Thursday, April 29, 2010

On the Road Again...

Heading out of town for the weekend but I wanted to leave you with a link to Andres Oppenheimer's latest article in the Miami Herald.  It explains some basic fundamentals about why we have so many illegal aliens and just HOW our current disastrous immigration system has perpetuated this trend.  Read it HERE and have a great weekend. Jose

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Rise of the Brazillionaire

After over two decades of representing hundreds of
Brazilians investment-based  and
professional immigrants in the United States, I finally made it to Brazil. My
hasty January visit -- more than anything a glimpse into the still-Napoleonic
tendencies demonstrated by the occasional US visa officer -- left me with a
clear impression of Sao Paolo: a thriving metropolis as dynamic as its
population.



Today's Wall Street Journal (page A10) discusses how
Brazil's rapid economic recovery is starting to create concerns similar to
those the US has had with China: the overheating of what has turned into a
colossal industrial machine. The Journal predicts that Brazil's central bank
"is likely to start a series of interest rate increases" to cool
things down. Today I want to briefly discuss what this all means to wealthy
Brazilians "on the fence" about US immigration intentions.



It is no secret the South Florida's Brazilian ex-pat
population has thrived in our local economy; it is also not a secret that many
Brazilian professionals who entered the US in H1B and L1 visas have overstayed
for a variety of reasons. Some of them have started thriving businesses after
losing their H1B sponsorship; still others have wound down the Brazilian home
company... while still possessing apparently valid L1 visas in their passports,
they are acutely aware of the reality that the closure of the foreign company
renders their current US immigration status nothing more than an artifice easily discoverable by the US consul or airport DHS officer.



Brazil's economy is expected to expand some 5.5% this year,
but some economists are warning of the 7% rate of growth. Like Indiana and
China, this type of growth -- particularly in such a squiggly global economy --
means that Brazil will more than likely begin to tighten its money supply in
order to avoid the inevitable inflation which have long leg economies like
Brazil's. (The Journal reminds us that as recently as the early 90s, inflation
was in the four-digit range in Brazil.)



In a powerful, diversified, and commodities-driven economy such as Brazil's, all of this growth
means one thing: an increasing number of affluent Brazilians trying to
reconcile their country's economic boom with the historical lessons taught by
the instability of Latin American politics. For many -- both those remaining in
Brazil and those already semi-transplanted into the United States -- this
combination of elements opens up the possibility of international relocation...
usually to the US.



The main issue, at least as far as the uber-wealthy, is the
worldwide tax liability which comes with permanent residency in the United States.  Yesterday, Melissa and I had a dynamic meeting
with Steven Cantor and his team.  Steve, whose practice focuses on foreign
investors “transplanting” to the U.S., is a distinguished tax attorney with
whom we collaborate on a regular basis.  Besides being just plain outstanding in his area of expertise, Steve is the only tax guy I've met who approaches problems creatively, a bona fide "outside the box" thinker in a profession known more for counting beans than seasoning them.  I asked a lot of questions about
pre-immigration tax planning and the like, and, as usual, Steve had the answers
we needed...and those answers open many doors for our Brazilian clients with one foot in America and one eye on the tax implications of what that second foot will mean.



As we prepare for next series of EB5 investment seminars for
Latin America, the white-hot economy of Brazil is squarely within our sights.
Like so many others on this planet, many Brazilians with whom we speak simply
like the idea of U.S. residency as a Plan B, “just in case”, given the quality
of their current lives in Brazil.



There are legal ways to both immigrate to the U.S. AND to minimize tax implications through intelligent pre-immigration compliance structured by the right folks.  Email if you have more questions and we'll get them answered!



Monday, April 26, 2010

Raising Hell in Arizona



One of the great and terrible things about the Internet is
the anonymity that it provides. This morning, Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer
wrote an opinion piece regarding the potential repercussions of Arizona's new,
aggressively anti-immigrant legislation. I rarely comment on online articles
and after seeing the postings to Andres' column, I remember why.



