Korean EB5 Market – Episode 19

EB5 in Korea with Jinhee Wilde

Korean EB5 Market – Episode 19

Guest Jinhee Wilde discusses the Korean EB5 Market

Host Mona Shah and co-host Mark Deal speak with Jinhee Wilde, an immigration lawyer with 16 years of experience and originally from Korea. The group discusses the differences and similarities between the Korean EB5 market and others around the world, the necessity to follow strict guidelines when dealing with foreign agents, Source of Funding issues, and issues with translations.

In a fast-paced, global market, Mona is impressed with the level of sophistication of Korean investors. While other areas of the world are struggling to keep up with EB5 program rules and guidelines, the Korean market shines through as some of the more advanced investors. Though no longer the largest group of EB5 investors, South Korea was originally the #1 market when the program first began in the 1990’s.
Mona and Jinhee discuss some of the lessons they have learned over the years when dealing with foreign investors. Both Mona and Jinhee avoid working with agents who refuse direct access to their clients. They also discuss how best to deal with translated documents, and some of the obvious mistakes they have found in these documents. In another point of agreement, both Mona and Jinhee advise against partial filings, advising to wait until all funds are available before filing with USCIS.

  • The EB5 market is currently dominated by the Chinese. However, in the 1990’s when EB5 first started, South Korea was #1.


  • Around 2007, Korea moved to the #2 position, but they are still very important players in the EB5 market. Korea has hundreds of investors compared to thousands from China.


  • Similarities and Differences between Korean and Chinese agents:
    • Korean agents do not refer to themselves as “Tiered” (Tier 1, Tier 2, etc.) as Chinese agents do.
    • Chinese and Korean agents have similar cultures, so they operate similarly.
    • Unlike China, Korea has had a tax system in place for many years, with many documents available online. Getting tax documents has become easier. Less mom and pop businesses dealing in cash only.
    • There are no significant limits on wire transfers in Korea, unlike in China.


  • Korean agents reach out to the community through Seminars, Expos, newspaper ads, Social Media, and blogs. Mona points out that the MENA (Middle East North Africa) market is just beginning to grasp EB5 concepts, and by comparison, Korean investors are more sophisticated and have a better understanding of EB5 concepts.


  • Jinhee is conservative with Source of Funds to avoid RFE’s. Mona is against using in-house attorneys for filing because they can not be completely impartial.


  • Korean investors are sophisticated – many professionals, doctors, lawyers, accountants, and business people who have done multi-national deals in the past. Documentation and translations coming from Korea are usually better than from Vietnam or China.


  • Both Mona and Jinhee have seen significant issues with translation, including a missing 0 in a property appraisal, and incorrect account numbers. When submitting to USCIS, any non-English documents must be completely translated, and the translator must certify that they understand both languages and that the translation is accurate to the best of their knowledge. If there is any non-English on a page – the entire page must be translated.


  • Korea has Immigration Fairs every Spring and Fall – in line with the student exchange program. Many EB5 investors in Korea are motivated by sending their children to U.S. schools. If one is paying $100,000/yr/student for tuition, it’s easy for them to do a $500,000 Regional Center EB5 to get their child a green card and in-state tuition.


  • Jinhee knows one investor who had her I-829 Removal of Condition approved, and is getting her investment back. Her husband is in the financial market. Jinhee did the filing and Source of Funds tracking.


  • Re-entry permits are not recommended when pursuing U.S. citizenship. Re-entry permits allow you to stay out of the country for over 2 years, but the permit resets the time you have spent in country.


  • Both Mona and Jinhee have had issues speaking directly with their foreign clients, especially in China. Jinhee refuses to work with agents who will not allow her to speak directly to her client.


  • Last year, there were many new applications filed just before the September 30 deadline, and some regional centers were allowing applications with only partial funding or only an admin fee. Mona and Jinhee advise against partial filing. USCIS is moving towards not approving when all funds have not been fully committed.


  • Track record and experience are key components when you are choosing a lawyer and an EB5 project.