Monday, October 23, 2017

Owners Of South Bay Business Charged With Visa Fraud Conspiracy And Related Crimes


SAN JOSE – Jennifer Yang and her business partner Daniel Wu were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and a number of related crimes in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain immigration benefits through the government’s “EB-5” visa program, announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch; U.S. State Department, Diplomatic Security Service, San Francisco Field Office Special Agent in Charge Matthew Perlman; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Spradlin.  The superseding indictment alleges that Yang and Wu submitted to the government fraudulent documents that claimed applicants were creating new commercial enterprises when, in fact, the documents contained information about fake jobs and bogus investments. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

4 Tips for EB-5 Principal Applicants with Diminished Capacity, Such As Autism

(Source: Bernard Wolfsdorf & Joseph Barnett) In the past few months, our firm has been approached by parents with children with Autism or other special needs on whether such children are able to obtain an EB-5 visa.  Although we have not received affirmative guidance from the U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) or USCIS, it appears this is a viable option, though each situation will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Here are four things to know on this topic:
  1. Can Child with Special Needs be Principal Applicant for EB-5? It’s potentially viable for such a child to be the principal EB-5 applicant with the appointment of an appropriate legal guardian who can act on the child’s behalf.  Prior to making an EB-5 investment, the legal guardian should ask the Regional Center to affirmatively opine on whether this special need investor would qualify for their sponsored offering, as it may be necessary to provide additional formalities to cover the lack of capacity in decision making, as required by 8 C.F.R. § 204.6(j)(5). 
  2. Medical-Related Ineligibility. One issue that is likely to come up during an EB-5 consular interview is whether the child is inadmissible pursuant to INA § 212(a)(1) for a medical-related ineligibility.  The mere presence of a physical or mental disorder does not, by itself, render an applicable ineligible.  Evidence that the child does not pose a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the child or others and that the child’s special needs is not associated with harmful behavior should be presented to a consular officer.  See 9 FAM 302.2-7(B)(2).
  3. Public Charge Concerns. Another issue that may arise during an EB-5 consular interview is whether the child is inadmissible pursuant to INA § 212(a)(4) for likely becoming a public charge.  While EB-5 investor families generally have substantial income, it’s critical to present evidence of adequate finance and support in the U.S. (either family or professionals) to overcome any consular concerns. 
  4. Consular Interview Preparation is Key. Probably the most important aspect in obtaining an EB-5 visa is preparing the child and parents for the visa interview so that the latter is familiar with the issues that may arise.  They should come to the interview with a letter from a Regional Center’s or new commercial enterprise’s counsel affirming the child’s sufficient capacity to be an EB-5 investor and participate in the management of the enterprise.  A letter from immigration counsel opining that all requirements found in 8 C.F.R. § 204.6 are satisfied, despite the special needs of the child, should also be prepared.
At the end of the day, it appears that DOS and USCIS (in adjustment of status proceedings), may evaluate applications by children with Autism or other special needs on the merits with regards to the issues stated above.  The burden is on the applicant to show admissibility.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Trump Administration releases details on Immigration Principles & Policies

President Trump and his administration published the highly anticipated immigration principles & policies. The 3 areas of focus include border security, interior enforcement and a merit-based immigration system. Read the immigration principles & policies here. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Artisan Business hosts Chinese investment professionals in Dallas

ABG hosted an Investment conference and business tour for Chinese investment professionals in Dallas, Texas from September 27- Oct. 1st. The event was focused on medial tourism, commercial real estate, mergers & acquisitions, residential real estate and US visa programs. The group toured local real estate, universities and businesses after in-depth classroom style learning.


Monday, October 2, 2017

America's "Golden Visa" is losing its luster in China

(Source: CNNMoney) Chinese people appear to be losing interest in a controversial American visa program that has funneled billions of dollars to U.S. real estate developers. Read story here.

Friday, September 22, 2017

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program: Stakeholder Engagement from New York

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) invites you to participate in a stakeholder engagement on Tuesday, November 7, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern to discuss the Immigrant Investor Program, also known as the EB-5 program.