Just as the Internet provides a cloak of anonymity to sexual
predators and would-be terrorists, it does the same for otherwise normal folks
who permit their hatred and prejudices to run amok in a way they would never
permit a normal human discourse. As an example, consider a posting by an
apparently educated individual who concludes that Oppenheimer "hates the
USA as most Latinos do." I clicked "reply" to give this person a
spanking but then I clicked “cancel”: what's the point?  Would this man or woman ever dare say anything
that profoundly stupid among his/her friends, colleagues, or relatives?  Probably not.  But sitting at home on the computer, immersed
in personal problems and the pressures of life and unfettered by basic things
such as common sense, intellect, and sensitivity, an otherwise decent person slinks
back into the primordial mud of those most base human qualities, releasing that
vile prejudice which can only ferment in the dankest corners of the most
damaged heart.  As I think about that, my
anger turns to pity right away.



As an immigrant who's been in these United States for 44
years now, and both sensitive to the impact of this type of legislation on
undocumented migrants as well as aware of the reasons behind Arizona's drastic
measures, I understand both sides. Here in Miami, our public health care
infrastructure is in shambles; a significant reason has to do with the fact
that our local governments resemble more Third World fiascoes than sound
American governance; at least so it would appear. But another reason has to do
with the continued failure of the federal government to address the economic
repercussions of illegal immigration on local communities.



When my younger son Danny was born at Miami's Baptist
Hospital nearly two decades ago, I was somewhat shocked to learn that the
majority of new mothers enjoying Baptist hospital’s renowned maternal ward were
uninsured, undocumented foreign women. Essentially, we were told, by waiting in
the parking lot of the emergency room until the baby's head was crowning, the
immediacy of the birth constituted an "emergency”, and the hospital was
required to admit the mother for the duration of the birth and well baby care.
Naturally, because most of these women had little prenatal intervention, the
percentage of cesarean births and postpartum problems was statistically higher
than among the general population.  As I
understand things, nothing has changed 20 years later, and hospitals are forced
to write of millions of dollars of losses as a result…losses borne, ultimately,
by U.S. taxpayers.  The fact that yours
truly was uninsured and paid for Danny's birth by borrowing against a Hyundai
Sonata, all of this information brought out some decidedly negative, less than
pro-immigrant conclusions.   (I would appreciate it if you refrained from
telling Danny about his Korean coupe origins, it could get tricky…J)



Arizona maintains that it is only doing what it has to do
for its own protection and survival, given that the federal government remains
unable to address the impact of a failed national immigration policy upon those
communities in which the majority of unlawful aliens reside and, consequently,
establish financial burdens. Being angry with Arizona for the heartless aspects
of some of the specific laws enacted, but be angrier with the two political
parties in Washington which have both consistently failed to deliver the comprehensive
immigration reform which has been needed for decades.



Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Quagmire of Advising EB5 Visa Clients: Walking the Tightrope



Learning more and more this past year about the EB5
immigrant investor visa has proven to be a double-edged sword. As an
immigration attorney, my professional background sorely lacks the formal
training in finance, securities, and investments which are not only essential
in determining the quality of any particular investment opportunity, but also
critical in relation to observing US securities laws.  So no matter how much I learn, I really can't
impart that aspect of my knowledge to my clients in a comprehensive manner.



 



The problem is this: the more I read, the more I learn; the
more I conduct my own, admittedly imperfect, due diligence on the ever-growing
number of approved regional centers, the more I come to my own, admittedly
imperfect, conclusions. While I would like to believe that these conclusions
are based upon 20+ years of investment visa experience, a growing understanding
of the components which define a "good" regional center, and my
sincere objectivity, etc., I doubt the SEC would care very much about any of
that. The bottom line is that no matter how well I educate myself, I am not a licensed securities agent and despite
the specific exemptions written into EB5 provisions,
an immigration
attorney is not legally qualified to offer investment advice to his or her
clients.



