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EB5 INVESTORS MAGAZINE

Top 25 Attorneys 2019: Top 25 Immigration Attorneys

EB5 Investors Magazine is pleased to announce the Top 25 Immigration Attorneys. To be eligible, distinguished immigration attorneys needed to primarily file investor petitions.

For more information or to contact any of these professionals, we invite you to view their listings at www.EB5Investors.com/directories.

EDWARD BESHARA

BESHARA GLOBAL MIGRATION LAW FIRM

Edward Beshara, managing partner of Beshara Global Migration Law Firm in Orlando, Florida, has committed to preparing approvable U.S. business and family visas for 37 years. He has been practicing EB-5 for the past 29 years for investors and EB-5 projects. The firm also provides solutions for the E-2 investment visas, L-1 intra-company visas, as well as citizenship and visa programs of other countries. Beshara is a member of AILA, IIUSA, and IMC and a former adjunct professor at the University of Florida Law School. He has been named Top 25 EB-5 Immigration Attorneys for the past several years. He is a recipient of IIUSA’s Economic Advancement "Innovator Award" for 2019.

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

The new EB-5 regulations, which took effect Nov. 21, 2019, had an immediate devastating effect on the EB-5 industry. The new investment amounts changed dramatically from $500,000 to $900,000 if the investment is in a rural area or TEA (Target Employment Area), or alternatively, $1.8 million. Also, the new EB-5 regulations changed the definition of what geographical areas for the project location will be considered TEAs. On this basis, an estimated 90% of all urban projects that previously (before Nov. 21, 2019) qualified as TEAs will not qualify today. However, there are still EB-5 regional centers with EB-5 projects that qualify for the TEA standards and will require a $900,000 personal investment. 

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

The residency-by-investment laws are here to stay. Advising EB-5 regional center clients and projects on how to be competitive and predictable globally is offered by our law firm. The clients may decide first to enter the U.S. within a few months with a non-immigrant visa, such as E-2 or L-1, and while they are present in the U.S., file their EB-5 petition and wait for the long process before the approval of their conditional permanent residency. Every new factual situation for a foreign national requires strategy planning and approvable solutions by an experienced law firm

BELMA DEMIROVIC CHINCHOY

IYER DEMIROVIC CHINCHOY LLP

For more than eight years, Belma Demirovic Chinchoy has focused solely on representing high net worth individuals, entrepreneurs and multinational companies in the EB-5, E-2, L-1 and EB-1 immigration categories. Chinchoy’s clients are diverse across industry sectors (real estate, technology, fashion, and manufacturing) and countries of origin. She is frequently retained to counsel on investment-based cases in post-initial filing stages (RFE, NOID, denials) and in Federal court litigation. Chinchoy is licensed in California. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Los Angeles County Bar Association and other EB-5 professional organizations. She is a frequent speaker and professional trainer on EB-5 topics. 

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

Although anticipated, the November 2019 changes have had a shocking effect on the EB-5 industry, specifically on the EB-5 investors.  As with every significant change, an adjustment period is needed and the EB-5 industry will adjust.  For many foreign nationals, the EB-5 program remains the most secure and straightforward path toward U.S. residency. Sourcing investment funds will be more complicated for many investors due to the increased amount.  In terms of substance, the changes left unaddressed many important issues in the EB-5 program, including the unreasonably long processing times, lack of proper oversight over regional center administration and fraud.  

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

The USCIS adjudication trends are resulting in a lot of busy work for EB-5 attorneys.  For example, an RFE on a project matter issued 30 months after I-526 submission asking for clarification of a business plan.  At this stage, the project has been fully implemented and the issue raised is moot. However, acting in the best interest of our clients, we cannot dismiss the RFE and we spend the time responding. We are also seeing an increase in regional centers and investors seeking second opinions on matters of neglected regional center compliance and I-829 NOIDs. 

DILLON R. COLUCCI

GREENBERG TRAURIG, LLP

Dillon R. Colucci practices and handles a variety of U.S. immigration matters and helps individuals, families, professionals, skilled workers, investors, and businesses live, work, invest, and do business in the United States. Colucci focuses on EB-5 immigrant investor matters. He regularly works with developers across a variety of industries, as well as private equity funds on developing new projects that qualify for EB-5 investments. This includes the creation of new regional centers and having projects adopted by existing regional centers or through pooled individual EB-5 petitions. Colucci also counsels foreign nationals on obtaining permanent residency through direct or regional center EB-5 investments. 

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

I believe increased investment amounts were inevitable, and it will take the market time to adjust to the higher threshold. During this adjustment period, the demand for U.S. immigration via the EB-5 program will be reduced. However, in time, demand will rise again and be commensurate with the U.S.’ position as one of the world’s top destinations for permanent immigration. 

