Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Flashback: Port of Entry 2002 Thanksgiving Blog

Joey, friend of mine from many years past emailed yesterday.  He wanted to see if we could find a blog I'd written Thanksgiving week 2002 in my prior "before the word 'blog'" existed online daily posting, Port of Entry.  Well, I've been meaning to get the old POE blog archives online at www.latourlaw.com for quite awhile now, but I didn't have it handy.  Gardhy, of course, did.

I'm reposting this article because, in various ways, it is timely: not only is it Thanksgiving week, but at the time I wrote the article, things were pretty lean for those in the IT industry...today things are pretty lean across the board, although apparently getting better.  (Check out my hair...it was black once! (-:)

Here's the link, stay tuned for the old Port of Entry archives, coming soon to a web site near you!

Download Jose Latour's Port of Entry TG 2002

Monday, November 22, 2010

New EB-5 RC Filing Fee, I-526/I-529 Increases Beg Many Questions

Although I've only discussed the upcoming Regional Center filing fee in recent blogs, I should have mentioned the new increases affecting EB-5 Investors filing I-526s and I-829.  D-Day is here tomorrow and effective Nov. 23, 2010, these are the new fees:

  • I-924, the new "Application for Regional Center under the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program", will require a $6230 filing fee; Regional Centers previously did not have to pay a filing fee.

  • I-526,  "Immigrant Petition for Alien Entrepreneur" goes from $1435 to $1500

  • I-829, "Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions" goes from $2850 to $3750

The modest raise in the I-526 fee is negligible; the $900 increase in the I-829 is a little more intriguing to me.  It's just my speculation, but I suspect that has a lot to do with the impetus behind Neufeld's December 2009 memo.  In that memo, which you can find HERE, USCIS' top EB-5 person went into great detail - 23 pages of it, in fact -- discussing the removal of conditions, satisfaction of job creation requirements, and the concept of "material change".  While many in AILA reacted with dismay to the level of detail Mr. Neufeld provided in the memo, it was no surprise to this former adjudicator.  It was a big, clear reminder of what we've known all along, delivered with some very specific guidance.

I suspect that the $900 fee increase comes to bear on the historical amount of time USCIS' adjudicators are having to spend on I-829 petitions, primarily due to their increasing expertise on the subject of this most complex of visas.  Having in house economists is the surest way to dspense with baloney job projections, and Mr. Neufeld's repeated reminders about the need to communicate material changes in project activity were no doubt triggered by the preponderance of cases they are seeing where the RC was in the business of "ABC" at the I-526 level and are now in the business of "XYZ" at the I-829 level.  Seems a lot of these RCs forgot about the annual requirement to update USCIS of how things are progressing.  (Note: that annual reporting requirement, in the law since the Regional Center concept was first launched, will also come via a new form, the I-924A; that form does NOT appear on the new fee list and is still being tweaked.)  My only thought is that it is a shame this fee increase is being passed on to the actual investors...when the whole reason for the complex I-829 adjudication is the fault of Regional Center!

Regarding the new Regional Center filing fee:  for the past few months, since this fee was proposed, you would not believe the number of prospective Regional Center clients who have been scrambling to beat tomorrow's deadline.  I mean, I know $6000 is a lot of money but given the investment required to create an RC (read on) and the level of adjudication analysis involved, it's hardly a deal-breaker when deciding whether or not to form an RC.  Look, it's no secret that the great big new RC filing fee is intended to dissuade those who are less-than-serious from continuing the barrage of RC filings currently faced by USCIS' EB-5 adjudication team in Laguna Niguel, CA.  As I've commented previously, the prevalence of new EB-5 Centers which are essentially "shelf" RCs - similar to the shelf corporations created in offshore jurisdiction for the purpose of having "vintage" entities at hand when expedient for tax planning -- is what is keeping USCIS Cali as busy as they are. 

Regional Centers are just that..."centers" which, if approved, can get into the business of defining projects in which to participate and steer EB-5 investor funds into those projects.  In certain cases, the Regional Center is the conduit to its own pre-defined projects; in others, the RCs get approved for a certain geographic area and for a number of industry sectors, but only provide an exemplar project.  The underlying legitimacy is ultimately defined by the quality of the project selected by the Regional Center but, to paraphrase a cliche, "show me your project and I'll tell you all about your Regional Center".  Put simply, strong Regional Centers don't pick wacky projects.

That last point is why many of these "shelf" Regional Centers are effectively being offered "for sale" by the attorneys or individuals who created them.  You see, depending on a number of variables, the creation of a new Regional Center involves anywhere from $25,000 to $200,000+ in legal, business planning, and econometrics costs...and takes 6 months to a year.  Given more-than-doubling of the number of approved Regional Centers in the past year -- it took almost 17 years to approve the first 40 or so and one year to double the amount -- and the reality that all but a small percentage of these are not actively marketing viable investment projects, this new market for "dealer demo" Regional Centers is hardly a surprise.