 



What does that leave the prospective investor client? Well,
there are a number of online resources, many of them independent agencies,
where a prospective investor can gather a great deal of objective data
regarding service centers. Then there are the regional center's own sites, which range from
intelligently written, substance filled resources to schlocky offerings more
reminiscent of a used car lot than of a serious investment opportunity. Finally,
there are guys like Michael Gibson, who will serve as a "hired gun"
for a prospective investor seeking a truly objective, "apples to
apples" comparison of potential EB 5 regional center investments.



 



So the problem comes back full circle to the immigration
attorney: when a client is sitting across from my desk asking me point blank
"which do you think is the best EB5 regional center investment out there?"...
I can only smile and regretfully explain that I am not qualified to answer that
question and that he or she must conduct their due diligence either
independently or via a qualified agent.



 



That's never the answer the client wants
to hear.



 



There is undoubtedly an ethical tightrope which must be
walked in this business of advising prospective EB 5 visa clients and is one
upon which I tread very carefully. Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of
the immigration attorneys who tread this line less carefully are entrenched in
conflicting interests ranging from undisclosed dual representation to actual
ownership interests in the EB5 regional centers they are enthusiastically
recommending to prospective investors. In the coming weeks and months I will be
exploring this issue more deeply and seeking specific guidance from the Florida
Bar as to how we can, as immigration attorneys, walk this tightrope without
violating ethical rules.



 



Hopefully, the answers which will reveal themselves will
prove useful to prospective investors bewildered by an avalanche of marketing
and propaganda originating from that most unqualified of investment resources…the
immigration attorney.  Stay tuned.



Saturday, April 17, 2010

New F-1 to H-1B FAQs from INS

Came back from the LA college F-1 seminars with a rough cold, hence my silence.  In the course of catching up I found a USCIS memo I apparently missed earlier this month.  The memo covers a lot of stuff discussed at the USC and UCLA events in particular, including STEM, the F-1 to H-1B timing gap, etc.

Take a look at it HERE and send me questions if you have them but please give me a few days to respond, will do so as soon as I'm up and at 'em.  Have a great weekend!  Jose



Wednesday, April 14, 2010

F-1 Seminar Series Off to a Great Start at USC

The crowd was small, the questions were rapid-fire, and the first "Taking Charge of Your Green Card: New Millennium Options for F-1 Students" seminar went off with barely a hitch.  ("Barely" because the projector I was REQUIRED to rent - I travel with my own - was forgotten>)

The attendees covered a broad spectrum of nationalities and ranged from freshmen to post-grads.  Although the feedback they gave me was very positive -- they especially loved the portion of the presentation which covers self-marketing suggestions to neutralize "visaphobia" in prospective employers -- I think the Powerpoint is a bit too long.  Going to trim it down for this afternoon's presentation at UC Irvine.  In any event, the one hour presentation was followed by nearly two hours of Q & A, so apparently they found it worthwhile.

LA is absolutely spectacular, with 70 degree days and lots of sunshine...to be further enjoyed via the free upgrade I got on the rental...a convertible Sebring...

Hoooooboy.



Sunday, April 11, 2010

California F-1 Seminar UPDATE

I just got an email from a student who will be attending the Irvine event Wednesday saying, in effect, "geez, Jose, I'm so sorry you don't have anyone going to the seminars!"

Well, we're not at the stage of having to order a fleet of portapotties for the outside event at UC Irvine but we DO have folks signing up!  We just haven't figured out how to update the calendering software on www.latourlaw.com so the numbers all read "0" at this point.

If you are going to any of the events, please do send an email to Brad@latourlaw.com so he can keep track of the numbers.  And please remember to tell all your F-1 friends that the seminar is FREE and will have a lot of useful information!  These things are a lot more fun if we make them interactive and the LAST thing you guys want is me droning on and on without your input, questions, and interaction!!

