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Podcast – Why Foreign Investors Consider the EB-5 Visa? | LEGAL THOUGHTS

Coleman Jackson, P.C. | Transcript of Legal Thoughts Podcast
Published October 23, 2020

Podcast - Why Foreign Investors Consider the EB-5 Visa? | LEGAL THOUGHTS

Legal Thoughts is a podcast presentation by Coleman Jackson, P.C., a law firm based in Dallas, Texas serving individuals, businesses, and agencies from around the world in taxation, litigation, and immigration legal matters.

This particular episode of Legal Thoughts is a podcast where the Attorney, Coleman Jackson is being interviewed by Reyna Munoz, Tax Legal Assistant of Coleman Jackson, P.C.   The topic of discussion is “Why Foreign Investors Consider the EB-5 Visa?” You can listen to this podcast by clicking here:

You can also listen to this episode and subscribe to Coleman Jackson, P.C.’s Legal Thoughts podcast on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, Cashbox or wherever you may listen to your podcast.

TRANSCRIPT:

ATTORNEY:  Coleman Jackson
Legal Thoughts
COLEMAN JACKSON, ATTORNEY & COUNSELOR AT LAW

ATTORNEY:  Coleman Jackson

Welcome to Immigration Thoughts

  • My name is Coleman Jackson, and I am an attorney at Coleman Jackson, P.C., a taxation, litigation, and immigration law firm based in Dallas, Texas.
  • Our topic for today is: “Why Foreign Investors Consider the EB-5 Visa?
  • Other members of Coleman Jackson, P.C. are Yulissa Molina, Tax Legal Assistant, Reyna Munoz, Immigration Legal Assistant, Leiliane Godeiro, Litigation Legal Assistant and Mayra Torres, Public Relations Associate.
  • On this “Legal Thoughts” podcast our law firm’s Public Relations Associate, Mayra Torres will be asking the questions and I will be giving the answers as she and I will be discussing: “Why Foreign Investors Consider the EB-5 Visa?”

Reyna Munoz Introduces Herself to the Audience:

  • Hi everyone, I am Reyna. I the Tax Legal Assistant at the tax, litigation and immigration law firm of Coleman Jackson, P.C.  Right here in Dallas, Texas.
  • Hi Attorney; today we will be discussing the EB-5 Foreign Investor’s Visa:
    • Its history;
    • Its application process, procedure, and processing times; and
    • its advantages to the foreign investor in coming to the U.S. to start a business and bring their families to live and work in the United States permanently.

Question 1:

  • Attorney could you give a brief history and description of the EB-5 Investor’s Visa?

Attorney Answers Question 1:

  • Good morning Reyna. Thanks for your question.
  • EB-5 Investor Visa is the fifth employment-based preference visa enacted into U.S. Immigration Law in 1990 and is codified in 8 U.S.C. That is the Immigration and Nationality Act of the United States.   The fundamental purpose of the EB-5 Investor Visa Program stated by Congress when it became law in the 1990s were to grow or spur economic growth within the United States.  The fifth employment-based preference visa is designed to afford wealthy foreign investors the opportunity to live and raise their families in the U.S. in return for building a new commercial for-profit enterprise or invest in an existing U.S. for-profit enterprise employing up to ten additional full-time employees.   Let me repeat, the EB-5 Investor’s Visa category is aimed at qualified wealthy foreigners seeking to obtain permanent legal residence in the United States, investing in a new for-profit commercial enterprise that will benefit the United States economy and create at least 10 full-time jobs in the United States per investor. The program is currently administered by USCIS. The at-risk capital investment required per EB-5 investor is currently $1.8 million, but the at-risk capital investment amount is reduced to $900,000 if the investment is made in a rural community or high unemployment area, known as a Target Employment Area (TEA). These minimum EB-5 Visa investment amounts came into force in 2019. This in a nutshell is the stated Congressional purpose the fifth employment-based preference visa which is commonly known as the EB-5 foreign investors visa and anecdotally known in some circles as the “Gold Visa”.

Interviewer: Reyna Munoz, Tax Legal Assistant

Question 2:

  • What are the qualifications for obtaining the EB-5 Visa and have there been any significant changes these qualification since Congress enacted the Statute?

Attorney: Coleman Jackson

ANSWER 2:

  • Yes, absolutely there are very strident criteria that the foreign investor must meet. The immigration statute sets forth strict guidelines as to:
    1. What constitutes an at-risk investment,
    2. What constitutes a commercial for-profit enterprise,
    3. What constitutes employment of full-time employees,
    4. What constitutes a capital investment to begin with; and
    5. What constitutes a minimum required capital investment.
  • The Immigration Nationality Act (INA) defines all of these terms in excruciating detail. And yes, there have been changes in the implementation of the Statute since it became law in 1990.

