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  • Lawmakers Push DHS to Finalize EB-5 Regulations; Investors Race Against the Clock

    by Matt Galati | Apr 06, 2018

    In a letter dated April 5, 2018, addressed to the Department of Homeland Security, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) have urged DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to finalize the sweeping EB-5 regulations that were released in draft form in January 2017.  As drafted, the regulations would raise the minimum investment amount to at least USD $1.3 million, significantly curtail which locations may qualify as a targeted employment area (“TEA”), and centralize the TEA designation process, among other reforms. 

    As we have previously reported, we expected the EB-5 Modernization Rule to have been finalized in February. The letter notes that DHS was “encouraged by both individual Members of Congress and stakeholders to not finalize the proposed regulations, since a potential legislative solution could be imminent.”  Their legislative proposals – which we believe would have crippled the program had they been enacted – failed in mid-March.  As opponents of the status quo, the legislators concede that they “do not foresee a legislative solution in the near term” and accordingly urge the regulations to be implemented without delay. We firmly believe that any legislative changes to the U.S. immigration system should be enacted after significant opportunity for public engagement and Congressional Regular Order.

    Opportunity for public comment to the proposed Rule closed in April 2017. Green and Spiegel submitted a comment in opposition to most of the draft regulatory terms, noting in particular how certain justifications for raising the minimum investment amount were factually inaccurate. Indeed, the vast majority of comments were in opposition to the draft rule for varying reasons. It remains to be seen what effect the public comments will have on the final regulatory text.

    DHS’ sweeping regulatory reform could conceivably be published at any time and put into effect in a matter of weeks or months thereafter. Investors considering EB-5 immigration should accordingly act with urgency as regulatory actions are less subject to the political protections that have prevented ill-conceived legislative efforts to reform the program, and have bolstered American job creation stemming from immigrant investors to all-time highs. Contact us today for more information relating to EB-5 immigration.

  • Mainland Chinese Continue to Dominate Grenadian Citizenship by Investment Program

    by Matt Galati | Apr 06, 2018

    April 6, 2018 - The Chairman of Grenada’s Citizenship by Investment Committee has recently revealed that applicants to Grenada’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CBI) are, at the moment, overwhelmingly Chinese nationals.

    In an interview with Investment Migration Insider, Committee Chair Kaisha Ince stated that an incredible 98% of CBI applications this calendar year have originated from Mainland China.

    Grenada’s CBI has also seen an increase in popularity over the last 18 months, with a spike in Asian investor immigrants more generally. Application numbers tripled in the first half of 2017 as compared to the same period in 2016. The annual report which provides the statistics of the CBI program in 2017 will published in August 2018. It is estimated that the program has brought in approximately US$150 million in 2017.

    For more information regarding the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Program, please contact our offices directly.

  • Retrogression Besets Vietnam – But It’s NOT GOING TO BE AS BAD AS CHINA

    by Matt Galati | Apr 02, 2018

    Vietnam is about to retrogress in EB-5. This is going to cause a disruption in the market. However, know this: It may, for the next few months, look as bad as that for applicants born in the People’s Republic of China (“China”), industry hysteria may seem as bad as China, but know that the wait times are virtually certain to NOT BE AS BAD AS CHINA.

    In June 2017, the USCIS Ombudsman sent shockwaves through the industry by projecting that the wait time for Chinese EB-5 families to receive a Green Card is 10 years or longer. Chinese demand for EB-5 visas thus plummeted, and has not come anywhere close to recovering since. There are ways to mitigate the pain of retrogression, however.

    With Vietnam now approaching its statutory limit on visas per year, some investors are nervous as to how severely retrogression will affect them.

    Visa allocation might be the most complicated topics in immigration law, so allow us to explain the current situation and what to expect, as best we can. In the April 2018 Visa Bulletin, the Department of State said the following:

    DELAY IN OVERSUBSCRIPTION OF THE VIETNAM EMPLOYMENT FIFTH PREFERENCE CATEGORY

    Continued heavy applicant demand had been expected to result in the Vietnam Employment Fifth preference (EB-5) category reaching the per-country annual limit during March. However, the return of unused February EB-5 numbers during the past few days has been much higher than had been expected. This appears to be a direct result of the continuing resolution signed on December 22, 2017 extending the immigrant investor pilot program until January 19, 2018, and the subsequent extension until February 9, 2018.  Uncertainty over category extension greatly delayed the scheduling of February appointments, which would normally have occurred in early January.  As a result, many applicants did not have sufficient advance notice to enable them to appear for their February interview, which could have been expected to result in the use of visa numbers.  