Hope your weekend is winding down nicely...it's gray, rainy day in Miami, perfect for packing for sunny LA...(-; Jose



Thursday, April 8, 2010

California F-1 Seminar Sign Up Page is Online...

Brad has the sign-up page up.  Although the Irvine seminar is not limited seating given its location, I would sure appreciate your  signing up for it so I can get an idea of how many folks to expect.

The link again:

Latour Southern California F-1 Seminars



A Passage from India...to America??

While everyone knows that the Chinese have emigrated to Canada in vast numbers in the past decade and a half, not a lot of us on this side of the border are aware that, from investment visa numbers, Canada has been a powerful magnet for Indian immigration.  It might simply be that the numbers of Indian health care, science and IT professionals who have entered the U.S. have made us overlook the fact that when it comes to drawing in the investors who ultimately create the jobs, Canada's beat us to the punch again with India.

That's changing.  I'm seeing a stronger interest from Indian nationals exploring the EB-5 option and the buzz on the Internet shows the EB-5 to be an increasingly hotter topic in major Indian city discussion boards.  As the EB-5 has gotten more proven and reliable, the Canadian options have lagged; the USCIS reorganization channeling all EB-5 activity to Laguna Niguel has certainly been a large factor in the improved adjudication times we are seeing, as well as in the reduction of silly RFE's.  The folks in California know what they are doing and the results are being manifested in the form of reliable approval patterns that are a welcome sight for everyone.

In the past two months, I've had two long-gone prospective investor clients reappear, calling me from Canada, both European.  Each had decided against the U.S. several years ago.  After two numbing winters and continued curiosity, they are looking to the U.S. again...maybe not as EB-5s since both have other options.

I would encourage our Canadian immigration colleagues to familiarize themselves with EB-5 Regional Center basics because it may just be that an expanded line of options is what their clients are looking for!  I'm here if you have questions.



California F-1 Seminar Schedule for Next Week- Free Student Immigration Sessions

Folks, Brad is working on the online registration but PLEASE email him at Brad@latourlaw.com if you plan to attend either USC on Tuesday or UCLA on Thursday...we have limited seating for these and they've already told me that we can't overfill the room because of California Fire Marshal rules, yadda yadda.  Email us and we'll save you a seat!

Sometime later today - it isn't up now so don't bother checking at the time of this posting - you can see detailed event information at the LatourLaw Event Page



Wednesday, April 7, 2010

NEXT WEEK: Jose's FREE F-1 Seminars in Southern California

Next Tuesday-Thursday I will be at USC, UC Irvine and UCLA presenting our new seminar entitled:

"Life after F-1: Taking Control of Your U.S. Permanent Residence"

...a free seminar on the subject of
U.S. immigration options for graduating international students interested in
legally remaining in the U.S.
The seminar (which is followed by a Q&Asession) covers:


  •  tactical planning for seeking employment via Optional
    Practical Training
    (OPT)

  •  how to present your "internationalness" as a
    plus and not a minus to prospective employers

  •  Post-graduation OPT strategies
    to optimize H-1B employment opportunities

  •  making PERM an intelligent
    investment in the eyes of your U.S. employer

  •  what to do if your employer's
    immigration attorney is terrible

  •  elimination of the "H-1B
    entrepreneur" option by USCIS and what you can do about it

  •  other immigration options for starving graduates




 Dates and time will be posted soon and seating will be limited at USC and UCLA.  At Irvine we'll be outside Peet's in the shopping center, so that one can be Woodstock-size...(-:  Stay tuned!



Monday, April 5, 2010

The Graduating F-1 Dilemna: Taking Charge of Your U.S. Permanent Residency

My sons were down from school for Easter weekend and I had a nice chat about "the future" with Alex, my eldest, who will be graduating from the University of Florida this summer.  Alex is a bright, hardworking  young man, so I struggle to maintain that fine line between giving him my sage fatherly counsel and making him cringe.

