Category Archives: Entrepreneurs / Investors

USCIS seeing benefits from its “Entrepreneurs in Residence Initiative”

In just over one year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) innovative Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) initiative has produced real benefits that will strengthen agency policies and practices relating to job-creating immigrant entrepreneurs who help advance American economic growth.

“Our EIR initiative has had one overarching goal – to ensure that we capture the full potential of current immigration laws to attract and retain startup enterprises that promote innovation and create jobs in America,” said Director Mayorkas. “In the 15 months since we started the initiative, we have seen positive results based on the combined talent of private sector experts and our own internal experts and we are eager to expand this concept to other industries we serve.”

Launched at a February 2012 summit in Silicon Valley, the EIR initiative brought together startup experts and USCIS immigration experts to work collaboratively to streamline pathways fora range of existing visa categories often used by entrepreneurs. Three aims were key to the overall initiative: producing clear public materials to help entrepreneurs understand relevant visa categories; equipping USCIS staff with
the right tools to adjudicate cases in today’s complex business environment; and streamlining USCIS policies to better reflect the realities faced by foreign entrepreneurs and startup businesses. USCIS released a summary of the EIR team’s work. Some of the highlights over the past year
include:

  • Nearly 30,000 visits to Entrepreneur Pathways, which provides entrepreneurs seeking to start a
    business in the United States an intuitive way to navigate the immigration process;
  • Approximately 500 participants across the United States in USCIS’s entrepreneur-focused
    engagements;
  • More than 400 USCIS employment-based immigration officers trained on startup businesses and
    the environment for early-stage innovation; and
  • More than 100 USCIS officers receiving additional specialized training to handle entrepreneur and
    startup cases.

Israelis Eventually E-2 Eligible.

In June 2012, President Obama signed into law legislation that adds Israel to the list of countries eligible for E-2 treaty investor visas. Regrettably, Israel nationals remain ineligible for E-2 status because of delays in implementing the new law.
The legislation is conditioned upon visa reciprocity. Accordingly, once the new law was sent to the State Department for implementation, teams from the United States and Israel began discussing the terms and conditions that E-2 status will provide to Israeli investors in the U.S. and examining whether Israel will provide similar terms and conditions for American investors in Israel. These discussions were complicated by the fact that Israeli immigration law does not currently provide for a visa category that parallels the E-2 visa.

Indeed, Israel has only one non-immigrant work visa category, with visas issued for one-year validity periods and with an absolute maximum stay in the country of five years. (The E-2 visa, of course, can be issued for an initial period of up to five years.) Moreover, the options under Israeli immigration law for derivative visas on behalf of accompanying family members are extremely limited with no provision for a benefit resembling the E-2′s Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for an accompanying spouse.

However, the implementation of this visa category will not be effective until the terms and conditions of the final agreement are determined between the two countries. [...] The Department does not yet have a basis for determining that Israel offers equivalent status to U.S. investors in Israel – a statutory prerequisite for issuance of E-2 visas to Israeli nationals. Through our Embassy, we have been working with Israeli government officials to facilitate Israel’s development of a visa status similar to the E-2.

Clarifications on the Scope of “Investment” in the E-2 visa

Time and time again, I receive various queries regarding the “investment” component of the E-2 visa.   In the day and age of readily available information-overload (thanks, Google), much has been written over the years regarding the E-2 visa and its requirements, particularly about “how much” to invest in order to maximize chances of receiving the E-2 visa (or status).

While there are many different figures cited in various blogs, newsgroups, and other sites,  ranging from $25,000 to $2.5 million, there is NO OFFICIAL MINIMUM which the U.S. government dictates MUST be invested in the E-2 visa context.

In 10+ years of my immigration law practice, I can say, based on actual E-2 cases, one can say that average investments in approved cases range between $50,000 and $250,000, ordinarily.

However, it is important to stress that the appropriate level of investment varies from case to case and is reviewed by the U.S. government as such, on a “case-by-case” basis.   While an investment of $35,000, for example, could be approved in one case, it may very well be denied in another.   The same holds true for an investment of any other amount.