    The oversubscription of this category will definitely occur for May.

    Oversubscription occurs because no more than 7% of any one country may capture any preference visa category’s allocation. When a category is oversubscribed, priority dates retrogress. In the EB-5 context, a priority date is allocated based on the date an I-526 is receipted by the Texas lockbox. Pundits often refer to waiting for a priority date to become current as waiting “in line for a Green Card.”

    We cannot state this enough: Determining overall wait times is extremely complicated and there is likely no one on the planet who knows for sure how long a given wait time will be. Compounding the simple mathematics of a given year’s allocation is that any unused visa numbers in a given category may be put towards backlogged countries or chargeability. Put another way, at present, the total number of EB-5 visa available (approximately 10,000) is larger than the entire world plus Mainland China’s 7% allocation. Therefore, any “extra” visas may be allocated to Chinese applicants in the backlog. But how many visas are available in future years? The numbers of denials, withdrawals, divorces, and even deaths remain a wildcard as to visa availability.

    What does this mean for the Vietnamese investor? While China is the only country backlogged at present, for the rest of the fiscal year (May-September 2018), the “extra” visas described above must be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis. The May Visa Bulletin accordingly will pin Chinese and Vietnamese Current priority dates as the same, and this will continue until at least October, when new Vietnamese-only visa allocations are available. Put another way, Vietnamese and Chinese-born visa applicants will be in the same first-in, first out “line” until October. In October, the lines will be separated. The “Vietnamese Line” will almost certainly be shorter, as discussed below.

    Another thing to consider is the effect on visa allocations for the next five months. China’s April Visa Final Action Priority Date is July 22, 2014. Form I-526 processing times are generally not that long and thus virtually all Vietnamese families that filed their petitions before that date already have CPR status. Therefore, because this is a first-in, first-out allocation system, this accordingly means that virtually no EB-5 visas will be available to Vietnamese applicants until October 1, 2018.

    A new allocation of EB-5 visas for Vietnam will become available at the beginning of the new Fiscal Year, or October 1, 2018. This will separate the “lines” for Vietnamese and Chinese chargeable applicants. The big question, accordingly, is what will be the Vietnamese backlog as of this October. It is impossible to say at this point. Thus, families with elder children may be wise to file two petitions instead of one to protect against ageouts. The Child Status Protection Act will protect long I-526 processing times but not the time after approval when one awaits a priority date to become current.

    Nevertheless, we know that because Vietnam is allocated 7% of all EB-5 visas, and because Chinese Applicants were over 80% of EB-5 visas last year  we know that barring some massive, unforeseen surge in visa numbers, simple mathematics dictates that the Vietnamese backlog cannot be as bad as China’s. In fact, in FY2017, Vietnam supplied only 471 (approximately 5%) of all EB-5 visas. It’s unthinkable that numbers surged to reach China levels in such a short period of time.

     With I-526 processing times approaching two years, the question remains as to how long Vietnamese EB-5 applicants will need to wait for their visas after approval. It could be several years. Because priority dates are based on date of filing, and I-526 processing times are increasing, it could also be zero. However, it is a near-certainty that it will be less than the wait for those born in Mainland China, simply because there are many fewer Vietnamese-born applicants in the backlog.

    Take this to heart when you see the May 2018 Visa Bulletin.

  • SIGNIFICANT CHANGES TO THE QUEBEC IMMIGRANT INVESTOR PROGRAM

    by Matt Galati | Mar 28, 2018

    March 28, 2018 - ​The Quebec Government published new regulations related to Quebec’s immigration programs, including the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP). Important changes to the QIIP include the following:

    1. Candidates must have net assets of at least CAD $2,000,000 (previously was $1,600,000);
    2. The required investment amount has increased to CAD $1,200,000 (previously was $800,000).

    It is projected that these regulations will be implemented August 2018. Until that time, Quebec Immigration will not be accepting any new applications. At this point, no information has been released regarding the dates of the intake period or the number of files that will be received by Quebec Immigration. 

