Q: What is the “success rate” of Stone & Grzegorek LLP in EB5 cases?
A: Our success rate in EB5 cases is very high, exceeding 99%. However, the law firm cannot guarantee success in any individual EB5 case. Only USCIS and related federal government agencies can approve EB5 cases. Also, USCIS may change the EB5 law or interpret certain legal standards differently from the way our law firm’s attorneys may interpret those legal standards. What is most important: If you hire a law firm such as Stone & Grzegorek LLP to represent you as your EB5 lawyer, given our experience in more than 1,000 individual EB5 investor cases in the past 5 years alone, you are getting legal representation from the most experienced lawyers available. Consider that EB5 law and practice is viewed as complex and is still relatively new. It is not widely understood. A client should want an experienced EB5 lawyer who has first-hand familiarity with the complexity and challenges likely to arise.
Q: What is your legal fee for EB5?
A: The law firm does not charge a “one size fits all” legal fee in EB5 cases. Different clients have different circumstances and needs. Legal fees are tailored to the particular circumstances of the individual client.
Q: Does the law firm recommend an investment based on a stand-alone business, or should the investment be made in one of the USCIS designated regional centers?
A: The law firm does not have a preference. In situations where the client is capable of identifying an investment opportunity through family or business relationships, and that investment can be closely managed, a stand-alone business may be suited to the client. On the other hand, the regional centers appeal to hundreds of our existing clients.
Q: What are some of the business sectors that are involved in your EB5 cases?
A: Our entrepreneur clients include manufacturers of wireless components and networks, Internet broadband providers, electronics manufacturers, hotel operators, product merchandisers, major retail franchise owners, dairy farmers, small individual retail shop owners, hair salon owners, gasoline/truck stop owners, garment manufacturers, jewelry distributors, chefs and restaurateurs. We also have represented U.S. venture groups to assist raising EB5 capital to fund redevelopment projects, commercial real estate, agriculture development, and manufacturing businesses.
Q: Do you recommend only certain USCIS designated regional centers?
A: No. We are willing to work with any regional center that can meet our criteria. Stone & Grzegorek LLP works with many of the regional centers. On behalf of an individual investor client, we advise whether an investment with the regional center will enable the investor to become a permanent resident. In order to provide such advice, we must have access to all documentation that is material to the client’s investment with the regional center as that is the same information that should be submitted with the petition to USCIS. If we cannot provide our client with a positive response either because we are not given access to all relevant documentation or because the documentation reveals flaws in terms of EB5 eligibility, we would advise the client not to invest with the regional center.
Q: Does this mean you recommend investments in regional centers?
A: We advise on immigration eligibility. We cannot advise a client on the investment merits, whether it is a good investment with favorable financial terms. Our law firm is not an investment advisor. Instead, the client may need further advice from an investment professional.
Q: Are the regional centers all the same, seeing that each has been approved by USCIS?
A: No, they are not all the same. USCIS has approved the regional center to operate under the immigrant investor pilot program. However, this approval does not mean individual investor petitions will be approved by USCIS. The petition filed by the investor will be based on a business plan that is specific to the use of the funds invested by the particular investor. This information typically is not presented as part of the earlier regional center approval process. The USCIS examiner may deny an individual investor's petition. Furthermore, certain regional centers have considerably more experience than others with actual EB5 investors and the USCIS petition process. While this factor may not be the most important, it nonetheless is relevant. A preferred regional center is one that is transparent – open as to the merits of its investment, and open as to how an investor will be eligible for the EB5 category.
Q: What concerns you most about the regional centers?
A: We are concerned most about situations where the regional center is promoted as offering certain investment terms, but then the documentation that the regional center proposes that an investor submit to USCIS is not exactly how the investment offering was promoted by the regional center. Also, we are concerned about EB5 promotion that characterizes the EB5 application process as simple or as a sure thing.
Q: What can a client expect to be the most difficult aspect of the EB5 process?
A: USCIS is very focused on the investor’s source of funds. Certainly, the client must present documentation that traces the funds to an account of the client. We typically want five years of income tax returns. We need the client to sufficiently explain how he or she has adequate resources to be an EB5 investor. With that explanation in hand, we will work with the client on compiling the best documentation possible. The EB5 process is not for the stealth investor or somebody desiring to remain mysterious.
Q: What is the likely difficulty with a regional center affiliated EB5 case?
A: Although EB5 law was first enacted in 1990, regional centers have not become popular until the last few years. Consequently, within USCIS there is not a longstanding accepted body of standards that apply in regional center affiliated cases. The applicable standards are still evolving, and I suppose with some surprise, not all USCIS examiners view the applicable standards the same way a practicing attorney would. Proof of job creation in a regional center affiliated EB5 case depends on the analysis of an expert economist, and the effective communication to USCIS of economic principles can be challenging. During 2012, in particular, USCIS has denied many individual investors' petitions, finding the job creation methodology to be inadequate.
Q: Can you identify a common problem with EB5 cases based on a stand-alone investment?
A: Entrepreneurs in small businesses frequently characterize business growth as proof of investment. But this does not work for EB5 eligibility. If a $1,000 investment grows into a billion dollar company, it might still be nothing more than a $1,000 investment for EB5 purposes. USCIS does not recognize retained earnings as an investment.