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

With the increased investment amounts, we are seeing more sophisticated applicants expressing interest in the EB-5 Program. As investors become or are more sophisticated, prior tactics to encourage investments and market investments will need to change to reflect a different investor pool.

IGNACIO A. DONOSO

DONOSO & PARTNERS, LLC

Ignacio A. Donoso is a leading business immigration attorney whose career spans 20 years, with particular expertise in visas for EB-5 entrepreneurs, companies expanding operations to the U.S., start-ups and skilled professionals. Donoso founded I.A. Donoso & Associates in 2013, after previously working as partner of FosterQuan, LLP (now Foster, LLP), one of the top immigration law firms in the U.S. Donoso has been selected to serve in many AILA national committees. Donoso has been recognized among the Top 25 immigration attorneys in the United States in 2015 and 2016. Donoso is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences.

ROBERT P. GAFFNEY

LAW OFFICES OF ROBERT P. GAFFNEY | ATTORNEY

Robert P. Gaffney is a California State Bar-certified specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law. Through the Law Offices of Robert P. Gaffney based in San Francisco Gaffney has for over 30 years counseled clients in employment-, investment- and family-based immigration matters. The firm has a strong practice focus representing immigrant investors. Gaffney attended the University of Michigan, Center for Chinese Studies and is fluent in Mandarin. His publications include “Practical Approaches to Lawful Source of Funds Issues” and “Issues and Approaches to the Preparation of I-526 Petitions for Minor Petitioners”.

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts? 

The 80% increase in the minimum capital requirement has altered the profile of the investor pool, effectively pricing out many early to mid-career immigrant investors who would be able to contribute their talents and energies to the development of U.S. communities but who do not have the sufficient means to invest at the new level.  Priority date retention under the new rule, while positive, unnecessarily fails to provide for deserving investors in troubled projects who have already become conditional residents.  Delaying TEA determinations until the time of I-526 adjudication and the lack of clarity in TEA adjudication standards creates an uncertainty about this critical determination.   

WHY DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE EB-5 INDUSTRY?

The substantial increase in investment amounts and other changes under the new rule have a chilling effect on the industry and further aggravate the severe negative impact of oversubscription and adjudication delays.  The intense pre-rule marketing efforts were relatively successful in producing many new investors but left a shortage of “untapped” investors in the marketplace. This has resulted in tremendous competition among projects for new investors.  Increasingly investors are looking closely at deals and creating a premium on project differentiation, including factors such as expedite and/or exemplar approvals, project location, deep administrative fee discounts and more attractive prospective returns on investment.   

MATTHEW T. GALATI

THE GALATI LAW FIRM

With significant experience in immigration law, Matthew T. Galatit has handled matters relating to nearly every visa type. Galati has focused the majority of his practice on EB-5 and E-2 related matters and has prepared hundreds of petitions. With experience in litigation predating law school graduation, Galati frequently represents EB-5 investors seeking relief from unreasonable USCIS delays and legally unsound denials. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and serves on its EB-5 National Committee and the Philadelphia chapter’s Executive Committee as its vice chair.  

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security ignored the overwhelming opposition to the so-called modernization changes. Given the sharp increases in the minimum capital required, I think the U.S. risks losing immigrant investors to other countries. That said, we have seen other programs amended to make them less attractive and then rebound. I am confident this will happen with EB-5 – but it will take some time. However, there are new opportunities. The new EB-5 rules will drive regional centers to explore new and creative offerings that will be to the benefit of the U.S. economy, especially in areas previously overlooked.  

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

USCIS’ trend of delaying adjudications throughout 2019 was very disappointing. Many of my clients lost patience with petition processing, especially given radical changes in the visa bulletin. I have represented dozens of clients in lawsuits against the government aimed at breaking the adjudication backlogs. There are no guarantees in federal court, and this certainly is not a one-size-fits-all solution. However, we have seen significant successes thus far, even among plaintiffs within the so-called “normal” processing times. I think the need for litigation representation will continue unless and until USCIS starts to offer more regularity and predictability in petition processing. 

MICHAEL A. HARRIS

HARRISLAW, P.A.

Michael A. Harris is a Florida Bar Board-certified specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law and AV Preeminent Peer Rated lawyer. Harris Law P. A. has offices in Miami, Florida, and affiliated offices around the world. Harris is a member of the board of directors of AILA South Florida, and a member of the board certification committee on Immigration Law for the Florida Bar. Harris oversees EB-5 practice for investors, standalone projects and regional centers in a variety of industries in more than 10 states, with capital stacks over $1 billion, and some of them have raised up to $250 million in EB-5 capital.