    For more information regarding the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program, please contact our offices directly.

  • DOS TERMINATES GOLDEN ARROW PROGRAM IN PARIS FOR ESTABLISHED E-2 COMPANIES

    by Mulaho Hassan | Mar 23, 2018

    Effective March 12, 2018, the US Embassy in Paris terminated the “Golden Arrow” program.  The Golden Arrow program was created as a way to expedite the E-2 visa process for critical employees of qualifying, pre-approved French-owned corporations. Typically, these companies are large companies with an established and significant presence in both France and the United States. Through the Golden Arrow program, these companies were able to quickly schedule and obtain E-2 visas for executive, managerial and essential skills positions in the United States, as the program allowed the application to bypass company’s lengthy review process and focus only on the employee.

    The Embassy justified the move by stating that the program “did not significantly decrease processing times for applicants.” However, in the experience of Green and Spiegel, the Golden Arrow significantly reduced processing time for employees of Golden Arrow companies.  Further, without a program like the Golden Arrow program, E-2 registered companies must submit a full E-2 Application every twelve months.  These applications are currently experiencing wait times up to ten weeks.  For employees of E-2 Registered companies that have submitted a full application within the prior twelve months, the wait time is still 3-5 weeks.  At this stage, it is unclear if the Embassy will enact a different policy change to address typically lengthy processing times. Currently, non-“Golden Arrow” applicants can expect to wait up to 10 weeks or more before an interview may be scheduled.

    Starting on March 12th, all applicants, including applicants from current Golden Arrow companies, will need to follow the standard and extensive process of submission and review regarding the ownership, income and overall operations of companies that clearly qualify as E-2 Treaty Investors. It remains to be seen whether other US embassies around the world will follow suit and end similar expedited E-2 registration programs. If you are affected by this program or have questions regarding your status or future application, contact the offices of Green & Spiegel U.S. today. 

  • Green and Spiegel Presents at UGlobal | EB-5 Investors Magazine Conferences in Ho Chi Minh City

    by Mulaho Hassan | Mar 23, 2018

     Matt Image

    This month, Matthew Galati of Green and Spiegel presented at two investment migration conferences in Vietnam, one of the largest markets of immigrant investors in the world.

    On March 6, Galati moderated a panel on “Emerging CBI Trends”, presented by UGlobal. In this panel, participants compared investment migration programs across the U.S., Ireland, Dominica, Australia, and Canada. Galati also discussed the Grenadian CBI program,  which provides a pathway to the E-2 visa for beneficiaries.

    On March 7, Galati was a participant at the “Alternatives to EB-5” panel, presented by EB-5 Investors Magazine. In this panel Galati compared and contrasted various visa options, including the EB-1A Extraordinary Ability Visa, EB-2 National Interest Waiver, and Multinational Managers and Executives.

    Green and Spiegel is one of North America’s oldest immigration law practices with over 50 years of experience assisting a diverse global clientele and a role as thought leaders on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border. The Firm is headquartered in Toronto, Canada with U.S. offices in Philadelphia, PA, Providence, RI, and Vail, CO, as well as an allied practice in London, U.K.

    With a U.S. practice founded in the early 1990s, Green and Spiegel offers a full range of inbound immigration services for employers, temporary workers, individuals and their families. Expanding upon the Firm’s Canadian roots, the U.S. practice represents clients operating in the healthcare, insurance, professional sports, information technology, and many other industries. As a dedicated immigration-only law firm, Green and Spiegel also caters to entrepreneurs, investors, and start-ups seeking immigration benefits. The Firm includes five partners and approximately 130 employees offering services in over 30 different languages.

    Matt Image

  • EB-5 Program Gets Another Clean Extension: September 30, 2018

    by Niki Edwards | Mar 22, 2018

    Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, which extends the EB-5 Regional Center Program without any legislative change until September 30, 2018. The legislation was signed into law on March 23.

    On Page 1759 of the 2232-page bill, the language provides:

    SEC. 204. Section 610(b) of the Departments of 21 Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related 22 Agencies Appropriations Act, 1993 (8 U.S.C. 1153 note) 23 shall be applied by substituting ‘‘September 30, 2018’’ for 24 ‘‘September 30, 2015’’.

