Friday, May 28, 2010

Vintage Jose: EB-5 Article from 11/20/98



an examination of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Category and
Implications of Recent INS decisionmaking

by Jose E. Latour

While most immigration attorneys handling business visa cases have
at least dabbled in EB-5 petitions, the reality is that such filings
are still few and far between. This article will explore the
feasibility of the EB-5 NOT from a technical/legal standpoint, but
from the standpoint of the immigrant investors concerns. The purpose,
then, is to assist a potential EB-5 investor in deciding whether this
mechanism is indeed in his or her interest.

I will not delve into detail as far as the EB-5 requirements- you can
search [deleted] for this information. The basics are that in
order to qualify for permanent residency in the U.S. for the investor,
spouse, and unmarried children under 21, the investor must:

  • invest at $1 million U.S. (or $500,000 in certain high
    unemployment zones)

  • create at least 10 full time positions for U.S. workers (not
    including the investor or relatives)

  • play an active role in the enterprise (which can be just about
    any legal business)

  • prove two years down the road, to get the final approval, that
    the requirements were indeed met

A little history: when the Immigration Act of 1990 was passed, many
of us hailed the new EB-5 as a potential landmark in U.S. immigration
history. By combining a substantial investment with PROVEN job
generation, two social purposes were met: the very tangible creation
of jobs, as well as the more esoteric but potentially farther reaching
stimulus to bring foreign dollars to the U.S. (As long time
immigration watchers know, there are two seasons for U.S. immigration:
high demand and higher demand. When the global economy is strong, the
appeal of a fresh start in the U.S. is attractive. When the global
economy is unstable -- as it is at the time of this writing -- the U.S.
is usually the safest place to be. Nowadays, not even Japan offers
economic peace of mind to outside investors.) Naysayers complained
that Congress had "sold out" and was "selling" U.S. residency to the
rich. However, with an annual cap of 10,000 visas, that would mean
an average of 200 new millionaire families in each state, a hardly
threatening proposition by anyone's standards. Even those opposed
admitted that their opposition was philosophical...

So the law passed, and as I've written in prior
articles, those of us whose practice focused on business immigration
scrambled for those "few" 10,000 visas. The expectations of an
important new immigration mechanism, however, were quickly shattered
by INS rulemaking. In their admittedly important effort to insure
that investment funds were not drug profits, the INS rules created
an unparalleled level of disclosure...exactly what an intelligent,
offshore-investing international investor DOES not want to hear.
To the INS, disclosure meant absolute disclosure, and the nuances
and reality of international tax treatment never entered anyone's
mind. Accordingly, an investor had to make a choice: disclose ALL
offshore accounts and interests and risk a multijurisdictional tax
nightmare despite the finest in tax planning, or forget the EB-5
altogether. As you can imagine, a collective "cry heard 'round
world" was bellowed from Price Waterhouse offices all over the
planet, and clients were sternly advised: if your immigration
lawyer releases all this information that is none of the U.S.
Government's damn business, you risk accusation of tax avoidance
in [insert just about any tax jurisdiction, offshore or otherwise,

And so the potential EB-5 investors scattered like flies, leaving
a few hundred diehards per year to apply. (At the time of this
writing, I don't know the most recent figures on EB-5 applications:
however, they continue to be a tiny fraction of the 10,000 allowed
annually.) I moaned and groaned about the problem, but Congress
had moved on to other issues. I suggested alternative ways of
verifying that the funds were not linked to criminal activity
(Interpol and FBI searches paid for by the EB5 applicant), but no
one really cared. Instead, business immigration attorneys did what
they always do when a perfectly viable immigration mechanism is
rendered impotent by poorly thought out government intervention:
they looked for alternatives.

The alternatives included -- and include -- the L-1 (since many of
these investors have active companies overseas) and the E-1 or E-2
(since many of them come from countries with U.S. bilateral treaties
of commerce and trade.) But these options were merely non-immigrant
visa mechanisms, and many of these investors wanted permanent
residency. So the "creative lawyering" began. Using a foundation
based upon the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program -- where certain
regional investment projects could preregister for interested EB-5
investors -- a hybrid investment vehicle was incarnated, in various
forms, by "investment companies" pooling funds. Those of with
established investor visa practices were essentially assaulted with
propaganda from these enterprises. Here is the general way they
were SUPPOSED to work:

  1. the investor placed an amount -- sometimes less than $100,000 --
    into a guaranteed escrow account

  2. the investment company leveraged the invested pool created by
    investors and obtained additional debentures, bonds, whatever,
    making up the balance of the requisite investment.