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

It brought some welcome protections for EB-5 investors whose projects have failed or may fail. Preserving an investor’s priority date is a step in the right direction. I have hope that USCIS may evolve in the future to allow investors to be able to maintain their resident status upon the filing of a new I-526 petition. I believe the increased investment amount should have been adjusted for inflation, but should be based on an inflation marker since 2009 when demand on the EB-5 program really increased. The current changes will only stifle EB-5 and foreign direct investment, which is not beneficial to the industry. 

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

I see an increase in EB-5 investors seeking direct standalone projects, especially with the goal of utilizing a business to qualify for an E-2 Treaty Investor visa. Their plan is to later utilize the business for part of an EB-5 petition. Due to increases in the minimum investment from $500,000 to $900,000, investors want to bundle an EB-5 investment with multiple businesses. By first starting an E-2 business at a lower investment, they hope to upgrade themselves to an EB-5 visa. Without the required E-2 citizenship, EB-5 investors are also seeking passports from countries with E-2 bilateral investment treaties with the U.S. 

JENNIFER HERMANSKY

GREENBERG TRAURIG

Jennifer Hermansky is a shareholder at the Philadelphia office of Greenberg Traurig, LLP and is part of the firm’s EB-5 team. She has been involved in more than 100 regional center projects and has handled thousands of investor petitions. With a degree in finance and a background handling entrepreneurial cases for clients seeking E-2 or L-1 visas, Hermansky is familiar with the business immigration process and applies this knowledge to all of her EB-5 cases. She is knowledgeable about the EB-5 program from start to finish, helping investors from the moment they decide to file until they become U.S. citizens, and counseling regional centers on issues of management, staffing and compliance. 

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

The new regulations have been a long time in the making.  The USCIS made some beneficial changes for investors, including priority date retention, to bring EB-5 in line with the other employment-based immigration categories.  They also made some beneficial changes for investors processing I-829 petitions, including new protections for dependents.  However, there is some uncertainty with how USCIS will evaluate TEAs and I hope USCIS will engage the public and provide more guidance soon, which will help both projects and investors understand the new rule and provide some comfort when filing Form I-526. 

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

USCIS has been fairly stagnant with adjudicating both I-526 petitions and I-829 petitions over the past year. However, since January, USCIS seems to be  adjudicating cases more quickly. On the I-526 petitions, USCIS continues to closely evaluate the applicant’s source of funds, including the path of funds.  If an applicant used any kind of currency swap or money transfer agent in the transfer of funds process, USCIS is sending requests for evidence on these points.  On the I-829 petitions, USCIS continues to examine closely whether or not the investor maintained the “at risk” nature of the investment throughout the two-year period of conditional residence.  In the future, I expect for USCIS to issue more RFEs on redeployment issues. 

DAVID HIRSON

DAVID HIRSON & PARTNERS, LLP 

David Hirson has more than 35 years of experience in corporate immigration law, specializing in business and investment immigration. Hirson is the founding and manager partner of David Hirson & Partners, LLP (DHP), and is internationally recognized for his track record in investment immigration. DHP’s attorneys have over 70 years of combined experience in advising individuals, startups, large corporations, hospitals, and universities in navigating complex areas of employment immigration with a full range of services. DHP also specialize in immigration for franchise businesses who have foreign partners/managers. The firm also works closely with individuals and HR departments to understand their needs and customize immigration plans. 

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

The increase in the minimum investment amounts , together with the extreme delays in processing and the very limited number of visas, has had a chilling effect on the EB-5 industry. I believe that over the next 12 months, things will improve as projects become available specially designed to accept the higher investment amount. Hopefully congress will pass legislation to further modernize the EB-5 laws and create additional visa availability. Smaller projects have found a slowdown in interest from investors. This too shall pass. It is unfortunate that this low interest funding, bringing in high-quality immigrants , will reduce some of the projects that would otherwise have been developed at no cost to U.S. tax payers. 

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

From an extremely quiet EB-5 industry since December 2019, I expect a slow growth to improve the number of investors to a reasonable level by January 2021. Small projects with equity and a projected reasonable return on investment will advance. This may also be true for the larger projects if developers are willing to part with equity and ensure market level returns on the investments. Investors throughout the world who wish to leave their countries still regard the United States as their number one choice. Paying at least $900,000 for the benefits and privileges of becoming a U.S. resident will soon become the norm and the comparison with the historic investment program will soon dissipate. 

