By Marta Lillo
Patel became an immigration attorney shortly after graduating from the University of Oklahoma Law School in 2005. As an immigrant himself, he wanted to repay the assistance his family received when they migrated to the United States.
“I’m an immigrant myself. My family went through the green card process, through the naturalization process. So, we’ve been through the entire system, and it made a lot of sense for me to go into immigration,” he reflects.
However, Patel had another area of interest besides immigration. He also liked doing business, which led him to create his immigration law firm, Patel Law Group, in Irving, Texas, one year after graduation.
This dual passion led him to specialize in the EB-5 visa program, providing services for regional centers and standalone investors.
“It’s a combination of everything. I wanted to understand business, run my own business, and work in immigration law. So, EB-5 really kind of all matched together perfectly,” he adds.
Launching his own law firm was a learning experience
He recalls that his initial years of practice were a real classroom when he had a client who had an IT staffing company that wanted to do H-1B visas.
“And being a new attorney with a brand new office, I had no idea what H-1bs were,” he said. “I had to learn really fast on what to do because they wanted to file in the April lottery. They wanted to file like 35 new ones, and back then, the way you filled out forms was not on a computer; it was on a typewriter.”
It turned out to be a real learning process.
“And I learned that the only way I was going to learn how to do immigration was to teach myself, and so I was lucky enough to do a good enough job where we kept the client, and the client is still with us!”
He jokingly says he’s grown a lot since then and is now proud of the business he has established. “Our goal is not to be the largest EB-5 firm. Our goal is to provide the highest quality for the clients that we have.”
EB-5 is not “wild, wild, west” anymore, yet uncertainties remain
In his 18 years of law practice, eight of which he’s represented EB-5 investors across the globe and within the U.S., he’s witnessed the immigration industry’s evolution and the “rollercoaster ride” that’s been the EB-5 program in particular.
“It has gone through a roller coaster ride of different types of changes. We’re on the most recent iteration since March of last year, which helped provide a lot of clarity,” Patel says.
He said the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA) brought much-needed transparency to the system and ended the program’s previously lax treatment.
The new regulation has encouraged developers and regional centers to improve project quality and competitiveness, which is a major benefit to Patel.
“It’s not what we called ‘the wild, wild west’ of EB-5 anymore, where you could just offer anything, and investors would take it. I see developers becoming different with the new rules and the way that regional centers have to be utilized with standalone investments, having one investor, it’s definitely changed. It’s equalized the playing field a little bit.”
However, he said the RIA 2022 raised new uncertainties that need resolution soon.
“In general, the immigration process has gotten better. Our leaders in government are taking a better understanding of it, but I still think efficiency is where we have issues in our immigration system.”
Patel is waiting for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to clarify how to address these ambiguities.
“We’re hoping that those challenges are met with good explanations that the clients, the attorneys, the developers, the investors, all vested parties, can truly understand. It’s going to be interesting to see how this goes.”
Above all, the timing of the EB-5 application process is a top concern for his clients.
“A lot of the lawsuits that have happened are because of the amount of time that’s taken to adjudicate. So that’s the biggest question I get every day. It’s not really a source of funds, it’s not cost or investment amount questions. It’s the timing.”
According to Patel, now is a favorable time for EB-5 investments due to set-aside categories for rural or high-unemployment areas, particularly beneficial for Chinese or Indian clients.
“Now is a good time to invest because there is an advantage of doing concurrent filing. So, the fact that it’s available at least gives us work authorizations and travel permits for certain people. That’s a very good thing that USCIS has done, allowing that.”
He also notes a significant increase in Chinese EB-5 applications since 2022.
“Chinese investors have a great opportunity right now to invest just because of where we’re at. We’re seeing a lot more uptick in, whether it be students or people here on F1 that are looking to invest because of the current availability for Chinese investors in the rural and high unemployment projects.”
Helping EB-5 investors understand their rights and obligations
Patel says he enjoys working with investors and developers and uses his business background to help bridge the worlds of immigration and investment.
“Doing EB-5 allows me to not only work with the investor, looking at the source of funds, their backgrounds, and their business history, which is always interesting to understand where they came from. But also working with the developer and understanding why they’re putting the project together, where that project may be, and having that understanding and business background, marrying the immigration and business worlds.”
This combination of approaches has taught him that EB-5 is unsuitable for everyone.
“I don’t want to talk to somebody and try to convince them to do EB-5. I want to talk to them to figure out who they are and convince them to do what’s best for them, not necessarily for us, the developer, the regional center, or whoever it may be.”
Patel insists that in addition to explaining projects and the EB-5 process, it is equally important to understand the client’s needs and meet them halfway, drawing from his personal and professional experience.
“As an immigrant, business owner, investor, and immigration attorney, I truly do understand our clients,” he said.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are solely the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher, its employees. or its affiliates. The information found on this website is intended to be general information; it is not legal or financial advice. Specific legal or financial advice can only be given by a licensed professional with full knowledge of all the facts and circumstances of your particular situation. You should seek consultation with legal, immigration, and financial experts prior to participating in the EB-5 program Posting a question on this website does not create an attorney-client relationship. All questions you post will be available to the public; do not include confidential information in your question.