To register, please follow these steps:

Luther Strange Owns Stake In Company Brokering Green Cards For Wealthy Foreigners

(Source: DailyCaller) Alabama Sen. Luther Strange, a Republican, has worked hard to burnish his credentials as an immigration hard-liner, but he also profits from an ownership in a company that recruits wealthy foreigners for a fraud-ridden immigrant visa program. Strange, who is facing off against former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore in a runoff election on Sept. 26, owns a 16 percent equity stake in Sunbelt EB-5 Regional Center, a company that connects wealthy overseas investors to development projects in the Southeast.

Strange’s connection to the company was first reported Monday by Alabama Today, which obtained a copy of his financial disclosure filing. Alabama state auditor Jim Zeigler confirmed the disclosure Tuesday, revealing that Strange netted about $150,000 for for his role in recruiting investors for a Birmingham Baptist hospital expansion. As the company’s name indicates, Sunbelt locates investors for the EB-5 visa program, which was created in 1990 as a way to entice wealthy overseas investors to pump money into job-creating projects in economically depressed areas of the U.S. In return for their investment — $500,000 or $1,000,000 depending on the location of the project — foreign nationals can receive a fast-tracked green card for themselves and their families.

Dominated by Chinese nationals, the EB-5 program has been particularly susceptible to massive fraud schemes. In the last two years, recruiters and project developers in California, Chicago, New York and Vermont have perpetrated eight- and nine-figure fraud cases. Bipartisan critics say the EB-5 program, which was originally intended to boost economic development in needy communities, has morphed instead into a cash-for-green-cards arrangement that channels money into already prosperous areas. Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, have gone so far as to co-sponsor a bill to kill the visa program.

Throughout the Alabama runoff campaign, Strange has touted his credentials as an immigration hawk, enthusiastically backing President Donald Trump’s tough immigration enforcement policies. Strange introduced legislation in May to force sanctuary cities to pay for the president’s proposed border wall. “They can either follow the law, or fund the wall,” Strange said at the time, according to Alabama Today. Despite the tough talk, Strange’s involvement with a company that brokers applications for a controversial visa program opens the door for opponents to question his intentions for immigration policy in Congress. Zeigler, who has thrown his support behind Moore, said Tuesday that Strange’s self-portrayal as an immigration hawk “is only talk.”

“He [Strange] did not put his money where his mouth is,” Zeigler said in a statement about Strange’s EB-5 connections. “Luther Strange is making big money off wealthy foreigners, enabling them and their families to come to America, get legal, and compete against American businesses.” Strange’s campaign is pushing back against that characterization, pointing to the senator’s support of immigration reform bills such as the RAISE Act, which would cut green card numbers and implement merit-based immigrant visa applications. “Luther agrees with the Trump administration that there are serious concerns over the EB-5 visa program, which is not being used as originally intended,” the campaign said in a statement to Alabama’s WHNT News 19. “It’s time for Congress to get to work on these issues. He looks forward to working hand-in-hand with the White House on legislation like the RAISE Act which would overhaul the program.” Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have endorsed Strange in the runoff election.

Friday, September 15, 2017

How Rich Chinese Use Visa Fixers to Move to the U.S.

(Source: Bloomberg) Have a spare $500,000 to invest in an economically distressed American area (that actually isn't distressed at all)? China's EB-5 fixers will help you every step of the way. Read story here. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

4 reasons why EB-5 visa programme is the best for studying abroad in the US

(Source:  India Today) You were probably unaware of the EB-5 visa programme. Here is why it is the best choice to study abroad in the US. Most Indians seeking a future in the US pursue the well-known F1 and H1-B visa programmes. However, a lesser known programme, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, has recently caught the attention of many Indians. Through the EB-5 program, an immigrant may invest USD 500,000 in a new US business, and upon verification that the capital has been legally sourced and the business has created at least 10 full-time jobs, the investor will secure green cards for themself and their family (spouse and children under 21). Read story at here.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Congress Approves Package of Government Continuance and Public Safety Measures, Including Important Immigration Programs

(Source: EB5Insights.com) The president and congressional leaders reached an agreement earlier this week on a package of government continuance and public safety measures.  This package includes a Continuing Resolution, Debt Extension, Hurricane Harvey relief resources, and extension of the National Flood Insurance Program. The extension maintains and continues government funding and reauthorization until Dec. 8, 2017. The Senate approved the negotiated agreement on a bipartisan 80-17 vote on Sept. 7 with House approval on Sept. 8 by a vote of 316-90.