  3. the initial EB-5 would be approved for the investor and family

  4. after the removal of conditions two years later, the EB-5
    investment could be liquidated and the money "invested"
    returned, less fees, commissions, etc.

I'm no psychic and I am often accused of trying unusual structures
in visa cases, but I felt very uncomfortable with the concept.

  1. the total "at risk" investment statutorily required was never
    met...the $1 (or half a) million never was invested.

  2. if there was a "money back guarantee", how could the
    investment be "at risk"?!

  3. if the qualifying investment amount was "mortgaged", how could
    that meet the limits defined in the final EB-5 regs on point

  4. the EB-5 requires an "active" investor; how could these
    programs, "hands off" by design, be active within the meaning
    of the law?

I was reassured repeatedly that they had addressed all this, that the
EB-5 petitions were being approved. After a while, I got curious,
asked for proof, and a Florida company with this program gave me proof
positive in the form of INS approval notices! Indeed, perhaps I had
been a bit literal in my reading of the regs...

Not so fast. It took a few years, but the INS finally read its own
regulations and came to the same conclusion I had: these investment
structures did not meet the capital requirements, were not at risk,
and were definitely not "active" within the meaning of the law.
(Outraged, these well financed companies are mounting an aggressive
appellate campaign, but our phones were ringing off the hook when
the denials for the removal of conditions based on the foregoing
started coming in. To their credit, some of the companies --
including the Florida based entity which has so aggressively courted
me -- actually reimbursed clients fully for the two year old

[ AN ASIDE: one of. the most perplexing angles on this was the mistaken
belief on the part of the companies "recruiting" well-known business
immigration firms that we were this natural funnel of business for
them. As I told more than one smiling salesman, our EB-5 clients are
not rich yahoos trying to find a place to park their money! As a
rule, they are sophisticated business men and women looking to U.S.
Immigration for a variety of business and personal reasons. I have
YET to have a millionaire arrive at my door with "Gee, Jose, I have
all this money and no clue what to do with it"...I admit, it would be
fun...:-) ]

So where do we stand now? Well, if you know anything about the
Immigration appeals process, you know it means years of delay and
no real reassurance of success in the end. Worse, after a petition
is denied, your status is not "stayed" pending the appeal. In other
words, you are not allowed to remain in your current category while
you pursue the's more like "go home" and let your lawyer
worry about it. While the information I have received indicates
that these investment houses are convinced the INS will change its
tack and the appeals will be favorable, I don't believe this will be
the case. The said part is that if the INS had properly scrutinized
these cases and come to this conclusion earlier -- as I did -- then the
lives of hundreds of investors and their families would not be in
this situation. But the early approvals -- right or wrong -- fostered
a tremendous growth for these companies, as they now had "proof" --
again, in the form of actual notices of approval -- that their projects
were working. Unfortunately, these folks are now caught in the
uncertainty of legal wrangling and the appeal process.

Many firms continue to offer similar investment programs and, except
for the clearly qualifying, pre-INS-approved designated Pilot Programs
where minimum investment thresholds are required, I advise all our
clients against participation. When I DO get a client waffling about
the nature of the contemplated EB5 investment -- "Jose, I'm not sure if
I'll do the hotel in the Keys or the car dealership or the whatever"
-- I give them the same advice: follow your heart but use your head.
Analyze the potential of the contemplated business- whether brand new
or purchase of a going concern- with your CPA sitting by your side.
Crunch the numbers and spend a few thousand bucks on a good market
survey. Then, if all of that is okay, follow your dream. If that
bed and breakfast for German tourists visiting St. Augustine is your
dream, go for it. If you think your Mom's recipe for creme cheese
flan is the greatest thing since peanut butter, market it. Just make
sure you understand the financial risks and are willing to accept them.
If so, love of your business and a sincere desire to learn and grow
with your new U.S. enterprise will be the greatest asset you bring to
the table. Enthusiasm is contagious, and you have to be excited about
far more than the prospect of U.S. residency. You have to be prepared
to labor and sweat over your new "baby", and many of the folks
considering EB-5s are well off and comfortably retired in their home
countries...are you sure you are up to building ANOTHER empire in a
new, unfamiliar business culture?

I'll be honest with you: when we get our 5 or 6 potential EB-5s per
month, I explore L-1 possibilities. If they are good, I almost always
go that route. If they are childless or "empty nesters"- kids over 21
and gone- I may recommend E-1 or E-2 since they are, for practical
purposes, "permanent" in the sense that there is no limit to the number
of years in which you can remain in the category, as long as the
business is prospering. (Besides, if they are planning to have kids,
they will probably be born in the U.S. and be U.S.citizens anyway!)

