Visas for investors well-regulated

08/10/2014 7:00 PM

08/08/2014 5:30 PM

Re the Aug. 8 story Miami to dangle visas to foreign visitors: Miami has become the first city in the country to own and operate an EB-5 regional center (RC) certified by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to match vetted foreign investors, seeking lawful permanent residence to vetted South Florida projects needing funds.

This effort to spur development and create jobs is a great thing. Yet the Herald’s use of the term “dangle” implies something nefarious or unfair is afoot.

The article quotes critics saying that wealthy investors are buying their way to the head of the visa line. This is incorrect. First, there are several separate visa “lines” and investors are in one such line. Second, some EB-5 regional center and pooled investor petitions are taking more than two years to adjudicate.

Following the investment of $500,000 or $1 million and the lengthy wait for an EB-5 approval, the investor must then file his or her own green card application — or, if abroad, process an application at a U.S. embassy — and wait several more months, only to be granted a conditional two-year green card. After two years, another process of sometimes more than a year awaits the investor in order to gain full resident status.

This maze hardly qualifies as buying one’s way to the head of the visa line.

In addition, critics imply that the EB-5 program is badly run and regulated. What the story failed to note were the tough warnings of securities expert Steven T. Anapoell, at the Miami EB-5 conference. He said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), well aware of actual and potential EB5 abuses, met with Homeland Security officials and pulled thousands of EB-5 files for suspicion of federal securities violations, including fraud and broker-dealer violations. EB-5, he said, must be seen as “a corporate securities offering with an immigration overlay.”

With the popularity of EB-5 on the rise, investors and the projects seeking their funds should take some comfort knowing the SEC is actively regulating regional centers and pooled investor programs. Mr. Anapoell is among those advising the new Miami EB5 RC, promising to make it a well-managed venture for developers and investors alike.

Jordana A. Hart, immigration attorney, Miami

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