Interviewer: Reyna Munoz, Tax Legal Assistant

  • Attorney, that sounds a little complex. I hope you can explain some of those technical terms more fully.
  • Question 3:

But for now, this is my next question:

You mentioned that changes have occurred in the law since 1990.  It might be best to describe those changes first; I mean, when did these changes occur, what were the changes to the EB-5 Visa,  and what impact did these changes have on the EB-5 Visa program?

Attorney Answers Question 3:

  • That is very good. Yes, I can talk about the changes to the EB-5 Program before drilling down on some of these technical terms.
  • On November 21, 2019, the EB-5 Program underwent its first major change since the program began in 1990. In July 2019, the Department of Homeland Security published changes to the EB-5 Investor Visa Program in the Federal Register. The modifications or changes were dubbed the, “EB-5 Modernization Regulations for the Immigrant Investor Program (or the regulations)”. The new regulations increased the minimum investment amount from $1,5 million to $1.8 million and to $900,000 from $500,000 in a TEA designated area.  Moreover, the regulations switched the TEA designation authority or designation decision making process from the individual states and gave it exclusively to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, (USCIS).  The policy aim given for making these regulation changes to the EB-5 implementation regulations was to get back to the true Congressional intent for enacting the immigration statute in the first place; that is, the goal was to grow the U.S. economy and create American jobs through foreign investors investing substantial at-risk capital in return for a clear path to U.S. citizenship. Some thought the program had gotten away from its original Congressional goal.

 Interviewer: Reyna Munoz, Tax Legal Assistant

  • QUESTION Attorney can you now circle back and explain these terms that you mentioned earlier:
    1. What constitutes an at-risk investment,
    2. What constitutes a commercial for-profit enterprise,
    3. What constitutes employment of full-time employees,
    4. What constitutes a capital investment to begin with; and
    5. What constitutes a minimum required capital investment.
  • Question 4:

What does these terms mean as they relate to the EB-5 Foreign Investor Visa Program?

Attorney Answers Question 4:

  • Okay, very well! I will briefly describe each of these terms:
  • The term commercial for-profit enterprise under the Statute is understood to mean any lawful for-profit business enterprise. The business cannot be a hobby or non-profit enterprise of any kind.  The goal of the enterprise must be to make money!  The legality of the business enterprise will be determined under federal law and not merely state or local law.  For example, some types of business activities could be lawful in a state and unlawful under federal law.  For example, a commercial for-profit marijuana enterprise; which is a lawful business enterprise in some States, is currently unlawful under federal law.
  • The commercial for-profit enterprise is structured under the applicable state law where it organizes in the form of a partnership, or limited liability company, corporation, joint venture; and even, a sole proprietorship. Let me point out here that for tax purposes a corporation owned by none-United States citizens cannot make a Chapter S Corporation election because it’s not permitted under U.S. tax law. But otherwise, the commercial enterprise may be structured under State law in whatever for-profit business structure that suits the foreign investors requirements or goals.
  • Full-time employments as defined in the EB-5 Visa Statute means is the employment by the enterprise of U.S. workers who are U.S. citizens, Green Card Holders, or workers otherwise authorized to work in the United States. The workers cannot be members of the foreign investors family or otherwise related to the foreign investor. The workers must work at least 35 hours per week to be considered full-time employees.  There are certain particulars, such as, temporary, and seasonal workers, and such transient workers that I won’t go into right now.
  • Basically, what I have briefly described is how the term full-time employment has been interpreted by USCIS adjudicators
  • I am going to combine my answer to the terms “at risk investment” and  “capital investment” together since they are both dealing with the foreign investor’s investment and what it means to make an investment  under the EB-5 Visa Statute.
  • The foreign investor must make a capital investment in the minimum amount required by USCIS. USCIS has implemented rules defining a capital investment as the contribution of-
    • cash;
    • plant, property and equipment;
    • inventory;
    • stocks, bonds, and other securities owned by the foreign investor;
    • tangible personal property; and
    • At risk debt to the foreign investor
  • This is what is meant by at-risk capital investment. Intangible property, such as, patents, trademarks,  knowledge and know-how are not considered capital assets for EB-5 investment purposes.
  • Let me turn to the last technical term that I originally mentioned; which is ‘required minimum capital investment’ under the EB-5 Statute. What does it mean?
  • The new regulations that I mentioned before that were implemented by DHS in 2019, increased the minimum investment amount from $1.5 million to $1.8 million and to $900,000 from $500,000 in a TEA designated area. That means each foreign investor must make a minimum at-risk capital investment in these minimum amounts in a new enterprise within the United States which either creates or saves 10 U.S. jobs to qualify for the EB-5 visa.
  • The required minimum investment must be converted into United States Dollars and valuated at fair market value. It must meet the statutory minimum capital investment thresholds in U.S. dollars after any currency valuations and conversions.

