Celebrating AVS Vietnam’s One Year Anniversary
It’s true: time DOES fly when you are having fun! Consider that it was only last September when brand new AVS Country Director Nguyet (“Monica”) Pham and I were looking at our first little Regus office at the very tony Saigon Tower, across the street from the U.S. Consulate. We were arguing: ever the pragmatist, Nguyet was insisting that the specific closet-sized office we were about to rent did NOT need to have a window. She didn’t want to spend the extra few hundred dollars a month for a window. But the thought of our ONE Vietnam team member sitting alone in a windowless office was awful, and I won the argument. (She later confessed that she was very happy to have the window but it was an “unnecessary expense….” (-:)
Fast forward a year later and here we are, in the same wonderful building we share with some of the world’s leading companies and law firms, in our own big, beautiful office. Under Nguyet’s leadership, AVS’ six years of presence in Vietnam was consolidated, refined and fine-tuned, resulting in the solidification of our brand and reputation in the Vietnam EB-5 market. In fact, things went so well so fast that by April, months after Nguyen and Thi had come aboard, the little Regus office was starting to look like one of those “how many people can we fit into a Volkswagen” pictures from the 70s. I told them we needed a REAL office, as in our own space, and that we needed room to grow. By May we’d signed the contract for our new space and the designers we hired took the image in my head and made it a reality: a clean, open, modern space which was both inviting and visually spacious yet practically built to accommodate our expanding team, private client meetings, and small seminars.
This week we are celebrating the one year anniversary of American Venture Solutions’ Vietnam with those who have made it all possible: our Vietnamese EB-5 investors old and new, from those who only recently found us as the only DIRECT EB-5 Regional Center offering fee transparency and a sterling record of investor approval to those original investors – now good friends – whose families have been successfully residing in the U.S. for years and who are awaiting their I-829 approvals as we celebrate this incredible milestone made possible under the watchful leadership of Nguyet and her Saigon team. (I smile every time I think about the courage it took for you first folks to trust us when we were a brand new, unproven EB-5 Regional Center just stepping into Saigon six years ago…(-: )
When Nguyet and I decided to open that Regus office last year, the task was daunting: the SEC had only recently began sanctioning EB-5 Regional Centers for paying finders fees/commissions to persons who were not licensed securities broker/dealers. Despite the clear prohibition of paying such fees, the ENTIRE EB-5 industry essentially ignored these regulatory changes and, as we all know from the headlines today, virtually the entire sector still depends on migration agencies, paying fees the SEC has stated are illegal. If we were to make this commitment to the Vietnam market, it meant going it alone and standing firm to develop our brand and reputation without relying on immigration agents for investor referrals. If we could pull that off, it would be a first.
Well, we — and to be completely fair, it’s more like “she” – did it! At that time, the issue of the China backlog was paramount in the industry; Big EB-5 Regional Centers- I’m talking about all those megaprojects helping develop those “poor”, impoverished, ghastly neighborhoods in Manhattan, Beverly Hills, and South Beach (-; — descended from China into Vietnam like an Old Testament plague of locusts, eager to devour the “next big market” (as all the seminar hypesters proclaimed). Almost immediately, the comparatively benign immigration agent market in Vietnam began to look more and more like what AVS had quickly ruled out in China back in 2011: a protocol of profiteering based upon what regional center was paying the highest (remember: illegal) commission without regard for the investors’ money or future.
We started quietly out of our little Regus office, but word-of-mouth spread quickly: people could not believe there was an EB-5 Regional Center with full time roots in Vietnam which did NOT work with migration agents, did NOT pay under-the-table commissions, did NOT charge add-on fees, and was owned and operated by an AV-rated former U.S. visa officer/attorney offering EB-5 investments exclusively from a Forbes 400 investment group with a sterling reputation.
Word got out, calls and emails trickled in. We were soon booking the Regus conference room and then it gravitated to hotel lobby meetings. The stories Nguyet and I heard were shocking: migration agents collecting EB-5 investment funds from would-be investors, adding on $50,000-$150,000 in “miscellaneous fees”, only to call the investor back and say “sorry, your source of funds won’t work”, refunding the $500,000 capital investment…but pocketing the “miscellaneous fees”! Still others were “guaranteeing” visa approval (sound familiar? That’s what the NYT reported was being promised by the Kushner Company’s Chinese immigration agents.) One EB-5 Regional Center even came into Vietnam, announcing there were no admin fees…and then turned around and secretely slipped $50,000 of each investors capital funds into the hands of the agents! And so on…
Our experiment in transparency took root and, one year later, AVS Vietnam is thriving as the only purveyor of EB-5 opportunities which complies with U.S. laws not only in the U.S., but all over the world. Today, more than one third of AVS investors are referred by our most powerful, unpaid “sales force”: our existing investors who believe in what we’ve built and how we run this business.
AVS Vietnam is the only foreign office of American Venture Solutions, and our commitment to Vietnam is both permanent and measured; we understand that as small regional center, focus is essential. As promising as new emerging EB-5 markets can look, time is finite. AVS is committed to cementing our reputation with Vietnamese EB-5 investors and to preserving our untainted record of success on their behalf.
Here’s to Nguyet and AVS Team Saigon for making our dream a reality, and for making the dream of U.S. residency a reality for our treasured investor families!
And thank YOU, Saigon!