ROHIT KAPURIA

SAUL EWING ARNSTEIN & LEHR LLP

Rohit Kapuria, an attorney at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP, regularly represents EB-5 lenders, borrowers, banks, regional centers, real estate developers and migration brokers. Kapuria’s practice is a dual hybrid of corporate securities and EB-5 immigration law. He has worked on over 500 EB-5 transactions, with a combined capital development cost in excess of $7.5 billion. Kapuria currently represents close to 25% of the Indian-born EB-5 investor market.  He is also very active in Opportunity Zones, representing clients around the U.S. in such transactions. Kapuria is fluent in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Hausa. 

What trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

Two big trends: redeployment continues to be an active area where our law firm is leading the charge having structured more than $2 billion worth of redeployed transactions in the last 2.5 years; the search for new investor markets alongside settlement on the new standard project and investor terms resulting from the publication of the new EB-5 regulations. At $900,000, investor returns, project risks, project asset classes, administrative fees and EB-5 loan security are a few areas of great importance for EB-5 issuers as they struggle to embrace the new world of EB-5. 

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

I have so many thoughts on the negative impact related to the new process, however, two key ones today: first, EB-5 investor demand has dropped significantly and will remain low until the market gets adjusted to the shock of the new investment amount; and second, reform of the TEA criteria has pushed out most attractive urban projects from the market.  As a result, the general EB-5 asset class and project type will change in 2020.

PARISA KARAAHMET

FRAGOMEN LLP

Parisa Karaahmet, a partner in Fragomen’s New York office, represents a variety of large, midsize and smaller companies in their immigration matters, including those in the financial services, medical, pharmaceutical, academic, retail and technology sectors.  Prior to joining Fragomen, Karaahmet served as an assistant district counsel and acting deputy district counsel for the Immigration & Naturalization Service, New York District.  She has provided immigration advice and guidance on a pro bono basis to several organizations and individuals, including Human Rights First and DACA recipients, among others. Karaahmet also speaks at international and national conferences on a variety of immigration topics. 

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

The increased investment amounts would have been better received by investors and the EB-5 community had they been accompanied by efficiency measures resulting in more predictability and risk management for investors. It is important that USCIS realize that the EB-5 program has been extremely beneficial to the U.S. economy, and competes directly with other global worldwide investment programs that may appear to be more attractive to investors, given the higher investment amounts and longer processing times that we are now seeing in the U.S.   

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

Given lengthy USCIS processing times, foreign investors have exhibited a growing interest in short-term solutions such as the E-2 nonimmigrant visa program, which provides a more immediate pathway to the U.S. Expedited citizenship programs in countries in the Caribbean or Turkey can provide an investor with a gateway passport that can be utilized in order to apply for an E-2 visa, assuming they otherwise meet the qualifications of that category. Once the investor is in the U.S. in E-2 status, there may be other permanent residency options they can pursue, including EB-5. 

NIMA KORPIVAARA

DAVID HIRSON & PARTNERS, LLP

Nima Korpivaara joined David Hirson & Partners, LLP in 2014. Korpivaara handles all types of U.S. immigration, including complex matters associated with corporate business structure and EB-5 investor applications. Korpivaara practices in the fields of corporate, investor (E-2 and EB-5) and family immigration law, representing large and small clients within a variety of industries. This includes temporary and short-term work visas, business visas, employment-based and family-based permanent residency  and naturalization. Korpivaara has successfully represented thousands of investors in receiving EB-5 green card approval, as well as dozens of regional centers in successfully receiving designation from USCIS.

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

Another half measure by USCIS. It is disingenuous to state the regulation changes will help to protect investors, while stimulating the economies of rural areas, without tackling the actual issues that hinder the EB-5 program - increased I-526 processing times, complete inability to receive case status updates, and the multi-year visa backlog. Until these issues are resolved, we will see a continuous and steep decline in the number of I-526 filings per year.

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

Over the last two years, the national visa center (NVC) has forecasted a five-to-six-year backlog for Indian nationals. However, with the new NVC data release, it appears that the backlog is closer to three years. I believe we will see an increase in the number of I-526 filing out of India for 2020.

CAROLYN LEE

CAROLYN LEE, PLLC 

Carolyn Lee is the founder of Carolyn Lee PLLC, an exclusively EB-5 immigration firm. Lee has represented regional centers, developers, funds and investors for 15 years, helping U.S. project clients raise $2.5 billion in EB-5 capital. She is the chair of American Immigration Lawyers Association’s National EB-5 Committee. Lee has served as legislative counsel to Invest in USA, having authored legislative commentary since 2012. She is an advocate for EB-5 integrity reform, long-term program reauthorization, and visa capacity expansion. Lee authors leading EB-5 publications and speaks internationally on EB-5 visas. She frequently serves as EB-5 expert in litigation. 

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

It’s a mixed bag, but on balance. They are a step in the right direction. 