    Notably, passage of this Act follows over a week of uncertainty as draft legislation was provided to industry groups, fueling great urgency. Among other things, the draft legislation would have raised the minimum investment amount to at least $925,000, drastically limited options for funding EB-5 investments, and prohibited new Form I-526 filings for four months. Despite lamentations by certain lawmakers and industry groups, we are of the opinion that such provisions would have crippled the visa program.

    In the coming months USCIS is likely to finalize and implement the draft EB-5 regulations unveiled in January 2017, which were anticipated to be published in February. The minimum investment amount will certainly be raised, although it remains unclear to what amount. It is further unclear as to when new regulatory provisions will become effective.

    Contact us today for more information relating to investment immigration.

  • After a Night of Drama, EB-5 Regional Center Program gets Extension to Mar. 23, 2018

    by Matt Galati | Feb 09, 2018

    February 9, 2018 -- The most recent government shutdown showdown resulted in a brief (several-hour) lapse in the EB-5 Regional Center Program after the last Continuing Resolution expired at midnight. The Washington Post has an excellent hour-by-hour timeline discussing exactly what happened.

    Nevertheless, this morning both houses of Congress passed H.R. 1892, which was signed into law by the President shortly thereafter. Buried within the 250-page legislation was the following provision extending the RC Program, E-Verify, Conrad 30, and Special Immigrant Religious Worker visas:

    SEC. 20101.

    The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018 (division D of Public Law 115–56) is further amended by—

    (1) striking the date specified in section 106(3) and inserting “March 23, 2018”

    With Congress seemingly coming to agreement on broader issues of funding and operations, ongoing authorization of the RC Program might once again be considered separately and on its own merits, as had historically been the case pre-September 2015.  Hat tip to EB-5 blogger and business plan writer Suzanne Lazicki for a very informative graphic regarding past reauthorizations.

    This development could pave the way for comprehensive reform legislation, a topic Congress has been unable to consider at length given the political realities of passing a CR.

    Several commentators online have stated that the EB-5 Regional Center Program has been extended for two years. Investors and other stakeholders should be aware that at the time of this writing, such is not the case, the extension is only through March 23.

    Contact us today for advice regarding the effects of the changes in Washington on your immigration and business planning. 

  • Seventeen-Day Extension: EB-5 Regional Center and Additional Programs Revived, Government to Reopen

    by Matt Galati | Jan 22, 2018

    This weekend’s government shutdown and lapse in several immigration programs proved to be relatively short lived. Early this afternoon, successful Senate negotiations led to the passage of a Continuing Resolution that will fund the government ​through February 8, 2018. The House passed the CR shortly thereafter and the President signed the extension into law.  

    Effective immediately, the EB-5 Regional Center Program, E-Verify, Conrad 30, and Special Immigrant Religious Worker visas will be resumed. The U.S. Department of Labor’s web sites should also be available tomorrow, enabling the filing and adjudication of related visa processes.

    Importantly, however, Washington remains very divided on how to handle the Trump Administration’s cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Another shutdown and lapse may be likely if the parties remain at an impasse in the coming weeks.

    Contact us today for advice regarding the effects of the changes in Washington on your immigration and business planning. 

  • Government Shutdown Triggers EB-5 Regional Center Program Lapse

    by Niki Edwards | Jan 20, 2018

    A continuing resolution that would have funded the U.S. government and extend several immigration programs until February 16 has failed in the Senate. Nonessential government services have shut down as of 12 AM January 20, triggering a severe impact on immigration programs and processes. Please see our post from earlier today for a full discussion of programs and processes affected. Importantly, the EB-5 Regional Center program has lapsed.

    Last April, we covered how USCIS would handle an EB-5 RC Program lapse, and present that post for our readers’ review tonight.

    Note that the lapse in the Regional Center program will have no effect on:

    • Forms I-526 filed without a Regional Center (direct EB-5 filings);
    • Investors who have already achieved conditional permanent resident status; or
    • Any Form I-829 filings, whether or not filed based on a Regional Center investment. 

    We will continue to provide coverage as events unfold. The situation remains very fluid as negotiations continue overnight. The program could be revived at any time.

    Our valued clients and agent partners are encouraged to contact EB-5 department head Matthew Galati at mgalati@gands-us.com with their questions and concerns.