The continuance provisions include important Immigration measures, such as EB-5, E-Verify, Conrad 30, and Religious Workers. It is expected that the president will sign this agreement.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The EB-5 Visa Program: Balancing Risk and Opportunity

(Source: RIS Media) For a quarter-century, the EB-5 visa program has helped finance economic development projects across America, sparking job growth and business investment in cities, suburbs and rural regions throughout the U.S.—all at no cost to the taxpayer. EB-5-funded projects span a diverse range of regions and industries, from charter schools in Utah and manufacturing plants in South Carolina to mixed-use commercial property in downtown Washington, D.C. The Brookings Institute estimates the EB-5 program has generated at least $5 billion in investment and directly created at least 85,500 American jobs since its creation, with most of these gains realized since 2010.

In addition to direct jobs, the EB-5 program has supported the creation of countless other indirect jobs in communities surrounding EB-5 projects. For example, a manufacturing plant built with EB-5 investment may create new growth opportunities for parts suppliers, while a new EB-5-funded hotel can generate more demand for local restaurants and retail shops. That’s a hefty economic punch for a program that represents just 2.9 percent of all employment-based visas.

Regulated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the EB-5 program provides a path to citizenship to foreign investor-entrepreneurs that can approve up to 10,000 visas each year. The initial application requires proof of investment in a qualified project, evidence of an investment of at least $500,000 and the creation of at least 10 U.S. jobs. EB-5 applicants undergo two rounds of extensive background checks administered by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State. This screening process is more robust than any other employment-based visa program, and pays for itself through fees.

Most EB-5 applications come through one of the approved regional centers, which market the program abroad, pool investment and often facilitate the development of EB-5 projects. In the past 10 years, the EB-5 Regional Center Program has increased the number of EB-5 applications and supported the development of projects, substantially increasing the number of visas awarded and jobs created by the program. 

The EB-5 Regional Center Program has been reauthorized every three years since its creation in 1992 by broad bipartisan margins. It is up for reauthorization again in September 2017. The National Association of REALTORS® supports legislation to reauthorize the EB-5 Regional Center Program before it expires. NAR also supports reforms to the EB-5 program that would address national security concerns, deter fraud and put Americans to work. If not reauthorized by September 30, an estimated 6.8 billion in foreign investment dollars and as many as 130,000 American jobs will be lost.

Congress has considered reforming the EB-5 program for several years, but has never been able to enact a reform bill, in part because of differences on three key issues:
  1. How to define rural and high unemployment areas
  2. Whether the EB-5 program should have special visa allocations for projects in rural and distressed urban areas
  3. What the minimum investment amount should be
This year may finally see enactment of an EB-5 reform bill. Areas to be reformed could include:
  • Permanently authorize the EB-5 Regional Center Program
  • Require regional centers to disclose financial statements related to EB-5 projects
  • Institute a screening process of the owners and managers of regional centers
  • Create a new process for evaluating foreign ownership of regional centers
  • Require investors to comply with additional regulations and laws
Although there is not a lot of time to enact a bill by September, there is hope that Congress will put integrity measures in place that will provide investors and U.S. officials with much needed certainty and security

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Jay Peak Receiver Has Lots on His Plate After Partial Settlement

(Source: Daily Business Review) A Fort Lauderdale attorney assigned to protect immigrant investors in the Jay Peak ski resort fraud has distributed about $10 million, with more likely to come since the resort's owner agreed not to fight the allegations. Ariel Quiros agreed Aug. 22 not to challenge claims from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that he misused $200 million in EB-5 investor funds meant for a Vermont ski resort and associated projects. Quiros has agreed to a permanent injunction that will bar him from selling securities or participating in the EB-5 program. The program, run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, allows investors to obtain a visa by funding at least 10 full-time positions at a new commercial enterprise.

Quiros' agreement with the SEC does not include any admission of wrongdoing, and the parties have yet to negotiate the amount of any disgorgement or penalties. Michael Goldberg, a partner at Akerman who is the court-appointed receiver for Jay Peak, had a busy summer after the financial services company Raymond James Financial Inc. agreed to pay $150 million to fraud victims. The agreement settled claims that Raymond James employees helped Quiros and his business partner divert investor funds. The receivership has paid a $5.1 million trade debt in full and distributed $2 million to contractors who were owed for work done on the Stateside Hotel, Goldberg said Tuesday.
Investors in ANC Bio—a biomedical facility that won't be completed—have received $500,000 each if they requested their funds be returned, Goldberg said. The distributions total about $10 million so far.