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

Industry folks, old and new, are thinking outside the box to turn up new opportunities. It’s a challenging time but also exciting, because we’re all scrappy entrepreneurs playing out the original EB-5 spirit again. I believe good things will come of it. 

DANIEL LUNDY

KLASKO IMMIGRATION LAW PARTNERS LLP

Daniel Lundy is a partner with Klasko Immigration Law Partners LLP, heading its EB-5 developer/regional center practice and litigation practice. Lundy represents developers and regional centers who seek to raise money through EB-5. Lundy represents many clients in troubled EB-5 projects, including matters involving SEC complaints and allegations of fraud or misappropriation, where he helps to preserve the immigration interests of investors throughout the restructuring of those projects. Lundy has extensive experience litigating immigration cases in the federal courts and is frequently retained to help with RFEs, NOIDs and appeals of USCIS denials. He received his Juris Doctor from Fordham University.

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

The increased investment amount and restrictions on TEAs will drive EB-5 projects smaller and out of major metropolitan areas. Because it will take longer to raise money at the increased investment level, very large EB-5 capital raises will become rare. We will see more projects where the investors are the developers, or the developers bring their own investors. 

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

EB-5 processing times have slowed substantially, resulting in many mandamus lawsuits being filed to compel USCIS to adjudicate petitions. Denial rates seem to be on the rise, so lawsuits challenging denials will become common. We are likely to see the resolution of some of the bigger fraud cases in the near future. RFEs and NOIDs are becoming more common, and investors will have to work harder to file strong petitions. While EB-5 has never been simple or easy, it is likely to increase in complexity in the near future. Disputes over redeployment are also likely to become more prevalent. 

Brandon Meyer

MEYER LAW GROUP

Brandon Meyer is the founder and managing partner of Meyer Law Group (MLG), where he provides quality legal representation to clients ranging from EB-5 regional center operators and individual investors to multinational corporations. Involved in EB-5 since 1998, Meyer has seen the multiple life cycles of the EB-5 program. Meyer received his law degree from the University of San Diego School of Law and is a member of the Bars of Connecticut and the District of Columbia. MLG is headquartered in San Francisco and has offices in Los Angeles, San Diego and Vietnam. 

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

After 28 years at the $500,000 level, it was inevitable that the minimum investment amount would increase. The EB-5 industry has yet to come to grips with this reality and is holding itself back in the process.  Nine hundred thousand dollars is still far less than many other competing programs, none of which can offer the benefits of U.S. permanent residency.  The world is still full of $900,000 investors wishing to move to the U.S. The “modernization” that has the greater and more negative impact is the change in targeted employment area designation. The EB-5 industry will struggle under these new rules. 

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

Once quota backlogs hit mainland China, then Vietnam, wholesale EB-5 investor sourcing came to an end. The industry has yet to fully come to grips with this fact. The investor market is now more diffuse worldwide and domestically, but the old mindset of “I remember the days when 20 people would sign up at the end of the seminar” still persists. This five-year bubble grossly distorted the EB-5 market and led to conditions that created questionable industry practices. The end of the China market coupled with EB-5 program “modernization” gives the industry an opportunity to rightsize itself and clean up some of the emerging mess from the bubble years. 

SONIA OLIVERI

KELLEY KRONENBERG

Sonia Oliveri is a partner with Kelley Kronenberg, one of the largest law firms in South Florida, where she leads the firm’s EB-5 practice group and focuses on corporate clients’ business immigration and international business needs. Oliveri assists investors on complex immigration matters, with an emphasis on the EB-5 program and the E-2 Treaty Investor Program. Oliveri holds two law degrees from Italy and the U.S., and is licensed to practice law in the State of Florida and in the District of Columbia. Oliveri is fluent in six languages. She is an active member of AILA, the Italian-American Chamber of Commerce, and the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce.  

What are your thoughts on the eb-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

Although the new investment amounts are severely impacting less wealthy investors, I do not see such increases being destructive for the industry as a whole. In fact, the majority of our EB-5 clients are high net worth individuals who will continue to invest and have a future in the United States. However, for regional centers and developers, these capital investment increases will undoubtedly reduce the investor pool, forcing regional centers to increment their marketing efforts to attract accredited investors. Higher investment amounts will result in fewer investors needed to complete the EB-5 capital stack. I hope to see legislative action that will mitigate the impact of these changes. 

What new trends are you seeing in the eb-5 industry?

We are noticing an increase in EB-5 direct projects and E-2 Treaty Investor visas. Specifically, the investors that cannot afford the new EB-5 threshold are completely shifting their interest to the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa program, which is available for lower investment amounts. On the other hand, high net worth investors are finding EB-5 direct projects to be more attractive. In fact, the new trend appears to be that investors are willing to make a higher investment amount to grow their own EB-5 projects while maintaining control of their funds and aiming at higher returns on investments.  