I'm approached often by developers and project managers struggling between the selection of an established Regional Center as a conduit for their project versus the option of forming their own Regional Center. "It depends", I tell them, and I point out these variables:

  • if your project is a one shot deal, the expense of a new RC probably doesn't make sense; on the other hand, it if will involve multiple tranches, it might.

  • if you go with an established RC, you will be able to market your project very quickly, as soon as USCIS confirms the activity of it involves a "material change" in what they've been approved to do. However, it is my experience that in these cases the COST to the project will ultimately be higher in terms of dollars; the fees which go to the RC generally exceed the cost of structuring your own RC.

  • if you go with an established RC, you are getting into bed with all their prior projects, so do your due diligence.  For example, let's say your project cuts a deal with RC X, a long-standing RC with a good record of success in past projects.  You need to thoroughly examine their historical timelines as well as identify any particular projects which are in or near I-829 adjudication.  Remember my blog a few weeks ago when I was complaining about certain RCs being very vocal about their approval record while flatly omitting their record of denials?  The reality is that even if yours is a superb project with great investor protections, it will be impossible to successfully market it if RC X has a failed or failing project under its umbrella.

Once again, as the Knight of the Templar told Indiana Jones when he was trying to identify the Holy Grail: "Choose Wisely."



EB-5 Gone Wrong? Tell, Your Story.

Folks, as you know, I keep my big mouth shut when it comes to naming names associated with EB-5 disasters.  Recently, I have had requests from several media friends who are eager to speak with individuals who have been subjected to adjudication problems, denials, or other issues in connection with an EB-5 process gone wrong.  Please email me in confidence and I will give you their contact information so you can speak directly with those interested in your story.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dubai Wrap Up- EB-5 Alive and Well

In three hours I'm on British Airways to London but what a week it's been: it is difficult to relay the energy, ethnic diversity, and raw brainpower behind this urban testimony to architecture.  The seminar went beautifully, Dubai is talking EB-5 for the first time, and mix of ex-pats and regional prospective investors is absolutely the most intriguing melange of people with which I have ever interacted as an immigration attorney.

As usual, it's the folks from India who are the most informed on U.S. immigration laws, and there were people I met this week who know more about EB-5 issues than half the immigration bar!  Others knew less and a few knew nothing.  NOW they know. (-:

One always questions the wisdom of traveling so far when the need for the service one is offering is so close to home; Mexico and Venezuela have kept me busy and will continue to do so.  But just as I headed to Hong Kong in the mid-90s, I believe that this is the decade where Dubai will cement its role as the international business hub of what is a rather turbulent region, much as Miami has become the de facto "Capital of the Americas".  What better logistical point is there to begin our reach into EB-5 markets in India, Pakistan, and the Middle East?

My gracious thanks to Jud Laird, Namjoo Hashemi, and our seminar attendees for making this week a smashing success...I look forward to Round 2!

Me...and my big mouth



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Last Minute Dubai Seminar Seats....

I know it's late, folks,  but we have been able to accomodate all of the Waiting List folks and I have had 5 last-minute cancellations.  If anyone wants to crash the party tomorrow morning, or if any of your registered wants to bring someone who is interested in attending, please email me at jlatour@latourlaw.com with your name and mobile number and I'll text you a confirmation.  Jose

Dubai: Day One

Jud's secret jet-lag recipe (a/k/a Tylenol PM) worked wonders and I was raring to go this morning when Namjoo came to get me at the hotel.  (Namjoo, for those of you who may not recognize the name, is my West Coast representative, a Certified Canadian Immigration Consultant and -- most relevent to this particular trip -- our Farsi voice.)  After double checking that we were ready for the big day tomorrow, I got a whirlwind tour of Dubai. Report card so far:

Food- 5 Stars

Service- 5 Stars

Shopping- a Terrifying 10 Stars

Conducive to Weight Loss Program- 0 Stars

The food, seriously, makes the latter essentially impossible.  In one sitting I had the best baba ghanoush, best (and only FRESH) pomegranate juice, and best hookah flavor (mint) of my life. Now...back to stuffing presentation packages for tomorrow!

As soon as I figure out if/how to post an album on my blog software, I'll do so but in the meantime, here's one short Cuban in front of on tall - and I do mean TALLLLLLL - building.  Check out the Burj Khalifa Web Site




Dubai Simply ROCKS!