Goldberg said his key focus now is to make sure the two hotels that were part of the project create enough jobs to allow the investors to secure green cards through the EB-5 program as intended. "This is an extremely important aspect of this case as the immigration issues are just as important as the money to many investors," Goldberg said in an email. Goldberg said he is also helping with efforts to amend EB-5 laws to benefit fraud victims. U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have supported such changes. The $20 million Stateside project is set to finish construction by the end of the year, Goldberg said. The project includes 60 cottages, a recreational center and lacrosse and soccer fields.

The only pending litigation in the case is the lawsuit against Quiros, Goldberg said, but other companies are in talks to provide funds to the receivership. "We have numerous tolling agreements in place and we are speaking with several potential targets about a possible resolution of our claims," he said. U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles of the Southern District of Florida in Miami presides over the SEC case. Miami-based SEC attorneys Christopher Martin and Robert Levenson represent the government agency, and Quiros is represented by Melissa Visconti and Melanie Damian of Damian & Valori in Miami.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Is there a future for EB-5 investment in Vermont?

(Source: Burlington Free Press)  One way or another, Vermont is closing its EB-5 Regional Center after 20 years, following one of the biggest fraud investigations in the federal program's history. Jay Peak partners Ariel Quiros and Bill Stenger are accused by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the state of misusing $200 million of foreign investors' money. Both the state and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which oversees the EB-5 program, agree the Regional Center's days are numbered. Whether those days are few, or many, is up for debate. Read more at http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

New EB-5 regional cneters

New EB-5 regional centers have recently been designated:
  • Liberty Regional Investment Center (Georgia)
  • Nevada First National Regional Center (Arizona, Nevada)
  • Pass2NY Regional Center (New York)
  • USA New York Liberty EB-5 Regional Center (Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Jared Kushner’s Family Business Turns to Crisis Management Firm Amid Federal Scrutiny

(Source: Breitbart) White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner’s family business has changed its public relations firm to one that reportedly specializes in crisis communications, possibly due to increased scrutiny into the firm’s dealings.

Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Kushner Companies, Trump’s son-in-law’s family business, will now have its PR matters handled by Eric Wachter, a vice president at Finsbury. Wachter replaces Risa Heller Communications and his firm specializes in crisis management, litigation, and government investigations as well as other matters, according to Bloomberg. As of Thursday, Wachter’s name is listed as the press contact on the firm’s official website.

Kushner has stepped down from the business and sold his personal stake in the company, but the firm has remained in the spotlight due to its connection to the president’s senior adviser. Bloomberg noted that the move comes shortly after Kushner testified behind closed doors to Senate and House committees about alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Senate Democrats have asked about a meeting Kushner had during the transition with Russian banker Sergey Gorkov, and whether the business was discussed in that meeting. 

The Washington Post reported in June that Kushner’s business dealings were a topic of interest for FBI special counsel Robert Mueller as he investigates allegations of Russian interference. However, Politico reported that it was Risa Heller, a Democratic operative who used to work for Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who made the decision to drop the firm as the work became increasingly related to politics. The outlet reported that the decision arose amid the outrage surrounding Trump’s response to the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Kushner Companies has also come under heavy scrutiny for its use of an immigration-for-investment scheme and for promoting the scheme to Chinese investors earlier this year. The business was reportedly subpoenaed in May in relation to a development, One Journal Square, that was financed by a visa program known as EB-5. That program offers green cards to potential immigrants as long as they “Make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States; and plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers.”

Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, made a pitch to Chinese investors in May for the project and an ad for the event said, “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.”

The Kushner family later apologized for mentioning its connection to the Trump administration in the pitch.

Friday, August 25, 2017

5 Things We Learned from USCIS’ Webinar on the Form I-924A, Annual Certificate of Regional Center

On August 24, 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) hosted a webinar on the Form I-924A, Annual Certificate of Regional Center (“Form I-924A”).  The Form I-924A is required to be submitted by EB-5 Regional Centers to demonstrate continued eligibility for its regional center designation. Check out Wolfsdorf Rosenthal's 5 things learned from webinar here.