With his graduation around the corner, and his plans for graduate school, I felt compelled to brief him on a lot of the global economic realities visible most clearly to those of us addicted to the Wall Street Journal.  He listened, and it is notable that the older he gets, the more he knows what he does not know.   As I told him about the barrage of clerkship requests we are getting from law students who are trying to get SOMETHING relating to law on their resumes before the finish law school, I painted a superficial but, I think, accurate picture of the impact of the economic realities of today on graduating students.  Alex, of course, is a U.S. citizen.  He doesn't have to worry about things like OPT, H-1Bs, PERM and the like.  In comparison to a graduating F-1 student who wants to live and work in the U.S., Alex has it easy.

Or does he?

What ARE the long term employment prospects for those graduating today from U.S. universities? Bright? Bleak?

I don't pretend to know.  But I DO know that my sons peers in F-1 status face significant issues in planning their post-college lives in the United States.  In addition to facing the realities of this still-reeling job market, they will be competing for jobs amongst employers who, more than ever, view the additional responsibilities associated with hiring a foreign worker with increased disdain and adversity.  This is going to affect TONS of kids in the next few years, among them the best and brightest who made it to America to pursue their studies.

In response to this, Melissa and I are beginning our research for a publication designed for these graduating F-1 students.  In it, we will explore:


  • tactical planning for seeking employment via Optional
    Practical Training (OPT)

  • how to present your "international-ness" as
    a plus and not a minus to prospective employers

  • post-graduation OPT strategies
    to optimize H-1B employment opportunities

  • making PERM an intelligent
    investment in the eyes of your U.S. employer

  • what to do if your employer's
    immigration attorney is terrible

  • elimination of the "H-1B
    entrepreneur" option by USCIS and what you can do about it

  • investment-based
    immigration options for apparently starving graduates
    .


Stay tuned folks, and keep your seat belts on, it's going to get bumpy...(-;







Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Case of the "EB Jeebies": Dodging the EB-5 Hard Sell

I was talking with a friend of mine - a securities attorney --  the other day about the dramatic surge of EB-5-pushing attorneys, a stark contrast to the reality only a year ago, when few immigration attorneys were actively pursuing the visa category.  My friend, a partner with a major national law firm and former SEC attorney, said that it is only a matter of time before some of us in the visa business - and in the Regional Center business - get in trouble.

Here's why: the EB-5 Regional Center Visa is a "security" within the meaning of U.S. law, which includes any note, stock, bond,  or “investment contract”.  And as my distinguished colleague Angelo Paparelli and his co-writers explain in this excellent analysis re the relevance of securities laws to the EB-5 visa , an “investment contract” is made when a person:

"(i) invests money, (ii) in a common enterprise, (iii) with an expectation of profit, (iv) to be earned solely from the effort of others. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ( “SEC”) has determined that interests in a limited partnership are an investment contract, and therefore, a security."

So, you see, an EB-5 Regional Center invest IS indeed a security...so how is it possible to market these investments except through, say, an investment broker?  Paparelli, et al, explain the regs concisely in the aforementioned document:

"The Securities Act requires that all securities sold must be registered with the SEC, unless exempted by its rules. Rule 506 of Regulation D promulgated under the Securities Act provides the exemptions to the registration rules that regional centers typically use to avoid the burdensome and expensive process of registering the securities to be offered and sold to EB-5 investors.5 To meet the exemption provided by Regulation D, a regional center must comply with certain conditions set forth in Rule 502 of Regulation D,including:

           1. Information requirements. If all of the investors are “accredited investors” then             there are no informational requirements under Regulation D, though issuers6 are             still subject to anti-fraud requirements under securities laws. An accredited                     investor is a person whose:

(i) individual net worth, or joint net worth including that person’s spouse, at the time of the purchase of the securities exceeds $1,000,000;

(ii) individual income exceeded $200,000 in each of the two most recent years and who expects to reach that income level in the current year; or

(iii) joint income including that person’s spouse exceeded $300,000 in each of the two most recent years and who expects to reach that income level in the current year."