But there are a few folks- the ones with a clear business vision...
the ones for whom the risk of the investment is justified by the
potential economic rewards...the ones whose kids are teenagers and
getting close to 21- for whom the EB-5 is still the finest mechanism
around. Provided the investment is sound, makes sense, and is both
financially and operationally structured to address both the statutory
AND regulatory language of the law, we can definitely get the
approvals for the EB-5. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a new
avenue for entrepreneurial immigrants has turned into an elite club
for those willing to jump through the unneeded hoops created by the

If you are interested in exploring the feasibility of an EB-5
immigrant visa structure for you and your family and have the means
to invest the threshold amount, please email your questions directly
to me at:  [UPDATED]

Please slug the subject line "EB-5 INQUIRY FOR JOSE" so it does not
get filtered. (I'm not elitist in answering's just that
EVERYBODY sends everything to me and not one of the 13 others they
actually need to speak to :-] )

Hope this was educational! Jose


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pt. 3- Dr. José Manuel Pallí Examina la EB5: No Hay Mal Que Por Bien No Venga

Part 3 of the article written
José Manuel Pallí.  Parts 1 & 2 were posted in the past two days.


Por José Manuel Pallí

JMP head shot

El Centro Regional de mis sueños sería aquel capaz de
crear el modelo de inversión más conservador 
y prudente pero que aún así conserve las características que hacen riesgosa
a la inversión del extranjero solicitante de la visa (poner el dinero en riesgo
es uno de los requisitos del programa para visas EB-5), lo que implica reconocer
que no estamos buscando una inversión de diseño convencional, sino una
inversión enfocada en un objetivo central: la obtención de la visa de residente
permanente en USA.


Cuales son los parámetros que yo le aplicaría a esa
diligencia o búsqueda?

El elemento imprescindible que necesito tener enfrente
para hacer el análisis que tengo que hacer son TODOS los documentos a través de
los cuales habrá de implementarse mi inversión, así como toda la documentación
financiera del vehículo (Sociedad o entidad corporativa) a través de la cual se
canalizará la misma, y tambien la correspondiente a todas las otras entidades
relacionadas con la inversión. El Centro Regional que no me permita el acceso a
todos estos documentos sencillamente no merece mi tiempo (ni que hablar de mi


Una vez que tengo en mis manos toda esa información, hay
ciertas preguntas claves que tendré que hacerme (y que hacer) hasta tanto no
consiga una respuesta plenamente satisfactoria para cada una de ellas:


A quien le estoy prestando mi dinero, o bien en que está
siendo invertido ese dinero?.

Que tan segura o resguardada estará mi inversión, y por

Cual es la proyección total de costos y de gastos del
proyecto en el que está siendo invertido mi dinero?  Que protección tengo ante un eventual aumento
inusitado de esos costos y gastos, y que posibilidades hay de que ocurra un
aumento como ése?

Quien sera responsable de reintegrarme los fondos
invertidos? (está estipulado así en los estatutos de la Sociedad?) De donde se
supone que salgan los fondos para reintegrarme el dinero invertido?

Que tanta rentabilidad puedo esperar de mi inversión y
como me serán abonadas esas utilidades? Quienes manejarán mi inversión y cual
es su historial de éxitos o fracasos?

Que tan riesgosa es la inversión y que es lo peor que
pudiera ocurrir? Que previsiones ha tomado el Centro Regional para el caso de
que ocurriera lo peor?

Que tipo de evidencia presentará el Centro Regional para
demostrar la capacidad para generar empleos del proyecto en el que estará invertido
mi dinero al momento de presentar mi petición (planilla I-526)?

Son sólidos y definitivos los planes para la realización
del proyecto en el cual estoy invirtiendo? Que posibilidades hay de que el
Centro regional necesite modificar esos planes?

Cuantos proyectos presentados por este Centro Regional
han recibido la aprobación del Departamento de Inmigración? El proyecto
específico a donde ira a dar mi dinero, ya ha sido aprobado?


Existen básicamente dos grandes modelos de inversión en
oferta a través de los diversos Centros Regionales: uno consiste en que el
extranjero haga su inversión a través de una participación (equity investment) en
una compañía o empresa recientemente creada, y el otro se basa en utilizar el
dinero invertido para financiar, a través de un préstamo, las actividades de la
compañía o empresa en cuestión.