As prospective investor, in order to maximize one’s chances of successful E-2 visa issuance, one must remain mindful of several factors, which will be important in the government’s decision-making process:

(1) What is needed investment-wise, to get YOUR U.S. business up and running properly.
(2) the amount invested is the “correct” and adequate amount, given your unique situation.
(3) the amount invested is “sufficient” to safeguard your ongoing commitment to the success of the enterprise.
(4) the investment is potentially “subject to partial or total loss”, if business fortunes turn bad. (no financial safeguard!)
(5) the investment funds cannot be withdrawn at will, once the visa is issued, but must remain in the enterprise.
(6) based on the investment, the U.S. business enterprise will likely be profitable within the first 5 years of operation.

There are, of course, additional E-2 visa requirements, not directly relating to the investment.

The MORE you accomplish before the visa is applied for, the HIGHER the likelihood of the visa being granted.  In other words, the more of the start-up commitment and risk you take upon yourself before applying, the better your chances.

Investment Opportunity: E-visa and EB-5 capable.

school

Investment opportunity in West-Central Florida: SACS Accredited School, Gold Seal School, Platinum School.

Facility employs 34 FT staff, approximately 17,000 square feet, with 10 classroom suites, a cafeteria, a resource room, a large activity gym for before and after school students, and 4 large play areas separated by age groups, glass walls, real-time Internet access, accredited curriculum, 270+ students enrolled. Annual Turnover ~ $1.5 million USD.

Asking price: $4.9 million USD. (min. $1.7 million USD down-payment requ.).

Could be suitable for E-visa or EB-5 as self-directed investment.   Please email me: steve@saculbreathlaw.com for details.

USCIS Announces “Entrepreneurs in Residence” Initiative

USCIS Director Mayorkas announced the coming of “Entrepreneurs in Residence.” This new innovative initiative will utilize industry expertise to strengthen USCIS policies and practices surrounding immigrant investors, entrepreneurs and workers with specialized skills, knowledge, or abilities.

“This initiative creates additional opportunities for USCIS to gain insights in areas critical to economic growth,” said Director Mayorkas. “The introduction of expert views from the private and public sector will help us to ensure that our policies and processes fully realize the immigration law’s potential to create and protect American jobs.”

The agency will stand up a tactical team comprised of entrepreneurs and experts, working with USCIS personnel, to design and implement effective solutions.

Please Sign E-2 Reform Petition!

Zoe Adams, the driving force behind E2VISAREFORM.ORG, has initiated a petition with the White House in order to raise Washington’s awareness for the need of reforming E-2 visa regulations to allow for a path to permanent residency.

If we can reach 5,000 signatures within 30 days – till October 26th 2011 – the White House staff will look at our issue. We have to reach 150 signatures for the Petition to be shown on their website, so please take a moment and sign the petition…

“IDEA Act”, a Summary of this Proposal’s Major Provisions.

This post summarizes the major provisions of the legislative proposal known as “IDEA Act”, or H.R.2161 – Immigration Driving Entrepreneurship in America Act of 2011, as it is officially known. As stated in the bill itself, its purpose is “to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to promote innovation, investment, and research in the United States, and for other purposes.”

1 — Preferential Processing for “STEM”-graduates

Academics who hold degrees in the “STEM” fields will have some preferential processing parameters when applying for certain employment-related immigration benefits, including exemption from numerical caps and simplifying other visa processing hurdles.

2 — Incentivizing Job-Creation and Entrepreneurship

This builds on the principles and spirit set forth when the original EB-5 Greencard category was created. A new category of “EB-6″ entrepreneur Greencard will be created, not subject to numerical limits.

3 — Simplifying the Burdensome Labor Certification Process

Shorten processing and turn-around times by the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Offer optional fee-based expedited processing. Enhance communication between Employers and DOL during the “PERM” process. Streamlined processing for established employers who file PERM’s frequently.

4 — Modifications to Prevailing Wage System and H-1B to protect U.S. workforce

Measures will be implemented to strengthen the recruitment processes, prevailing wage determinations will be adjusted to better reflect actual market wages, employers will be “incentivized” to retain or recruit U.S. workers, and also for paying above-average wages. Additional safeguards will be put in place to protect workers from potentially abusive or retaliatory conduct by employers. Spouses of H-1B workers are to be employment-authorized.

