So, thanks for being here. My name is Carlos Colombo. I’m a U.S. immigration attorney. I have been practicing immigration for almost 20 years; our law firm is based in Orlando and also Miami.
Just a little bit about ourselves:
We’re an AV rated law firm. AV rating is the highest rating that any law firm can get. Less than 5% of all law firms in the U.S. are AV rated. We have been AV rated for over 10 years now. We have a lot of awards but at the end of the day what you always need to do with U.S. immigration law is make sure you do it right. The United States is the country in the world that accepts the most immigrants of the entire world. Every year we break that record, it has not slowed down, it continues despite some of the recent political issues.
Why do people typically look at the United States? The U.S. is a little bit different from other countries because people that usually immigrate there are not looking just to either buy a passport or just get a visa to go only for a few months. They usually want to live there and enjoy its safety and secure a better future usually for the kids or the family.
Quality of life: A lot of people that we represent want to enjoy life either when they’re young or they want to study and they want to have a future or later in life if they’re retiring they want to make sure that they can enjoy the money. But because the U.S. accepts the most immigrants in the world, we have a tough immigration system. Not everybody can get in and a lot of people unfortunately don’t do it right. It’s very typical in our office usually every day we have people that say look I have a B1 or B2 visitor visa, I know I can stay six months and also extend that for another six months, so I have a year I can be in the U.S. and I can look at options to try to do something in that year. That’s not the way you do things because if you do that you’re going to get in trouble.
Now, when I talk about getting in trouble and your options there’s always exceptions, but you have to look at the statistics, Can somebody do that and maybe things work out? Of course, but as a lawyer my job is to make sure that your risks are minimum. So if one out of ten people do that and eventually maybe they get some kind of ESO or a green card, good for them but that’s a minority. So you should always do things the right way with advice or counsel. Make sure you get a licensed attorney. For immigration in the United States, an attorney can be licensed in any of the 50 states in the US, so for example I’m licensed in the state of Florida but immigration law is federal; it’s all the same in the entire country, so I can represent somebody in California or New York because it’s federal law. And make sure that you do your research to see who the attorney is, ask to make sure they’re licensed because unfortunately there are a lot of consultants or people that may be lawyers in their country but they’re not licensed in the U.S. and it is illegal for them to represent you in any case.
Let me explain immigration law and how it works in the U.S. The law is divided into two main categories: you have non immigrants and you have immigrants. A non-immigrant is a temporary visa for a short period of time: It can be for six months, for a year, three years, and five years, it depends on the visa. But your intent is not to immigrate; it’s not to stay in the U.S. permanently, so when you apply for a non-immigrant visa you’re going to be telling the U.S. government that you want to only go there for a little bit. If you want to stay and live there permanently then you should look for an immigrant visa and what we call an immigrant visa in everyday life in the U.S. is a green card. Even though it’s not green anymore and hasn’t been green for a long time. The green card is U.S. permanent residency which allows you to live, work, study and travel freely in the United States; in and out of the United States and eventually if you want to, you can get you a citizenship that’s up to you. You can live the rest of your life with a green card without having to get citizenship, that’s your choice.
Now, getting a green card is very difficult nowadays because it’s very competitive. A lot of people are looking for green cards on a yearly basis; over a million people get green cards in the United States. So, it is a much desired visa to obtain. I’m going to talk about only a few categories because we don’t have enough time to cover all the potential ways you can get a green card for this kind of conference and for most of our clients, the EB-5 has become one of the easiest and most direct ways to get a green card. The eb-5 program started over 20 years ago, it was not used that much because there were other easier ways to get green cards back then, but in the last ten years it has grown dramatically.
The EB-5, the visas are all, In the United States you’re going to see numbers EB-5, E2 that’s just the way we call it because that’s the code of the law. But the EB-5 is an investor visa that allows the investor and their dependents, a spouse or their children under the age of 21 to get the green card, to get permanent residency only. The investor has to invest and then the rest of the family will get the green card and the investments are either five hundred thousand or a million dollars more than over ninety eight percent of all EB-5’ are five hundred thousand because you get the same thing it’s the same green card whether it’s five hundred thousand or a million so most people are going to choose the cheaper option and do the five hundred thousand. I call it the VIP way to immigrate to the US because you don’t have to worry about setting up your business, growing the business, hiring people usually and I say usually because there’s two types of EB-5’s: there’s Regional Center EB-5 and they are your own direct EB-5’s – you can open up your own business but again going to the statistics over 97% of all EB-5 are with regional centers and I’m going to talk about that in a little bit because regional centers if they’re well organized and they’re serious, they’re going to manage your investment you don’t have to worry about it. They’re going to handle all the immigration aspect of the project. They’re going to make sure that jobs are created, manage your money so it’s in that sense it’s a passive investment for the client. They don’t have to worry about developing a business in the U.S. which could be difficult because it’s a new country, new laws etc.
