Constant Contact: Winter 2017 Edition

 

As 2017 winds down, the staff at the Behar Law Group wanted to wish our families, friends, clients/like family, and community all the very best for a warm and safe holiday period. Those of us who are blessed to live in countries of freedom, with all their warts, appreciate the value of a life full of aspirations and future. We do not know what the future will bring in 2018, but you can always count on our hearts and minds to support your vision. Our staff will be taking well deserved intermittent holidays so kindly notify us well ahead if there are any concerns. We are all there to assist.

Below are some of the issues and concerns which we share going forward into 2018. They are in no particular order as the issues have been popping up on a daily basis. The challenges which we, as immigration lawyers, are facing are huge and daunting. Congress seems to be somewhat dysfunctional and the White House is bent on challenging both legal and illegal immigration. Our precepts of being a refuge to the world is fast disappearing. The need for our expertise and seasoned opinions never greater.

For 38 years, our firm has always relied on clear, foreseeable objectives for our clients; this remains the same today and why we are able to ride the ‘waves’ which Washington has created. Compiled by limited staff and electronic ‘I need it yesterday’ expectations, we all need to take a deep collective breath and plan well, organize much ahead of time, and stay in constant communication for best results.

 

EB-5 Program:

At the time of this writing, the current regional center program is scheduled to sunset December 22, 2017 along with the US budget. It had been extended from December 8, 2017. This is not the first time such extensions have been put into motion, so either we will have another longer term extension through Spring 2018 or the government may freeze at that point, which we do not anticipate.

 

USCIS has appointed Julia Harrison as Acting Chief of the Immigrant Investor Program (IPO) further to reassignment of Nicolas Colucci. The challenge remains the current backlog and huge demand for I-526 and now I-829 processing. IPO has implemented new procedures to reduce the waiting times, now about two years on each application, but we are uncertain how much dent they can make in the backlog without massive new staff commitments.

 

Staff seems more concerned about compliance, fraud and enforcement issues than the $22 billion in EB-5 capital brought into the US sincE-2008 and locked into trust accounts around the country. Our firm wrote an extensive article on site compliance visits for regional centers with the assistance of NES Financial of whom we are a Medallion Partner. Anyone wishing a copy of that article can write to us for the link.

 

IPO still has not issued a Policy Manual. Our concern is that it will suddenly pop up as a ‘given’ with no community input. This Policy Manual is years in the making and we are concerned that no commitment from IPO has been made to finalize what should have been a based document for public guidance.

 

A new requirement now is the adjustment of status or consular interview based on an approved I-526 application. While the underlying case is not challenged at such interviews (for now), the consul or officer will want the investor to provide evidence of continuing economic operations at the regional center or EB-5 project. Any miscue on this matter will cause a delay in issuance of the matter. On a case of first impression, our firm won the case in Paris, but the lack of documentation of the project caused a one week delay. Note too that it appears that consuls are more suspicious of EB-5 investors, their motives, their intentions, than just being satisfied that the program is job creating and capital attracting. Good preparation and reviews of our checklists are essential.

 

International Entrepreneur Rule:

Some of you have seen this new category come into effect December 14 2017. The category requires a minimum of $250,000 investment for a startup business along with the creation of five new US jobs in exchange for a 30 month PAROLE into the US. This is NOT a visa; it is a parole, which means that the individual may be required to leave the US at any time if there is a question of compliance. There is no path to citizenship.

 

While we applaud this public benefit program, it is very fragile and discretionary to the USCIS. It puts the investor at a high business and immigration risk. It may be an alternative to those who do not qualify for E-2 visas as there is no restriction as to nationality.

 

Stand by for more information on this new alternative in future newsletters.

 

Arrival departure record Link:

Clients may now avail themselves of their in/out history of the US by linking to: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#recent-search.

 

In principal, you will be able to see and print every recorded event at a US border but we caution that the CIS computers are sometimes wrong so it cannot be relied upon either by you or Customs and Border Patrol.

 

Visa Waiver Program:

Certain countries, primarily from Western Europe, with a low fraud rate have benefited from the Visa Waiver program which allowed through an ESTA registration a visa-free entry to the US for a period of up to 90 days.

 

Due to some violations from four countries, the entire program will be put into question and educational programs will be initiated in those countries to try to rectify the program. Our take is that this may be a return to the old process of consular applications for B-1 / B-2 visas. We will have to wait and see. The violating countries are Greece, Hungary, San Marino and Portugal.

 

The President is also not very keen on the Diversity Lottery program which affords disadvantaged countries 55,000 visa numbers annually (from 800,000 immigrants) for winners from many countries. The program was based on an initiative of Senator Ted Kennedy primarily to assist Irish immigrants but has been a boon to many other nationals who are unrepresented in the immigrant pool. Contrary to the declarations of the President, such applicants must have a clean record and at least a high school education.

 

Jay Peak, Vermont Resolution:

Thanks to the incredible work of attorney Michael Goldberg, appointed Receiver by the Court to resolve this massive bankruptcy, we are now pleased to report that funds have been received from the various settlements and in particular with Raymond James. As such, all initial phases, aside from AnC Biomedical, will have their construction completed and offers are being entertained for the full sale of the Resort and its assets at a fair but discounted price.

 

The AnC Biomedical investors will now migrate laterally to a new EB-5 project which has demonstrable job creation to allow the I-829 applications to proceed. Funds are being held by the Receiver for transmission to the project in early 2018.

 

Client saves lives:

Life is sometimes really strange. We are working on a labor certification matter for a Brazilian national when he casually mentioned that he was being awarded by the city of Boca Raton and Palm Beach county for saving the lives of two ladies whose car ended up in a canal and were about to drown. My client jumped into action and pulled them out of their cars to safety!

 

Rumors:

We are all victims of immigration rumors. One of the latest ones is that E-2 visa holders will have a path to residency or citizenship. While this makes business and economic sense, the US Representative John Rutherford of Florida has a long way to go to convince his fellow congress members. We support his bill but are skeptical of its passage.

 

In our community:

Mr. Behar appeared as a panel speaker at the Tower Forum in Ft Lauderdale to discuss the condition of US immigration at this time. The breakfast was well attended with over 150 attendees and such issues as the Wall, DACA, asylum and investment into the US were discussed. Thanks go also to my colleague Elizabeth Blandon, an expert in asylum issues, and Jon Garon, dean of the Nova Southeastern Law School.

 

Conclusion:

As we had predicted, 2017 has been a year where we all needed to put on our seatbelts and ride out the ups and downs. Thankfully, there have been many more ‘ups’ than downs thanks to the skill, experience and steadiness of our staff. We will continue to deliver quality services going into the future and thank you for your continued support.

 

Have a wonderful and happy new year!

BEHAR LAW GROUP