KRISTAL OZMUN

MILLER MAYER LLP

Kristal Ozmun is a partner with Miller Mayer LLP in Ithaca, New York. Ozmun represents an array of business and individual clients on employment-based immigration matters. She has extensive experience representing individuals seeking classification as extraordinary ability immigrants as well as those requesting national interest waivers. Ozmun also represents individuals in various family-based immigration filings. Ozmun is a recognized expert in the EB-5 visa category. She represents EB-5 regional centers in matters related to immigration law, including designation, compliance. and governance. She also advises EB-5 immigrant investors in navigating the immigration process. She is a well-known advisor and prolific speaker and writer on the subject.

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

There are good and bad aspects of the new regulations. Clearly, pluses include priority date retention and the ability of dependents to file their own I-829 petitions even in the absence of an I-829 filing by the principal applicant. Negatives include the increased investment amount and retention of the ability to assess targeted employment areas by USCIS. Hopefully, the good components of the regulations will eventually outweigh the bad such that the market thaws enough to encourage participation of new immigrant investors. 

What trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

Under the new regulations, hesitation seems to be the primary trend with immigrant investors, who are seemingly unwilling or unable to make a present commitment to the program. However, we are seeing signs of change and are cautiously optimistic that immigrant investment will be on an upward trajectory in 2020.

RAKESH PATEL

PATEL LAW GROUP

Rakesh Patel is a founding partner and serves as a managing partner to the Patel Law Group. Patel’s primary practice area is business immigration with a focus on foreign EB-5 investment in the U.S. He has helped immigrants and investors throughout the world in obtaining their visas and green cards to the U.S. through the EB-5 process. Patel takes every step of the legal process very seriously. His extensive background in business and educational background in business administration is put to daily use when he visits with his clients. He not only understands their legal needs but understands how that legal decision may impact the business.

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

The new modernization rules have been talked about so long that it did not come as a shock to me. However, they have been very difficult for our clients, both developers and investors, to stomach for many reasons. As with all changes, it takes time for all stakeholders to adjust. While I do think the investment amounts have made it more prohibitive for potential investors to invest, I do understand the change. I am hoping for more conversation on the topic from our legislators in the near future to consider changing the amounts so that investors are able to use the EB-5 program to its fullest potential.  

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

With the advent of the new modernization rules, I see that developers and investors are becoming more creative in their use of EB-5. First, developers have realized that fewer investors are required for their projects so they can be more direct on their investor targets. They are also becoming more creative on their capital stacks. For the investors, they are now exploring the personal loans for use of funds to invest. This brings up more complicated issues that we, as attorneys, have to make sure we are aware of current trends and court rulings. I do see EB-5 picking up again soon as everyone becomes more comfortable with new rules and trends.

IRINA ROSTOVA

ROSTOVA WESTERMAN LAW GROUP

Irina Rostova is a founding partner at Rostova Westerman Law Group with a background in bank management and commercial litigation. Rostova serves as the chair of the IIUSA’s Public Policy Committee where her focus is on resolving policy issues that affect the EB-5 industry as a whole. Rostova became an immigration attorney out of her passion for the EB-5 program, believing that for many, it presents a more assured way to permanent residency. Rostova oversees hundreds of in-progress EB-5 petitions for investors from Latin America, the Middle East, Africaand Asia.She is a principal EB-5 attorney for the Eastern European region.

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

The global potential for the EB-5 program is still very strong at the $900,000 threshold as it remains competitive with programs of other countries. We can expect to see changes in deal structuring. As investors commit larger sums for longer periods of time, they will become more interested in the earning potential of their investments.

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

From the USCIS side, we are seeing more demanding requests for the source of funds documentation and higher I-526 denial rates. Due to the absent guidance from USCIS on their new adjudication standards implemented during their staff retraining in 2019, we anticipate that many of the issued denials will be challenged in court. From the investor side, we are seeing an increase in mandamus lawsuits, challenging the Immigrant Investor Program Office’s exceedingly long processing times in federal court.

MONA SHAH

MONA SHAH & ASSOCIATES GLOBAL

Mona Shah, born in the U.K., is a former British Crown prosecutor. She has more than 25 years of experience and wide-ranging knowledge of EB-5. Recognized as an industry leader, Shah has received multiple accolades. She has been among the Top 25 EB-5 Attorneys for six years in a row, and has been interviewed by mainstream news media. A published author and Lexis-Nexis editor who regularly speaks globally, Shah has extensive marketing experiences and has raised millions in investor capital. She is an adjunct professor at Baruch College, City University New York, and a member of the Public Policy Committee and Presidential Advisory Council of IIUSA. 