Got in via London late last night and went to sleep on the 34th floor of the hotel with beautiful city lights...woke up this morning to realize I was staring at the Arabian Sea!

I was awakened this morning by chanted prayers blasted from loudspeakers in the minaret of a mosque 34 stories down and a few blocks over.  Prayer reminders are done five times a day.  I'd never thought about it before but this structured prayer rhythm of their day is very much like the rhythm of the monasteries I visit.  We ALL need to be reminded to pray and -- no disrespect to our important American separation of church and state -- it's kind of cool to be reminded to talk to God five times a day.  I'm checking in myself with every reminder!

I am STOKED about the seminar tomorrow but if ONE more person asks me if I'm nervous about the side of the group...I still won't get nervous.   That's because in an EB-5 environment, it's a privilege and responsibility to spend my time dispelling myths.

This place has the energy of Hong Kong, the beachside cafe/yacht vibe of Marbella, the architecture of the next century, the cleanliness of Singapore, all thrown together with the diverity of the bar in Star Wars.  Can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Okay, Email Sign Up is Finally Fixed!!

The inimitable Tom Mahoney has fixed the blog subscription issue by moving us to Feedburner.  If you want to subscribe to Immigration Insider via email, just put type your email address in the box right under my ugly mug and click subscribe.  You'll get taken to a new page where you will confirm and that's it!

Hats off to Mr. Mahoney, jet pilot and all around good guy. (-;

Dubai-bound in a Few Hours!

Well, in just a few hours I'll be leaving Miami for Dubai via London and I have to tell you guys...this is pretty exciting!  I've done seminars on investment based immigration for a loooooong time now: since the early 1990's, when I had my office in Hong Kong, I've been talking about the EB-5, L-1, and alternative immigration strategies.  But never have I gotten as warm a reception as the one I've gotten for Dubai.  Listen to this:

-over 100 prequalfied prospective EB-5 investors will be attending (our original room only sat 70 so we had to get a bigger one!)

-folks are flying in from 12 different countries to attend the seminar!

Honestly, I feel like I'm opening for Paul McCartney or something. (-;

I've never been to Dubai so this is a particularly exciting trip for me.  I will be accompanied by Jud Laird, one of the principals of BC Properties, the U.S. development and investment company who does the deal-structuring for custom immigrant investment properties as well as by Canadian immigration consultant Namjoo Hashemi, who is Private Placement Partner's West Coast representative and who will be there for our Farsi-speaking attendees.

2011 is going to be a busy year: Private Placement Partners will be presenting our seminar,“An American Future: Strategic Immigration Planning for U.S. EB-5 Investors©in a number of cities worldwide, starting with El Paso, Texas, on February 1, 2011.  After that, events are planned for Mexico, Venezuela, Pakistan and Lebanon, and a possible return trip to Dubai same time next year.

Safe travels to everyone en route to Wednesday's event, I promise to make it a very worthwhile educational experience regarding your U.S. investment immigration options!

Best, Jose

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Several Clarifications Regarding Yesterday's Post

I have received a number of panicked emails this morning in response to my grumpy about certain EB-5 Regional Centers concealing petition denials.  Please note that it is not possible for me to publicly identify any of these entities.  Not only would it be irresponsible to do so (given that I have not given those centers an opportunity to explain their specific situations to me), but the information has come to me via clients...it is privileged information which I cannot disseminate, no matter how much I'd love to "out" dishonest marketers, I cannot name names.

However, I CAN tell you who I was NOT referring to: because of my long-established respect for CMB Regional Center, several writers have inquired as to whether that Regional Center is among those to which I referred yesterday.  I am happy to report that I have never received any negative information from anyone regarding CMB and that the sterling reputation of my friends in Moline remains untarnished.

Folks, this isn't rocket science: basic due dilgence will get you the answers you need!  Try Google! (-;

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Okay, EB-5 Regional Centers, Time to Fess Up...

For the third time in a month, I have been made aware of I-829 denials issued to some of the self-described "top" EB-5 Regional Centers.  Now, while an EB-5 Regional Center is not required to discuss these denials, deliberately concealing them is another matter.

A number of EB-5 Regional Center sites are expressly detailing their records of approval...while conveniently failing to disclose their I-829 denials.  Folks, this isn't eBay feedback on your online used CD store...this is the record of your Regional Center's ability to obtain the permanent residency you promised your investor years ago.  You have an ethical DUTY to state such record truthfully.

It is deceptive and false advertising to enumerate your victories while failing to mention your losses. I would encourage the Regional Centers who are making this tactic part of their online marketing to either start telling the truth or, if that's not palatable, to eliminate altogether the publication of their respective win/loss records. 

If you don't, you are fair game and expect to be called on it.