Este segundo modelo, el del préstamo, pareciera ser el
que mejor se presta para que el inversionista extranjero cuente con una
efectiva estrategia de salida, especialmente si el Centro Regional en cuestión
solo utiliza una fracción del dinero del inversionista para financiar el
proyecto a través del préstamo. Esto se logra cuando el Fondo regional no es la
única fuente de financiamuiento, sino que actúa conjuntamente con otras (como
pudieran ser dineros públicos, excenciones fiscales, u otros inversionstas de caracter
privado) apoyando, por ejemplo, iniciativas fomentadas por los gobiernos para
propiciar el uso de fuentes alternatives de energía, obras de vialidad pública
u otras obras de infra-estructura. La “salida” es más fácil porque no conlleva
la necesidad de liquidar una inversión (o una participación en una inversión)
para la cual pudieran no haber “compradores”.


Asimismo,  y en la
medida en que la inversión se canalice a través de agencias estatales (y
para-estatales) o gubernamentales, según sea la naturaleza del proyecto o
negocio, éste modelo del préstamo se presta para que el inversionista
extranjero pueda hacer él mismo y por su cuenta una evaluación exhaustiva del
proyecto y de su inversión. Esto es así porque ése tipo de entidades tienen la
obligación de hacer públicas y transparentes sus finanzas y sus actuaciones.


También existe la percepción, avalada por los hachos, de
que éste tipo de actividades o proyectos en apoyo al interés público son, por
lo general, una mejor y más confiable fuente de generación del número de
puestos de trabajos que el inversionista necesita generar para que le den la
residencia permanente.


Todas estas cuestiones e interrogantes deben ser parte del proceso
decisorio, pero ninguna de ellas es más importante y transcendental que la
decisión de dejar el país de uno. Por eso nosotros, así como no damos asesoría
financiera, tampoco promovemos éste recurso que es la visa EB-5 para radicarse
en los Estados Unidos. Todo lo que pretendemos es darle a quienes toman esa
dificil decisión toda la información y las herramientas que necesitan para
implementarla con éxito.   


Por eso es ridículo el argumento de quienes sostienen que, en el peor de
los casos –es decir, si no se obtiene el resultado querido, que es la
residencia permanente en USA- el extranjero inversionista igual habrá hecho un
magnífico negocio en una inversión de alta rentabilidad. Este argumento es
frecuente cuando la inversión del extranjero se aplica a un desarrollo
inmobiliario. Los desarrolladores inmobiliarios, que ya llevan más de dos
años  practicamente sin acceso al
crédito, se han volcado a éste recurso de oxígeno alternativo que son los
Centros Regionales. Pero ni todos los desarrollos inmobiliarios son “magníficos
negocios” –por eso no consiguen que los bancos los financien como lo hacían
antes-,  ni aún el mejor de los negocios
comepensaría, probablemente, el impacto en la situación familiar del inmigrante
frustrado, el disgusto que significa tener que desandar el camino ya

[2]  Un
Centro Regional que se vé obligado a alterar los planes del proyecto en el cual
se invierte el dinero del inversionista 
-planes que aparecen descritos en la documentación que acompaña a la
solicitud de visado- puede hasta perder su acreditación o reconocimiento como
Centro Regional.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pt. 2- Dr. José Manuel Pallí Examina la EB5: No Hay Mal Que Por Bien No Venga

Part 2 of the article written
José Manuel Pallí.  Part 1 was posted yesterday, May 25 and Part 3 will be
posted tomorrow, May 27.


Por José Manuel Pallí

JMP head shot

La idea detrás de éste programa que reduce a la mitad –de
un millón de dólares a medio millón- el monto de la inversión que el extranjero
que solicita un visado EB-5 para residir permanentemente en USA debe poner en
riesgo, es facilitar el cumplimiento de uno de los requisitos claves para la
obtención de la visa: la comprobación de que un mínimo de 10 empleos o puestos
de trabajo han sido creados por dicha inversión


La preocupación en cuanto a la efectividad de éste
mecanismo pasa por dos vertientes. Una es la posibilidad de que, aún
satisfaciendo cuidadosamente todos los requisitos que la ley migratoria exige,
al finalizar los dos años que deben transcurrir desde la aprobación inicial del
trámite –que se inicia a través del llenado de la planilla I – 526- la
adjudicación de la visa al inversor extranjero –una vez presentada la planilla
I – 829- le fuera denegada, por razones completamente ajenas a su diligencia y
a sus esfuerzos (por ejemplo, por que su inversión no generó suficientes
puestos de trabajo). La otra, que las sumas de dinero a arriesgar eran
considerables, lo que podia aumentar, también de manera considerable, el número
de gentes sin escrúpulos que se sintiera atraída por éste nuevo negocio de los
Centros Regionales.


