Abbas Hashmi is a globally renowned investment banker, business consultant, entrepreneur and Founder CEO of Green Card Capital, a company that specialises in assisting high net worth individuals obtain US green cards and US residence through the EB-5 Investor Visa Program and the E-2 Investor Treaty Visa. Hashmi holds a certificate in Islamic Finance and has spent a lifetime advising and working with investors, foreign nationals, high net worth individuals and their families. In conversation with him.
After earning an MBA in Karachi you worked as an investment banker and entrepreneur. Do tell us what inspired you to switch tracks to an immigration consultant?
Well, I’m not exactly an immigration consultant. I work with International family offices and high net worth clients and it was sort of a natural evolution. I still advise a very interesting, International book of celebrity and ultra high net worth clientele for their their investment and advisor selection challenges. The EB-5 program was something that a few of my clients were interested in. That is how I came to know of the program and started working with clients who are looking to immigrate to the United States through investment.
What personally inspired you to launch "Green Card Capital"... a company that specialises in assisting high net worth individuals and their families in obtaining US Green Cards and immigration to the US by taking advantage of the E2 Treaty Visa Program?
I myself have immigrated to new countries with my family as a child and then again as an adult and I do understand the challenges and excitement and decisions that come along with this process. It’s not about sales and numbers for my team and I. We deal with families making major life decisions. It’s like the people side of investment and I’m quite drawn to that.
While earning an MBA in International business, you were exposed to diverse cultures and business practices. How far did this help towards the success of "Green Card Capital?"
It helps me tremendously. Jasmeen, as an entrepreneur yourself, we have to deal with all types of personalities and people. From vendors to consultants to clients I absolutely feel that the more exposure you have to cultural diversity and different work environments can only help one’s success in any field. As cultures are trying to assimilate and finding common grounds they are still striving to create a unique compelling story for themselves. I celebrate diversity and difference of opinion and working in wealth management space makes it more exciting.
"Green Card Capital" has an office in Pakistan. Do share your three-year expansion plan with us. So what trends have you perceived from analysing EB-5 immigrant data?
We have a team in Pakistan, yes, but recently we did have to close our offices there. Right now we have offices in New York City, San Francisco and Hong Kong. A major trend that we have seen within our client base is Indian clients who look to take advantage of the EB-5 program for their children who are college and university bound. The US green card gives their child the freedom to choose what they want to do, where they want to work, if they want to start their own business plus once the student has finished their education — they receive their investment back around the same time, usually 4-5 years, so they have a bit of a nest egg to get started with. We are considering opening an office in New Delhi.
Is California, New York and Florida the popular states to settle... and why? Which are the top three countries from where EB-5 beneficiaries come?
Yes, our clients do like to settle in the coastal states, New York and California and also Florida due to the multicultural diverse demographics. A lot of our clients usually have families in these gateway cities or few miles away. It is always nice to have a support system in place before you land. Green Card Capital provides this support in addition to and in the case of lack of such support. A major trend lately is also Texas. We see a lot of our clients looking to settle in Houston. The top three countries right now are China, India and S. Korea.
What is the response you have received from Indians to invest in The American Dream?
As I said earlier, Indians do like the idea of holding US green cards. Lately, a major trend has been for Indian parents to apply and gift this to their children who are getting ready to study in US colleges and Universities. As H1B debate heats up as part of the greater immigration reform, it is imperative for the Indian students to have a legal permanent residence status to comfortable find work experience in US.
What is your criterion for choosing investors and what precautions do you take when making this choice?
That’s a great question. Unlike other firms, who may come off as desperate for clientele, we are very picky as to who we agree to work with. The EB-5 investment is one that lasts on average 4-5 years. We need to know that there is a mutual respect and understanding between ourselves and our client before we undertake such a long relationship. Our clients become part of our family, as we then become their advisor not only for their EB-5 investment, but also their move to the United States and building their home and life in the states.
Working with clients brings logistical challenges as well as multi-cultural differences and high-strung emotions. How do you address it and maintain a good working relationship?
We work with complete transparency and honesty. Our clients trust us to do what is right for them. We represent our client — not any funds or projects. Because of this our clients know that we are on their side. We are not agents of any projects of investments.
From the investors' standpoint, what measures has the U.S. government implemented to address any issues of potential fraud in the program?
This program is very regulated, however, there is always someone out to take advantage of someone else. Our services actually mitigate the chance of being taken advantage of — we make sure our clients are taken care of and that the projects and funds they choose to work with are compliant and that our clients have seen a through independent due diligence to make the best possible decisions with their money.
When it comes to starting new ventures, what is important for entrepreneurs to keep in mind and do?
Understand that every business needs investment. Both in terms of financial and emotional commitment to your idea. Also businesses scale up, so taking the first step is crucial. I would usually advise to create an action list that serves like a Pinterest for ideas and actions. Then create a company and website. Every time you feel defeated, a basic website, business card and company formation will get you going. Just remember, if you do not believe in your idea, no one will. Give respect to your idea and give it some clothes to wear! The next step is to network with a cause, know and interact with the right people and take interest in what they are doing.