So, you see, it is an EXCEPTION to SEC regulations under which EB-5 Regional Centers ordinarily operate, and why the seriousness and integrity of both the underlying investment AND those who structured it is the primary thing to consider...and why you, as a prospective investor, should steer wide and clear of any Regional Center whose website or marketing approach looks like a big, glossy, "AS SEEN ON TV" hype type presentation.  Ultimately, it is the self-policing of SEC compliance by a Regional Center which will be determinative of whether or not they really are staying within the Rule 502/Reg D exceptions.

Until now, my quarrel with the hard sell of many of my colleagues has centered around ethics issues pertaining to bar rules; the more I learn, however, the more I see that in "serving both God and mammon", so to say, the attorney is playing with a far hotter fire than potential bar sanctions. One more excerpt from Angelo's super article, and serious food for thought for all of us in this business:

"General solicitation includes any advertisement, article, notice or other communication published in any newspaper, magazine, or similar media or broadcast over television or radio and any seminar or meeting whose attendees have been invited by the foregoing methods. This applies whether conducted in the United States or abroad. In addition, sending mass e-mails, newsletters or other mailings is considered general solicitation.

Activities by any third party intermediary assisting the regional center, such as immigration brokers or finders, are included in the evaluation of whether a regional center has complied with Rule 502(c). If an immigration attorney assists a regional center and accepts fees from someone other than his or her own EB-5 investor client for services rendered to that client, then the immigration attorney would be acting as a third party intermediary and his or her activities should also be evaluated within the context of Rule 502(c)." [Highlighting supplied]

As bright as we might be on the subject of immigration law, we, as a group, are most definitely NOT "securities" experts.  But that's increasingly hard to tell these days, given the proclivity of many immigration attorneys to push the EB-5 RC visa as the sole and definitive solution for a prospective client...even though better options exist.

A recent example: a young couple came to me after having been advised by no less than three immigration attorneys that their U.S. future depended upon an EB-5 visa.  Armed with reams of offering papers and all kinds of documents, they told me that they were afraid to invest in what they'd been shown (as they SHOULD have been, given the particular Regional Centers thrust upon them) and had come to the conclusion that they were ready to invest $1+ million in their own EB-5 U.S. enterprise, since both were degreed professionals with entrepreneurial plans and a checking account that made those plans possible.

I kid you not: FIVE MINUTES into our conversation I learned that:


  1. Both have been employed for the past two years by dad's company back home which

  2. Has over 500 employees, 30+ years in business and is rock stable AND

  3. The business they want to do in the U.S. has to do with the foreign employer's already existing activity in the U.S.


Helllooooooooooooo?  Can anyone say "L-1A" leading to EB-1??  It took me another 10 minutes to convince these folks that I was NOT the one who was nuts and that the three other attorneys, in their eagerness to shove an EB-5 Regional Center visa down their throats, had not even explored other visa categories!  They are happily building their L-1 business today, with an investment which is a fraction of what they would have spent on an individual EB-5.  And I know three immigration attorneys, one a very competent and experienced attorney,  who should be slapped upside the head.

There is no reason to hard-sell an EB-5 Regional Center, and attorneys who do so are risking a great deal.  Besides, except for the mass marketing of the Far East, I haven't met a single EB-5 RC prospect who could be "sold" via a hard sell...these people didn't make their money by being dumb.  As a Regional Center friend of mine always says, there IS a way to do this legally and transparently, it's just that many of the programs out there are built on shortcuts.

The truth about selecting an EB-5 Regional Center is simply the Field of Dreams theory: if you build the smarter, more transparent, compliant Regional Center which makes the most sense...they will come...no hard sell required!