Pero, para mí, tanto entonces como ahora, esos dos
argumentos solo eran capaces de disuadir a quienes sienten un mayor grado de
aversion por el riesgo que yó: si quiero obtener la residencia permanente en
USA y tengo el capital necesario para que mi petición de visa EB-5 sea aprobada,
buscaré al mejor de los Centros Regionales (hoy ya existen cerca de 80
autorizados) e invertiré mi dinero en aquel programa que me ofrezca (i) mejores
perspectivas de cumplir con el requisito relacionado con la empleomanía
[1],  y (ii) mejores garantías de que mi inversión,
una vez cumplida su función generadora de empleos, me será devuelta en un
tiempo prudencial. Lo que tengo que tratar de evitar a toda costa es entregarle
mi capital a algún “sanatero” (ver nota al píe # 1),  y es aquí donde viene a colación mi largo
preámbulo y donde encontramos la explicación al cambio de opinión de mi primo y


Hoy, después de casi 20 años de experiencia con éste
programa de Centros Regionales, es posible encontrar alguno de ellos que ofrezca
lo que un iversionista bien avisado debe exigir. Pero la búsqueda la debe hacer
uno mismo –o con la ayuda de alguien de extrema confianza- para no depender de
las autoridades que regulan la oferta de instrumentos financieros, ni de las
empresas calificadoras, ni de las buenas referencias sobre gente que uno no
conoce .


La “crisis” desatada durante los últimos tres años nos
regala ésta oportunidad de entender a cabalidad la necesidad de tomar el toro
por las astas y convertirnos a nosotros mismos en nuestros propios asesores
financieros –en ésta y en muchas otras situaciones-, sin temerle a nuestras
supuestas limitaciones. Es solo cuestión de ponerle manos a la obra.


[1] Invirtiendo el dinero a través de un
Centro regional autorizado, las posibilidades de cumplir con ése requisito
aumentan, pues se pueden contar los empleos
que se crean a través de la inversión –los que no tienen una
relación de dependencia con la nueva empresa comercial que recibe la inversión,
pero que se crean como consecuencia de la existencia de dicha empresa, como ser
los proveedores de la misma, por ejemplo-, y también los inducidos –que son los empleos que se crean en los comercios o
servicios donde los empleados, directos e indirectos, que genera la inversión
van y gastan el resultado del incremento en su poder adquisitivo.  La importancia de éste rubro de los empleos
inducidos en una economía de consumo como la de USA es muy grande, al extremo
que, no hace mucho tiempo, un presidente de la Nación que le dío al pueblo una
rebaja o recorte en sus impuestos, no pudo con su genio y en el acto pasó a
recomendarles qué hacer con ese aumento inesperado en su poder adquisitivo:
“Ahora vayan y gasténselo rápido”…

[2] La ineptitud e ineficacia de los entes
reguladores quedó en evidencia en todo el mundo, de las empresas calificadoras
mejor ni hablar, y de nadie en la industria financiera hubiéramos recibido
mejores referencias que si las hubiéramos pedido (a cualquiera de los muchos
“expertos”) sobre Bernie Madoff. Por eso muchos inversores sofisticados
desconfían de todos esos recursos y se dedican a hacer lo que se llama

rating”, analizando y calificando ellos mismos sus futuras inversiones.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dr. José Manuel Pallí Examina la EB5: No Hay Mal Que Por Bien No Venga, Pt.1

This article was written by José Manuel Pallí, my cousin, colleague and friend.  José Manuel's eloquence in Spanish, along with his distinctly pragmatic understanding of the choices faced by prospective immigrant investors, uniquely qualifies him to examine the EB-5 Regional Center visa at a deep level and, for the very first time, in Spanish.  Thanks, Primus!  [Parts 2 and 3 will be posted Weds. and Thurs. FYI, so stay tuned!]


Por José Manuel Pallí

JMP head shot  

Las circunstancias adversas por las que ha atravesado
durante los últimos tres años la economía (la del mundo todo, pero
especialmente la de USA) en general, y nuestro tan cacareado sistema
financiero, en particular, nos han llevado a muchos a cambiar nuestros
paradigmas, cuando no nuestros modelos negociales y hasta nuestros estilos de


Llevo más de treinta años residiendo en USA y casi
veinticinco ejerciendo como abogado en la Florida (despues de ser abogado en la
Argentina), y, a pesar de haber tenido numerosísimas oportunidades (y pedidos
expresos), jamás le he recomendado a nadie qué hacer con su dinero, donde
colocarlo, en qué invertirlo.