So what is a Regional center? Most regional centers are private companies. They’re not part of the U.S. government. There’s a misconception sometimes that it may be the government, it is not, it is private companies. It could be a public-private partnership that they do exist, but most of the time they’re private entities that immigration approves for them to handle your EB-5 money and allow you to apply for the green card. You have some regional centers that are here in this conference, very good ones that are serious and have a good history. So you always want to research the reputation of that regional center, make sure that they’ve done this before, make sure they have approvals that they not only have approvals but they have return of capitals. Do people get their money back and the project itself? Now your attorney, what we do in an EB-5 is make sure that the project qualifies, that it meets immigration requirements and the basic requirements are the minimum investment, the number of jobs that are created per every investor, per $500,000 it has to create ten jobs full-time. Now, the regional centers have a special law that allows them to count indirect and direct jobs and there’s economic formulas that are accepted and use. That’s a complex issue that you guys don’t really need to understand that right now.
We review all those reports to make sure that we feel comfortable that the project meets those requirements, so your attorney is representing you; it’s going to make sure that the regional center has done a good job in setting that project up. So how does it actually work when you invest through one of these regional centers? Let’s say for example you have a project that is a hundred million dollars in total, let’s say it’s a hotel for example and that project needs another 30 million to complete it. They can go to a bank and get a loan, they can go to private equity get money from investors or they can use cb5 why do they use CB 5 usually is cheaper financing for the project it’s more flexible than banks and so it has become a very attractive options for developers to use CB 5 and because it’s a one hundred million dollar project a hundred jobs are going to be created for example, so it’s a lot of jobs, they could attract a good amount of investment into the project.
The regional center will usually set up a company; it’s a limited partnership or a limited company where the investors from all over the world are going to invest $500,000 each into this project. The investors become shareholders of this company and that company is going to either make a loan to the project or do an equity investment in the project. Most EB-5’s in the market are loan projects why? Because a loan project provides an exit strategy, it provides a way for the investor to know when do I expect to get my money back. So like any investment if it’s a loan there will be interest that is paid to this company or dividends if it’s an equity investment. There are clients that like equity investments because there’s an opportunity to maybe make more money. You’re not going to make a heck of a lot of money with a loan model, it provides more security because there are clear exit strategies but don’t look at the is ass a way to become a millionaire because that’s not going to happen with this kind of project. It’s an immigration based system that is designed to make sure that you qualify for the green card, that thirty million dollar loan is going to have to be repaid at some point, usually the terms are five to seven years and in part that’s because that’s how long it takes for you to go through the process and I’ll explain that in a little bit and then at the end of that term people get their money back. They already have their green cards and everybody’s happy and life goes on. The process right now, EB-5’s when we first started doing maybe fives, you can get them approved in three months then it went to six months, now it is taking much longer why? Because demand has gone through the roof. People from all over the world loved the EB-5 visa. Right now in queue there’s over 30,000, I think is over 40,000 that are pending just to be approved with more cases coming in, so it is a very hot visa right now around the world. So the process itself, you’re going to get a green card in about 18 months, could be a little bit less, could be a little bit more, that’s the average processing time right now. You’re going to get a conditional green card for two years why? Because they want to make sure that jobs are created and they want to make sure that it was a real investment, that people truly invested money into this project, that it was not a fraud so that’s in order to avoid fraud you’re going to get a conditional green card. After those two years the regional center will give you all the documents you need to file, you don’t really need to do much, you file that and then you get your permanent green card and five years later if you want to, you can apply for U.S. citizenship.
Approval rates of EB-5 are all over 90 percent. Most regional centers that have a good history and most attorneys will be near a hundred percent. Nothing is a hundred percent of course, there’s always risk, there’s always a risk that could happen in most cases that are denied. There are in that 10 percent or less it’s usually because they cannot prove where the money comes from. There’s two parts to an EB-5: the project and you have to show that the money that you’re invested came from a legal source that you didn’t get it through the sale of drugs or some kind of illegal activity. The U.S. government wants to make sure it’s legal money. So, most of the denials are based on that and then after the two years the approval rate to get the permanent green card is about 95 percent. So, when you look at statistics, most people that do in EB-5 are going to get their permanent green card. It is very high when you compare it to any other kind of process in the U.S., the EB-5 has the highest approval rate for any green card application that you can make and again processing times are longer because of the demand. There’s some myths that we hear all the time about EB-5, I’m buying a green card, I’m never going to get my money back, that’s not true, not true at all, you’re making an investment.