5 — Modifications to the L-1 category to protect U.S. workforce

Modifications will be made to the existing L-1B “specialized knowledge worker” classification to now required prevailing wage determinations (under certain circumstances). Exceptions would apply in some instances where the L-1B worker is kept on foreign payroll. DOL will be provided with enforcement mechanisms, equal to those currently available in the H-1B classification.

6 — Existing EB-5 Employment Creation Greencard to undergo some modifications

Aims to set aside half of the annual allotment of EB-5′s for those specifically to be used by Regional Center projects. USCIS will revise its current methods of calculating direct and indirect job creation. A major improvement to the current EB-5 program would be the desired authorization of 2-years of added time on the Conditional Residency status if not all conditions could be met within the first two years, if unexpected problems or delays occur. Another welcome change would be the allowance of “concurrent” filings of I-526 and I-485 in the EB-5 and new EB-6 programs, as well as an optional “Premium Processing” to adjudicate petitions within 60 days.

The EB-5 Greencard gaining more mainstream recognition

This article, featured in the Business Week magazine, is a great example of how the EB-5 Green Card, often referred to as the “Investor Green Card” is gaining some recognition and exposure in the general public and business world, outside the traditional immigration arena.

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/the-eb5-program-create-american-jobs-get-a-green-card-08042011.html

E-2 Holders Show YOUR Support for E-2 Reform!

This is a call to action for those who presently hold (or have held in the past) an E-2 visa.   As many of you know, Zoe Adams of “E2VisaReform.org” has for several years now been a driving force behind grassroots efforts to induce Washington to recognize and understand the importance of E-2 Visa Reform and provide a legal, workable path to lawful permanent residence (aka “Green Card” status).  Year after year, she makes trips to Washington to advocate on the ground and meet with members of Congress.  Over the years, there has been a marked increase in congressional support for such reform, but the bipartisan bickering and the controversy of immigration reform altogether, results in political stalemates, despite the recognized need.

Help drive these support efforts . Check out these two web resources.


www.E2VisaSupporters.org
was set up so we could ask friends, family, customers and neighbours in the U.S. to declare their support for our Campaign. The more we can show how much people want us here, the more we can use this as a valuable tool in further Washington visits.

www.E2VisaHolder.com is a Map where you can place yourself if you are an E2 Visa Holder.  Florida is a mass of people and you may not always be able to see yourself, but we want to get a much bigger presence in the other States.

Visa Extension, Status Renewal,…either way, a bad time for [unwelcome] surprises.

It being at year’s end, this is a good time to examine your own circumstances, be they business or personal. On the business front, examine your business’ performance thus far. How is the business performing? is it on task? is it on track? what’s working? what’s not working?

Take a good look at what aspects of your business are performing to expectations (or better, or worse), and which aspects are not. Where could your business benefit from improvement? Have all milestones been met? If not, which have not, and why not? Be sure to highlight not only all the positive developments, but also assess candidly your less positive developments, and how you have dealt with or overcome them.

As a whole, you and your business should be in a position to roll with the punches, and ride the roller-coaster of business ownership and management. Be proactive, and be brave. Be ready to continually assess the needs of your business and make the necessary changes and adjustments. Sometimes changes may be necessary which may not be pleasant or seem right at first. Sometimes unpopular decisions may become necessary.

Do NOT wait until 2-3 months before any renewal or extension papers need to be filed to look at your business. A suffering, struggling business is a difficult foundation on which to base a new visa or a prolonged authorized stay in the U.S.

Keep your accountant, your lawyer(s), and other professionals you frequently rely on informed year-round of the status of your business (and as far as relevant, your personal life). Use your own circle of professionals to your advantage and seek their advice and counsel, when you feel your business needs some form of correction or change.

As I always tell my clients, I would be happy to meet with them and examine their business and possibly help them identify and address areas of concern or areas needing improvement.

I always counsel my clients NOT to wait for a government official to make an adverse call against a sought-after immigration benefit, or one could find oneself in trouble and possibly packing…

You should evaluate where your business is headed and how it’s doing at least quarterly, if not monthly. On the personal side of things, if you have any changes in personal circumstances, employment changes, family changes, relationship changes, etc. these could have immigration [and possibly other legal] consequences (good or bad) and should be addressed and dealt with sooner rather than later.