Entre los muchos paradigmas que se han venido abajo
estrepitosamente en los últimos tres o cuatro años, se incluye el que me
invitaba a reflexionar y a ser extremadamente reticente a la hora de jugar al
asesor financiero: “zapatero a tus zapatos”… “Yo, abogado…”, me decía (y me
digo) siempre a mi mismo cada vez que caía en esa tentación… “Yo de eso no sé
nada…”, o bien, “ Eso es para los que saben…”


Pero el paradigma se viene abajo justamente cuando queda
plena y fehacientemente demostrado que, a la hora de dar asesoramiento
financiero, nadie parece saber nada...


La debacle del mundo financiero ha dejado al descubierto
un sinnúmero de errores (u horrores) de “criterio” –si, lo sé, a esta altura de
los acontecimientos suena como un oximoron lo de “bancos de inversión”con
criterio- que van desde la pretensión de que una cantidad de jovencitos –no
importa qué tán brillantes- recién salidos de la Universidad (muchos de ellos
sin haber estudiado finanzas, sino cualquier otra carrera) estén en condiciones
de decirle a nadie qué hacer con sus ahorros, hasta la promoción y venta de
nuevos productos e instrumentos financieros que nadie –ni siquiera sus
diseñadores, ni mucho menos las llamadas empresas “calificadoras”- entiende
como funcionan ni que riesgos conllevan.


Pero el paradigma sigue siendo válido en tanto sigue siendo
válida la admonición de mi padre cuando una vez, hace muchos años, le pregunté
que le parecía si les preguntaba a algunos amigos y socios suyos si querían
invertir conmigo en un proyecto inmobiliario aquí en Miami: “ni de vaina!!!”,
fué su respuesta inmediata.  Y ese
prurito subsiste, de modo que no se asusten: sigo sin hacer recomendaciones de
naturaleza financiera, y, lo que es tanto o más importante, sin aceptar las de


Por qué todo éste larguísimo preámbulo? Sólo pretendía
preparar el terreno para lo que viene: mi re-encarnación como administrativista
(abogado especializado en el análisis y en la obtención de ciertos actos
administrativos por parte del estado) después de haber sido, por más de
veinticinco años, un abogado especializado en derechos reales (lo que no quiere
decir realista) o “property law”, y en las seguridades que uno debe procurar
cuando se invierte en bienes de esa naturaleza, especialmente los inmuebles.


Y es que hace cuestión de una semana, se me acercaron un
par de clientes latinoamericanos para consultarme sobre un tema que tiene que
ver con inversiones, pero, y sobre todo, con la vocación por migrar hacia éste
gran país que es USA.


Por muchos años, y casi automáticamente, todo lo que
llega a mí y que tiene alguna relación con el llamado “Immigration Law” o
Derecho Migratorio va a parar al escritorio de mi primo José Latour. Y en éste
caso, la naturaleza de la consulta –y la confusion reinante en la mente y el
espíritu de uno de esos clientes, a raíz de una consulta anterior con otro
colega- presagiaba una suerte de callejón sin salida, pues por anteriores
convesaciones con “el primo genio”
[3], sabía
que el visado de inevrsionista (EB-5) para inmigrar a USA canalizando la
inversión a través de los llamados Centros Regionales (Regional Centers) no era
bién visto por él.


Grande fué mi sorpresa cuando encontré a mi tocayo mucho
más tolerante y hasta entusiasta con respecto a éste tipo de visados que hace
cerca de 18 años, cuando se instituyó el Programa Piloto de Centros Regionales.
Recordaba que tanto el como otros buenos abogados de inmigración dudaban, por
entonces, de la eficacia de éste mecanismo. Dudas que yo mismo le había
transmitido a varios de mis clientes.

[1] O los que hablan y escriben como si
supieran. En la Argentina hay un viejo dicho que reza “el ‘sover’ no ocupa
lugar”, que juega con la versión original (el saber no ocupa lugar) para
resaltar la importancia (y peligrosidad) del “sover” –o verso, lo contrario a la prosa , pero que en éste caso refleja, más
que lirismo, un amañado estilo de expresarse que mezcla medias verdades con
interpretaciones absurdas y estupideces lisas y llanas. El objetivo es crear la
sensación que uno sabe tanto que el otro no entiende  lo que uno dice, al tiempo que se intimida a
ese otro de manera tal que éste opta por proteger su ignorancia con el silencio
y la aprobación tácita.  En la Argentina,
éste estilo también se conoce como “sanata”, o 
“biri, biri”.  Es, precisamente,
el estilo que utilizan, por ejemplo, las empresas calificadoras para redactar
sus “investor reports”…  

Aquí en la Florida llamamos “dirt lawyers” a los abogados que se dedican
a los derechos reales, sin que nadie se ofenda

[3] Así lo llamamos, cariñosa y más que
justificadamente, en familia.