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

EB-5 desperately needed reform. The new regulations are inadequate. Although I welcome the increased investment, which is more in line with reality, the TEA rules are perplexing with inadequate safeguards for investors. Confusion breeds uncertainty and subsequently a lack of confidence. Resorting to litigation is not the desired environment. The EB-5 program has proven to be remarkably successful, bringing billions of investment dollars into the U.S. and creating thousands of jobs. Correctly handled, the benefits of the program could be tripled. We need comprehensive change, proper guidance and an increase in visa numbers - at the very least, the removal of dependents from the quota. 

What trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

The EB-5 Industry has shifted dramatically in the last two years. The loss of the Chinese market forced a number of changes. The sizes of the EB-5 raises became smaller; we are seeing more varied industries; there is a shift towards actual businesses as opposed to real estate construction. Many EB-5 cottage industries have faded; the increase of investors from countries like India, where English is more prevalent, has altered marketing strategies and costs. There is increased governmental scrutiny, sometimes unwarranted, with denial rates reaching an all-time high for the industry. The trend for the year certainly leans heavily towards litigation.

DARREN B. SILVER

DARREN SILVER & ASSOCIATES, LLP

Darren B. Silver is the founding partner of Darren Silver & Associates, LLP. Silver has a career of over 25 years exclusively in the field of immigration. Over his career, Silver has enjoyed working within the different areas of immigration law with an emphasis on business and investment-related immigration. Silver has devoted a large segment of his practice to the area of EB-5 and is proud of the work that his firm has contributed to the EB-5 community. He has successfully filed over 4,000 EB-5-related applications. Silver has been a long-standing member of AILA, IIUSA and has been awarded a Super Lawyer in his field. 

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

From a fiscal and inflationary view, the changes were reasonable and have been long overdue. However, from a practical view, as with any significant increase in taxes or fees, a slower, staggered-out increase would have allowed for quicker acceptance. Because of the dramatic and instant increase, we are seeing sticker shock and slow acceptance. However, the good news is that once the shock of the increase settles in, I strongly believe that investors will come to the realization that $900,000 is still an extraordinary reasonable investment amount for U.S. permanent residency.

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

Due to the higher investment threshold, we are seeing an uptick in interest from more sophisticated investors. These investors are looking for projects that offer more competitive and attractive investment opportunities. In addition, we are seeing what looks like a cognitive move on USCIS’s part to damper the waiting times for EB-5 applicants. Specifically, we have recently seen a more lenient use of Chart B in the visa bulletin, allowing for those applicants inside the U.S. to file adjustment earlier than their priority dates. Finally, USCIS has recently announced changes to adjudication timing to favor those countries that are not retrogressed. 

CHRISTIAN TRIANTAPHYLLIS

JACKSON WALKER LLP | PARTNER

Christian Triantaphyllis is a partner at Jackson Walker, LLP where he focuses his practice on business immigration matters, particularly those related to EB-5 investments and investor visas. Triantaphyllis represents foreign nationals in the filing of EB-5 cases and advises on lawful sources of investment funds. In his practice, Triantaphyllis regularly serves as counsel to real estate developers and regional centers to facilitate EB-5 projects. He also represents clients to acquire work authorization for employees and advises on visa options involving startup companies in the United States. Triantaphyllis has authored numerous articles and is a frequent speaker on the EB-5 program. 

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

A positive aspect of the EB-5 modernization changes is that investors, project developers and attorneys now have more predictability for the foreseeable future regarding the EB-5 investment amounts. For several years, there was a great deal of uncertainty as to when and by how much the EB-5 investment amounts would increase, and the EB-5 industry operated under a series of short-term deadlines anticipating changes to the EB-5 program. However, there are still improvements to be made to the EB-5 program, which can be done more through legislative action that takes a more holistic approach towards modernizing the EB-5 program. 

What trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

Since the EB-5 modernization changes came into effect, the EB-5 industry has been focusing on educating foreign national investors about the increased investment amounts and new requirements for qualifying as a targeted employment area. EB-5 developers in 2020 appear more focused than before on rural, infrastructure and service industry projects, while at the same time continuing to market projects in urban locations, resulting in a healthy variety of offerings in the EB-5 marketplace. EB-5 investors and brokers around the world remain interested in the program, and I foresee relationships strengthening among those who are involved with facilitating the EB-5 immigration process.