It is a risky investment because there has to be at risk, but the regional centers are going to try to minimize the chance of loss and the loan models, most people that go through a good project get their money back. Again, there cannot be a guarantee that would be illegal to guarantee return of capital, but you’re not buying a green card. If you’re buying a green card that would mean if you’re buying this, you would pay me five dollars for this, you get this and that’s it there’s no more transaction. Here, you’re an investor, you’re going to get your dividends or you interest rate and there has to be a time where you can exit out of that investment. The other myth is that there’s a lot of fraud, that is untrue, that’s the media sometimes focusing on… They love drama; they love things that are negative. Statistics show and they don’t lie like I showed you that most people are going to get their green cards through this process. Fraud is very limited, we’ve never had any clients that were the victims of fraud and EB-5; of course there’s always exceptions, but if that is very limited. Worldwide demands for EB-5, these numbers are not even updated because it moves constantly. China is by far the number one country with EB’5s on a yearly basis right now. It’s followed by Vietnam, India it’s really growing, Brazil is also a country that had a high demand As the world learns more about EB-5, it continues to become a very hot topic when you compare it to other countries at the same level as the United States. It is one of the cheapest if not the cheapest option around the world to get permanent residency, so that’s why the numbers keep growing. You have to be careful there are going to be changes to EB-5. The biggest issues that you need to know about if you’re interested in an EB-5: is the EB-5 law is going to expire December 8th which means that if you don’t invest by that time and the U.S. Congress changes the law you may be paying a lot more for the same thing. Right now it’s 500,000 in a DEA which means an area of unemployment, the only proposal that we have right now is to raise it to 1 million three hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the same thing, so it’s almost three times as much as it is today. There are other proposals out there that maybe go to 800 or 925 so no matter what it is; it’s going to be a lot more expensive if Congress changes the law. Immigration has also said we don’t need Congress we could do it by ourselves we have autonomy to do that so there could be an act just from immigration to increase EB-5 to over a million dollars perhaps even a million three hundred and fifty. So my advice as an attorney would be if you want to do these programs do it now, don’t wait, make sure you do your diligence, but apply before December 8th to try to be protected under current law.
There’s other ways you can get green cards, I’m not going to go into so much stuff because of time: EB1 and EB2 have become fairly popular options. EB1 is for people with extraordinary ability, people that represent a lot of professional athletes, entertainers, people that have reached the top of their career; they can qualify for a green card directly. People with PhDs with a high degree of education may qualify under the EB-2 category where the United States has an interest in hiring them because there’s a national interest to the U.S. and then you have your typical non-immigrant visas which again non-immigrant is not for residency. There only for people to stay for a short period of time. Popular ones are of course student visas L1A’s to transfer executives from one country to the other and E-2’s which require a treaty. So, I’ll touch just a little bit on this: L1A, you have a company in your home country let’s say Ukraine and you open up a subsidiary or a branch office in the United States and you transfer an executive and manager or a specialized employee to the subsidiary or branch office in the U.S. The big focus there is going to be the size of the company, does it have a pyramid structure of employees, managers, executives in the Ukraine and in the United States. What do you plan to do in the United States? That visa can lead to a green card, but you have to have one year of operation employees’ sales in the US, are going to be looking at that. The E-2 visa is an investor visa, but it does not lead to a green card okay. It only allows you to stay usually for a five-year period, you can renew it indefinitely. Investments are usually between a hundred to three hundred thousand that range, but in order to qualify for an E-2 you need to be a national, a citizen of the country that has a treaty with the U.S. for this visa and as you can see there’s a lot of major countries that don’t have those treaties: China, India, Brazil, Russia do not have it in part because there are countries with very large population, people with resources and money to make a $200,000 investment.
So the U.S. limits those countries because otherwise there would be a lot of immigration from those nations, that’s one of the reasons at least. We have clients from Brazil or China for example that may have dual nationality and then they would qualify only one in a family member; the spouse needs to have that nationality. And then since this is a luxury property and immigration conferences there’s a lot of myths that you can just buy a few homes and a few apartments and get an E-2 visa, it doesn’t work that way, it has to be a business that is active that you’re managing, that you’re providing a service or product. It cannot be a passive investment, so you have to manage a business and it cannot be just passive real estate investment that’s very important to know. Like I said we represent a lot of entertainers, athletes, those are also visas that are temporary. For the visas you need a sponsor, for the green card you could do it without a company or without a sponsor in the U.S. That’s about it.
I know I’m out of time, if there’s any questions please feel free to ask right now or you can see me at the booth.
Thank you very much.