EB5 Investing: the Devil is in the Details

One of the greatest challenges in helping prospective
foreign investors understand the EB-5 regional center investment opportunity
centers around the linguistic issues associated with translating what is
invariably some highly complex language. 
Let's face it: this is some complicated stuff.  When I sit down with a fellow AILA member to
discuss their potentially interested EB 5 investor, it typically takes me about
two hours to take the attorney from a rudimentary understanding of the regional
center EB-5 process to a meaningful grasp of its finer details.  You can understand why my having to explain
this to a non-attorney in a language other than English is perhaps the most
difficult part of my job.

The EB-5 regional center with which I work is, I believe,
the most transparent and prudent EB5 immigrant investor opportunity out
there.  They've spent a great deal of
time and money to prepare documentation in various languages so that they can
convey the details of the program to prospective investors overseas who do not
speak English.  Still, despite their best
efforts at selecting qualified translators, the intricacies associated with
both the investment and immigration aspects of the EB-5 are such that even
fairly accurate translations tend to miss the subtleties and nuances which, in
and of themselves, provide the "big picture" needed before a rational
person is willing to plunk down a half million dollars.  (It is notable that in the Far East,
particularly China, this issue is substantially tempered; perhaps for cultural
reasons -- certainly not because the Chinese investor is any less concerned
about his or her investment than an investor of another nationality -- or perhaps
due to a pragmatic understanding of the value of a clear path to US permanent
residency, the Chinese EB-5 investors tend to commit more rapidly to a
particular regional center, most often without an in depth understanding of the
particular investment program to which they are committing.).

But here's the problem:
every single regional center out there
has been APPROVED by the US
government... otherwise they would not be legally able to market to prospective
investors!  The product of a consumer
society, where, historically, he who markets best wins the most, the reality is
that there are some pretty lousy regional centers out there with some rather
impressive marketing materials.  And
that, my friends, really concerns me.

I've written many times in the past about how those of us
who are immigration practitioners are hardly qualified to recommend an EB-5 program
based upon its merits as an investment; sadly, that which we ARE qualified to
recommend and opine upon -- the long-term immigration feasibility of a
particular EB-5 regional center -- requires a tremendous amount of time and
effort by those of us who present these opportunities to foreign clients.

 My impression is that
most immigration practitioners not only fail to provide that level of required
detail to their prospects, but, far more tragically, they simply are not
interested enough to learn the details themselves.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Venezuela: Daring to Disrupt

When you think about it, there are very rational reasons
behind the truism that the squeaky wheel invariably gets the oil.  In fact, but for the acoustic disruption
triggered by said wheel, the bearings would silently grind down and bring the whole
movement to a standstill, without warning. The disruptive squeak serves as notice that something is amiss
and permits the possibility of corrective action by an attentive listener.

Today, in Caracas, Venezuela's squeaking is loud and clear
to me. As I meet with successful business person after successful business
person to discuss investment-based immigration, the growing concern over the
current political and economic climate becomes increasingly obvious. The
underlying vibe of "let's see what happens" which permeated last year's
EB 5 one-on-one meetings has gradually shifted toward a quiet murmur of deep
concern.  And while as an immigration
attorney this shift may well mean more business for me, I have known and loved
Venezuela for many years, so I share their concern.

The irony is that my professional friends here are all quite
busy and doing very well.  The island of
Margarita is booming with new construction; industry is busy, and the malls are
packed.  In fact, to the naked eye, the
Venezuelan economy appears more robust than that of the US.  But no matter the riches of this lush and
beautiful country, nor the diamonds and petroleum enriching its soil, the
disruptions which lead to the squeaking of the wheel serve to
undermine the perceived affluence of an economy, and the world's confidence in it.

Both the government and the private sector are populated by
strong and charismatic leaders with a deep abiding pride in the historical
entrepreneurship and democracy of Venezuela. 
Disruption -be it via social reforms intended to spread a nation's wealth or via the steady flow of new technologies, methods, and out-of-the-box ideas which fuel the growth of any market economy - is part and parcel of the cultural and economic evolution of every nation.