ROHIT TURKHUD

FAKHOURY GLOBAL IMMIGRATION

Rohit Turkhud has been practicing the U.S. immigration and nationality laws since 1985. From mid-1994, he has specialized in employment-based immigration. Turkhud has served in senior executive positions at IT companies and has been a partner at an immigration law firm. He joined Fakhoury Global Immigration in 2012. Turkhud has been a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association since 1985. He is a frequent speaker, newspaper interviewee, TV show guest and host on business immigration issues.

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

Modernizing the EB-5 visa rules is possibly an essential “evil.” Integrity measures are required to prevent this program from being maligned without good reason. However, the program must be comparable to and compete with other global citizenship or residency programs. I think that the very substantial change in the investment amount for a TEA versus a non-TEA area is very significant. It may have dampened investments from India – at least for now. People want to migrate and create that option of a second citizenship, but the U.S., one of the strongest magnets in the world, may have just compromised on its attractiveness.

What trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

Trends may take time to establish. Reactions are more instantaneous and reflexive. The recently upped minimum investment amount can be easily described as “‘the spoiler’” in the room. With the increasing and unpredictable I-526 processing times and the visa backlogs, the new trend is to, at the least, pause. Investors are no longer rushing to invest for the U.S. residency. Investors continue to be interested in the U.S. but are concerned with the long waiting times and the equally long period for which their moneys must “‘remain at risk’.” Educating the investor and reassuring them of the credibility of the EB-5 program are still the most essential. 

MITCH WEXLER

FRAGOMEN, DEL REY, BERNSEN & LOEWY, LLP

Mitch Wexler is the managing partner of Fragomen’s Southern California offices, which include Irvine, Los Angeles and San Diego. His practice encompasses all work visa and immigration matters for high net worth foreign nationals, startups, midsize and multinational companies across many diverse industry sectors, including manufacturing, pharmaceutical, technology, construction, real estate development, entertainment and others. A member of the firm’s executive committee, Wexler is a California State Bar certified specialist in immigration and nationality law. He also teaches a regular module on business and investment immigration law at the University of California Irvine School of Law. 

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts?

I believe the 80% increase in investment amount – from $500,000 to $900,000 – for TEA applications was warranted, considering it hadn’t been changed since the program began in 1990. However, it appears to be too much of an increase at one time; a gradual increase might have been better received. The market hasn’t adjusted to this single large increase, resulting in fewer applications being filed, and leading to less foreign investment in the U.S. and fewer jobs being created. I believe federalizing TEA determinations and building more rigor around the administration of regional centers are healthy evolution of the program. 

What new trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

With some countries having retrogressed for a significant period, one trend we are seeing is the coupling of an EB-5 with a nonimmigrant visa. This would result in getting the applicant and his/her family physically in the U.S. more quickly while they await approval of the EB-5-based green card. Further, the State Department appears to be liberally allowing the use of the Date for Filing chart in the visa bulletin for the filing of adjustment of status applications. That said, being in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa when his/her I-526 petition is approved has become extremely valuable for many EB-5 applicants.  

VIVIAN ZHU

WOLFSDORF ROSENTHAL LLP

Vivian Zhu is a partner at Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP and is the supervising attorney of the firm’s EB-5 department. Zhu specializes in EB-5 cases, including representing investors, regional centers and projects, distressed projects, complex aging-out cases, mandamus litigation, consular inadmissibility, responses to request for evidence, notice of intent to deny and notice of intent to revoke. Zhu also practices in the areas of E-2 investor visas, L-1 intracompany transferee visas and EB-1 petitions for alien workers with extraordinary ability. Zhu’s clients include Fortune 500 companies, high net worth individuals, investors, executives and highly skilled professionals. Zhu also has experience in corporate and securities law working primarily with Chinese companies. 

What are your thoughts on the EB-5 modernization changes that took effect in 2019 with the increased investment amounts? 

The EB-5 Modernization Regulation creates problems to the EB-5 industry by making the program less accessible to investors and creating uncertainty in TEAs. Although it provides an opportunity for investors of failed projects to retain their priority date, the requirement for filing a new I-526 petition with the increased investment amount and approval of the previous I-526 makes it less beneficial to investors. Hopefully the rules will be changed again by legislation. 

What trends are you seeing in the EB-5 industry?

USCIS’ standards of evidence are constantly changing and have become more stringent, presumably due to the general attitude of the current administration toward immigration, the long waiting line and the increased number of petitions. For example, once allowed practices, such as single intermediary currency exchange, bridge loan and minor investors, are now resulting in a Request for Evidence. 

In addition, the EB-5 investor market is becoming more diversified. China is giving way to the rest of the world given the long waiting line for Chinese applicants. Investors are also becoming more sophisticated and knowledgeable about EB-5. 

EB5Investors.com Staff

EB5Investors.com Staff

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