The landscape of U.S. immigration is changing more now than it has in the past 25 years. One area that is markedly feeling change is corporate investment immigration. The idea that successful foreign business people can bring their business talents, expertise, and funds into the U.S. has a certain logical appeal; this has been the guiding thought behind the EB-5 immigrant investor program. For a $500,000 or $1,000,000 investment into a qualifying business/project, a foreign national and his/her immediate family members could be granted a green card in exchange for creating at least ten full-time jobs in local U.S. economies. The overwhelming majority of foreigners who have participated in the EB-5 program were born in mainland China. Unfortunately, these Chinese nationals have created a significant backlog in the EB-5 program, extending the processing times for all EB-5 applicants. Long processing times, in turn, make the program less appealing to foreign nationals who are considering various immigration programs for their families.
There have been a number of additional factors causing the downfall of the EB-5 immigrant investor program in China (even though this program has been creating thousands of much needed full-time jobs for hard-working U.S. workers). First (as mentioned above), the large number of Chinese-born applicants have utilized all of their available federally-mandated allotment of EB-5 visas each year. Second, there is a lot of uncertainty in the program due to Congress repeatedly trying, and subsequently failing, to “modernize” and make permanent the EB-5 visa program. The EB-5 industry was unable to unify in a strong front to bring the program and industry together to create a better program. Third, the Chinese national government has made it extremely difficult to move large amounts of funds outside of China (no matter the reason).
Due to the federally mandated limit on the number of EB-5 visas that are allotted each year, with a secondary limit on how many EB-5 visas are allotted per country as well, Chinese applicants who apply for an EB-5 visa today are now facing a wait time of approximately ten to fifteen years before they can bring their families to the U.S. This extended wait time has led to the rise of a certain phenomenon that we can call “’round-the-world immigration”: where a Chinese national “immigrates” to a county that is: 1) “selling” that country’s citizenship for money (which the U.S. does not do), and then 2) uses this second country’s citizenship to apply for an E-2 investor treaty visa (since China does not have E-1/2 treaty status with the U.S.). (An E-2 visa applicant makes a “substantial investment” into a U.S. company, boosting the U.S. economy. Note: “substantial investment” is not defined and is based on the facts of each case, including the ration of investor equity the whole of the business.)
While this process is lawful, it is possible that U.S. consular officers will deny Chinese immigrants who apply for a trade treaty visa by way of a Grenada (or similarly “purchased” citizenship) passport when the applicant is clearly Chinese and not Grenadian. The other complication here is that Chinese citizens legally forfeit their Chinese citizenship as soon as they obtain citizenship in another country. As such, the “foreign” Chinese national would be required to have a Chinese visa in his/her Grenada passport in order to be legally present in China to meet with the U.S. consular officer. When the “foreign” Chinese national is unable to present the immigration officer with a valid Chinese visa, the officer could then deny the E-2 petition and not allow the Chinese national into the U.S. based upon not having jurisdiction to adjudicate the case.
After facing such a denial, and not having many other options, many foreign nationals and their families decide to give up immigrating to the U.S. They are effectively giving up on their “great” American dream and end up not being allowed the chance to add to our nation’s strong entrepreneurial spirit. Our nation’s President seems to be set on making all immigration into the U.S. frought with hurdles that take years (if not decades) to overcome. In the meantime, other nations are welcoming entrepreneurial immigrants into their borders with open arms.
Should the U.S. be making it so difficult for good, law-abiding, hard-working, enterprising, and successful immigrants into our “Nation of Immigrants”? It may be that we should all take a moment to remember where we and our forefathers came from, a majority of whom crossed the oceans looking for a better life for their families and business ventures in a new land. What state would our nation be in if not for the immigrants who came to the U.S. and contributed to the rich fabric of our nation and its economy? One could argue that the U.S. is missing out on great contributions from people who have been successful in a wide variety of areas in the nations of their birth.
Contact an Experienced Immigration Lawyer
There are critical nuances in each of these visa categories and it is extremely important to obtain expert advice and planning. If you are contemplating bringing foreign investors into your business, or you are a foreigner planning to open a business in the U.S., consult with our experienced immigration lawyers at David Hirson & Partners, LLP. Our team of immigration experts will expertly guide you along the immigration path that best meets your business and family needs.
* The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Please consult with a licensed attorney regarding your specific circumstances.
David Hirson, Esq. is the managing partner of David Hirson & Partners, LLP. David has over 35 years of experience in the practice of immigration law. Although he practices in almost all areas of immigration law, including family law immigration and all aspects of business law immigration, he is internationally recognized as an expert in EB-5 investment immigration law. He has been certified as a Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law by the State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization continuously since 1990. As an immigrant from South Africa to the U.S., he is personally aware of what immigrant families and entrepreneurs go through.
This article was originally published in the June 18, 2018 issue of the Orange County Business Journal.