Interviewer: Reyna Munoz, Tax Legal Assistant

  • Question 5:

Attorney can the foreign investor execute a letter of intent to contribute the required minimum capital investment contingent upon approval of the EB-5 application?  After all, USCIS might not approve the application.

Attorney: Coleman Jackson

ANSWER 5:

  • I mentioned before the statute requires that the foreign investor invest at-risk capital into the new enterprise. The investor must go beyond a mere expression of intent to invest the required capital.  Actual commitment of the capital is required; for example, indicial needs to be sent to the USCIS that the foreign investor has deposited the monies into a bank account exclusively controlled by the business (this could also be accomplished by putting the money in a trust account on behalf of the business); the foreign investor could also show the USCIS actual commitment of capital to the new business by title transfers of assets into the business for the exclusive use of the business.  The idea is that commitment of the capital to the new enterprise must be legally enforceable and either in the ownership and control of the business or a trustee with instructions to turn the money over to the business.  The at-risk requirement simply means that the investor must be exposed to a possible lost of the committed capital; there can be any guarantees made by the business to return the capital investment in the event the business stumbles and fails.

Interviewer: Reyna Munoz, Tax Legal Assistant

Question 6:

  • What if the USCIS denies the petition? Can the foreign investor insist return of invested capital if the EB-5 petition is denied?

Attorney: Coleman Jackson

ANSWER 6:

  • I mentioned that the capital could be placed in the hands of a trustee. If this approach is used the trustee must be a bank or some form of financial institution that is unrelated to either party to the transaction.  The terms and conditions of that relationship would be governed by the escrow agreement that the parties entered into. The parties to the escrow agreement could agree to return some or all of the committed capital in the event the EB-5 petition is denied by USCIS.  The escrow agreements or other agreements that the investor might execute with other parties in the transaction must all be arms-length and compliant with the EB-5 Statute.  Let me just leave it here for now; the investor must strictly comply with the Statute and be aware of how USCIS field adjudicators are instructed in the USCIS Field Manual when evaluating EB-5 visa applications.

Interviewer: Reyna Munoz, Tax Legal Assistant

Question 7:

  • Well okay Attorney; sounds like it’s very technical and requires a lot of due diligence on the part of the foreign investor and all parties involved in the process.
  • Question 7:

My last question is this!  How does a foreign investor actually request an EB-5 visa?

Attorney: Coleman Jackson

ANSWER 7:

  • The foreign investor files USCIS Form I-526 to request classification under the fifth employment-based preference category. Currently the Form I-526 is filed at the Dallas, Texas USCIS lock box regardless of the actual location of the new commercial enterprise.  The USCIS from time to time changes the actual filing location depending upon workload and other factors.
  • Reyna, thanks for these questions this morning with respect to why foreign investors might want to consider the EB-5 visa. There are many other relevant factors at play with respect to operating a business in the United States that we have not addressed here. In addition to the immigration laws discussed, there are also federal taxation and foreign assets and account laws that might be implicated as well in foreigners immigrating to the United States.
  • I have written numerous blogs on the EB-5 foreign investor’s visa, International Taxation Issues and Foreign Assets and Accounts over the past several years. Anyone interested in knowing more about these topics should visit our blog site

Attorney’s Concluding Remarks:

THIS IS END OF “LEGAL THOUGHTS” FOR NOW

  • Thank you for giving us the opportunity to inform you about “Why Foreign Investors Consider the EB-5 Visa?”
  • We might discuss other aspects of the EB-5 foreign investor’s visa, its requirements, and international tax issues affecting foreign investors in follow up podcasts or blogs in the near future.  If you want to see or hear more taxation, litigation and immigration LEGAL THOUGHTS from Coleman Jackson, P.C.  Subscribe to our podcast and stay tune!  We are here in Dallas, Texas and want to inform, educate, and encourage our communities on topics dealing with taxation, litigation, and immigration.  Until next time, take care.