As a "serial disruptor" whose professional career has been defined by my unconventional approach toward investment-based immigration, I appreciate the fact that without such change, stagnation is inevitable.  For Venezuela, the challenge is to channel the disruptions in productive ways which can restore the confidence of its people, trading partners, and neighbors.  It is my sincere hope that as I begin my third decade of helping
Venezuelans invest in the United States, said investments will be driven by entrepreneurial zest over the abundant opportunities to be found in the topsy-turvy US
economy, and not by the ever-louder squeaking of the wheel which they fear just
MIGHT run them over.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Understanding Venezuela's Prospective EB5 Investors

As I sit at the gate waiting to board for Caracas, I'm remembering the rules I have learned from my most recent trips to Venezuela to visit clients and prospective clients.

  • Don't wear anything red unless you want to be perceived as a supporter of the government

  • Don't pay for anything with your credit card unless you want to spend $500 on dinner; let your local clients invite you and square up later

  • Don't take a taxi except from the safe hotel where you are staying

  • Carry an extra wallet and cheap cell phone in case you are mugged; they are the sacrificial lambs.

  • Stop expressing surprise every time you realize that despite all the politics, crime, and problems, you are actually visiting a petroleum-fueled economic hot zone where an awful lot of people are living pretty good lives.

So the good watch is at home and the $10 one is on my wrist, a client is picking me up at the airport when I land, and I'm staying at the same massive, effective, and overpriced hotel...again.  If it ain't broke, why fix it?

As I take my show on the road again, it is notable that Venezuelans are in so many different ways distinguishable from my other prospective EB5 Investor clients, who are eager to move to the U.S. ASAP.   Most Venezuelans, it appears to me, want the prospect of U.S. permanent residency as a sort of "Ace-up-the-sleeve, Plan-B" solution for a "someday" which may never come.  The truth is simple in Venezuela:  if you can afford to invest $500,000 in and EB5 visa to get you and your family U.S. residency, you are probably living extremely well...and reexamining your thoughts about the mighty Green Card.

I suppose that last thought applies to EB5 investors from anywhere except perhaps Europe, where the line between the privileged and the underprivileged is more blurred than it is in developing nations populated by distinct "haves" and "have nots".

In talking to wealthy prospects, I am often asked this question: 

"Jose, look at my life here...why on EARTH would I want to leave this to join the U.S. Rat Race"

I can't answer except to tell them that I'm going on year two of fighting for the Spanish passport to which I am entitled by virtue of my Barcelona-grandfather...even though I doubt I will ever live in Spain.

I guess it is just my own "Ace-up-the-sleeve, Plan-B" solution for a "someday"... which may never come.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Latour en Caracas para Citas de EB5: Mayo 17-19

Of Sheep and EB5 Regional Centers

"If You Build it…They Might NOT Come"....

                                                                        -paraphrasing the line from Field of Dreams

Sheep mentality is a terrible thing. It is something that
has plagued mankind since the earliest written records, something which seems
to be more a byproduct of fundamental human emotional patterns than the result
of consistently flawed intelligence.

Recently, we have seen sheep mentality - and it's closely
related cousin, greed - destroy our real estate markets, compromise the
integrity of our banking system, and wipe out what was left of our already shaky
faith in Wall Street. Today, a smug self - congratulatory European Union is
basking in their "decisive" decision yesterday to inject nearly $1
trillion into the Euro economy, in the name of saving the Euro, Greece, and all
the irresponsible megabanks throughout Europe who stupidly continued to
purchase Greek sovereign bonds despite the litany of economic warnings,
catastrophes and indicators which have been obvious to all for the past decade
or more. All of these unfortunate catastrophes have one thing in common: they
permit the "sheep" to walk away unscathed, while the collective
irresponsibility of poor financial decision-making is borne by the totality of
the population.

I've written about this before as it relates to the
astonishing number of EB 5 regional centers which have been filed and approved
in the past year. I've also told you about the "cottage industry" of
attorneys who, like myself, knew comparatively little about the GOOD, new-
generation EB 5 regional centers but who now profess to be "experts"
and are aggressively marketing their "regional center formation
services" to cash-strapped developers everywhere. Not a week goes by where
I am not contacted by someone looking for "EB 5 money".

Yesterday, I was contacted by an old friend, precisely about
this subject. My friend is a veteran real estate investor who well understands
the vagaries plaguing our current economy. Still, word gets around, and the
notion of setting up an EB 5 financing mechanism seems to be spreading through
the development community in the United States with the eye-popping speed of
a South Florida Ponzi scheme.

Getting a new regional center approved isn't the hardest
thing in the world; establishing one that meets the complex criteria which both
satisfies statutory requirements AND provides the foreign investor with a
comparatively safe investment vehicle to his or her permanent residency IS.

As the number
of approved regional centers continues to go up, the irony is that it gets that
much easier to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff.  Sift wisely.