EB-5 visa: “This growth in the U.S. economy through the EB-5 program is the greatest reward”
EB-5 immigration attorney Raymond G. Lahoud is a partner at Norris McLaughlin, P.A.
He is the son of Lebanese Catholic Immigrants who fled Lebanon during the civil war, seeking protection in the United States - moving from Lebanon to Easton, Pennsylvania.
“I love the practice of law,” he said. “It was a calling for me from childhood, when I would ride my bike down to the local courthouse to watch trials as early as 9 years old. The law is my life, my dream, my future - it is my only passion. More importantly, my specialization in immigration law has only developed this passion further, given the intricacies of the law itself and the magnitude of the impact of immigration law on people all over the globe.”
How and why did you get involved in the EB-5 industry?
My involvement in the EB-5 industry goes back many years - to the start of my practice of immigration law, in all types of projects, working with regional centers, individual investors, developers, market analysts, and others.
What are some current trends you are seeing in the EB-5 market?
The changes in EB-5 regulations increasing investment amounts, together with the COVID-19 pandemic, have led to slowdowns in the EB-5 industry. Chinese investors have become more limited because of the long backlogs in processing, while Vietnam has grown in terms of investor interest. Growth of the EB-5 program is becoming increasingly attractive to citizens of Latin America, Ukraine, and Russia, while India is seeing a slowdown simply because of the COVID lockdowns, which will likely rebound once the restrictions are lifted. It is expected that the EB-5 program will become a more used investment vehicle in coming years to citizens of Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
How do you think the pandemic has impacted the EB-5 industry?
The pandemic has caused increased processing delays of EB-5 petitions in the United States. This has only been compounded by the closure of U.S. Embassies and Consulates across the globe, preventing the issuance of visas when the EB-5 petitions are approved. Moreover, projects have slowed given the impact of the pandemic on the travel and hotel industry, office closures, and stay-at-home orders in many states. Also, the EB-5 program, like most other investment vehicles, has seen some hesitation with international investors, who are taking a wait-and-see approach on the rebound of the U.S. economy.
What are your top business goals this year?
Goals are limits. I do not believe in setting goals; rather, when I wake up each morning, I know that I will give my 1000% to serve each and every client. When it comes to the EB-5 industry, I will continue to develop my work with regional centers, developers, and investors who seek to enter the United States through investment-related nonimmigrant visas and the EB-5 visa program.
What achievement in this industry has been most rewarding? Why?
The EB-5 program is responsible for hundreds of billions in foreign investments into the United States since the program was deployed in 1990. These investments have created thousands of long-term jobs for Americans, significant tax revenue, new and necessary infrastructure, and more, thereby realizing the intention of the program itself - economic development. This growth in the U.S. economy through the EB-5 program is the greatest reward to those who practice EB-5 law.
What are your thoughts about the redeployment situation and the best strategy to deal with it?
When a project is completed ahead of schedule, the question of redeployment arises. Often, investors are left looking for other options to keep the invested funds “at risk,” which is critical for the issuance of the EB-5 visa. When looking into different means of redeployment, investors must ensure the investment is “at-risk,” and decide whether the redeployment should be made into a new EB-5 project, a new project within the same regional center, or other at-risk options such as a real estate investment trust, ETFs, mutual funds, or other alternate investments options. Again, the redeployment of the funds must be into an “at risk” investment. It is essential that investors thoroughly conduct detailed due diligence about any new investment for purposes of redeployment.
What do you think needs to be reformed with the EB-5 program at the time it is up for renewal in June?
The EB-5 program must become permanent, or at least renewable for five years, thereby negating the uncertainty that comes with each annual reauthorization. The program is in dire need of more compliance-related programs, including SEC oversight, more detailed assessments of projects and regional centers by USCIS, required disclosures of conflicts of interest and the full range of project risk, and similar programs that prevent misappropriation of funds in EB-5 regional center projects.
What would you change or do if you were president for a day?
First, it would be an honor to be President for a day! Second, I would introduce a realistic, comprehensive immigration reform bill that deals with the many issues plaguing the current immigration system.
Why did you decide to join our verified EB-5 community and what has it done for your business?
As a long-time EB-5 investor visa attorney, I found that the verified community is a means to further involve myself in the EB-5 program and to ensure investors, developers, and those interested in the EB-5 program can access a portal that provides accurate information related to the program.
What is your favorite quote and why?
Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum,a Latin legal phrase that translates to "Let justice be done though the heavens fall.” This is my favorite quote, as in law, justice must be achieved at whatever expense, as without justice, there is neither civility nor society.
What about you would surprise others?
I am the son of Lebanese Catholic Immigrants who fled Lebanon during the civil war, seeking protection in the United States - moving from Lebanon to Easton, Pennsylvania. My father passed away when I was five years old, leaving my immigrant mother alone, with little, to raise three young children. This did not stop my mother for even one day- she went right to work, knowing the challenges ahead but with a passion to conquer them. Since I was a child, the notions of hard work, passion in work, education, and personal growth have been embedded in my bones. I watched my mother work 80 hours a week in factories throughout Pennsylvania, and then clean homes and offices every night; I would often go with her. I saw her work hard with the desire to succeed, learning that in the United States, it is these very concepts that can turn a poor, inner-city child into a leading U.S. immigration attorney.