 standstill, the Visa Bulletin, and Suzanne’s well-researched blog.
When Suzanne Lazicki started writing business plans for EB-5 back in 2009, the instructions were to “keep it simple.” Adjudicators didn’t necessarily have business backgrounds, so detailed financial projections, for example, were unnecessary. But now the audience has changed. IPO is cross-training economists and adjudicators to handle a single petition from start to finish, and a new level of detail is required.
Suzanne Lazicki is a business writer and EB-5 expert. Her EB-5 blog is an industry go-to, and Suzanne has a reputation for providing the most up-to-date and well-researched information about the program. She founded Lucid Professional Writing in 2009, and since then she has prepared over 250 business plans for Regional Centers, project developers and foreign investors. Suzanne was recognized as one of the Top 5 EB-5 Business Plan Writers of 2017 by EB-5 Investors Magazine.
Today Suzanne joins Mona and Mark in discussing the impetus behind her blog as well as her sources of information. They cover the highly-anticipated regulations set to come out on February 16th and how to interpret the Visa Bulletin to identify trends. Suzanne explains her approach to writing business plans for EB-5 in this new era of detail, describing the most common business plan deficiencies and how she addresses clarity, credibility and consistency in her work. Listen in for Suzanne’s insight around Matter of Ho compliance, and learn to avoid the dreaded “all rhetoric, no substance” denial.
• Suzanne’s blog began as a way for her to gather information for business plan clients and learn the most up-to-date information about the EB-5 program. She has a database of 50 links in her browser that she consults regularly, using government sources, other bloggers and reliable industry sites as sources of information.
• There is little movement on EB-5 as of late, and public sources are not talking about the program. That will change when the final regulations come out on February 16, 2018, though that date is subject to change.
• Suzanne suggests that there are two issues to keep an eye on: The Regional Center Reauthorization and the EB-5 Program Modernization. (Reauthorization doesn’t affect direct EB-5 projects.)
• The wait time to get Visa number depends on the country you’re from and the number of applications in the system. Suzanne utilizes the Visa Bulletin, info on the backlog of applications at the Visa Center, and trends in I-526s to predict wait times.
• There was a surge in EB-5 visa use last year, and the numbers were up 37% in the last quarter. Vietnam is likely to face oversubscription in the coming year, and India will be in the same situation the following year. (The popularity of EB-5 in India can be attributed to the fact that their EB-2 and EB-3s are so far behind; USCIS is currently adjudicating cases filed in December 2008.)
• Entrepreneurial business plans can be more difficult to write than business plans for Regional Center projects, as there is a greater diversity of business types. Suzanne argues that more weight is put on the business plan in the direct EB-5 context because it explains how jobs are created.
• Don’t try to cut corners on your business plan. If you leave out important details, you are likely to receive a request for evidence that says your plan is “not credible because the assertions are not supported.”
Credibility & Consistency
• Suzanne explains that credibility is the top reason why business plans don’t succeed. The legal term for credibility is Matter of Ho-compliant.
• Suzanne identifies three components of Matter of Ho compliance:
1. Credibility from evidence
2. Internal consistency
3. External consistency
• Back up material claims in your business plan with third-party references, and remember that immigration examiners are verifying information available in the outside world. If they discover information that conflicts with your business plan, they will be asking questions.
Detail vs. Length
• USCIS IPO has famously identified “all rhetoric, no substance” as one of the most common EB-5 business plan deficiencies. This indicates an emphasis on detail rather than length.
• Relevance is the key: Offer detail around how EB-5 funds will be used, job creation as well as the business plan’s market and financials.
• IPO is training economists and adjudicators to handle a single petition from start to finish. This means that the audience for your business plan has changed.
• USCIS personnel often have banking backgrounds, and they are familiar with reading financial projections. As such, most denials and RFEs result from a lack of detailed information.
• Suzanne seeks to be as clear as possible in writing business plans for EB-5. She employs tables and bullet points to make the information easier to digest.
• When it comes to financials, Suzanne includes sophisticated financial projections AND extensive notes. This way, the information is clear regardless of the adjudicator’s background and experience.
• Suzanne seeks out projects in “real TEA areas” because they are the most satisfying. She wants to tell a compelling story through the business plan, examining the distressed aspects of the area while also pointing out the economic trends that would support a new business.