Heady Days for EB5 Attorneys

There are but a handful of US immigration attorneys who truly grasp the EB-5 visa at a molecular level. It’s a short list of perhaps a half dozen veteran practitioners, and I am without a doubt at the very bottom of it (if I’m in it at all!)

Having spent 15 years as the industry’s EB-5 “Prophet of Doom” instead of quietly working to improve this powerful visa category as my colleagues were doing put me at a chronological disadvantage which I seem to finally be conquering via a combination of sheer immersion and a rapidly evolving policy by USCIS.

What appeared at the time as my Nostradamus–like warnings (anybody out there remember my “Port of Entry” daily column, before the word “blog” existed?? 🙂 – is now historical fact: a catastrophic number of families, as I’d predicted, had I-829s denied as a result of the smoke-and-mirror EB-5 scheme/scams of the late 90s. Who knows, perhaps that was my role to play, but the fact of the matter is that while I was pontificating about dangerous EB-5 projects, people like Stephen Yale-Loehr, Ron Klasko, and a handful of others were the ones who played a formative role in the evolution of EB-5…not yours truly. To these attorneys we all in the EB-5 sector owe a collective debt of gratitude: without their guidance and perseverance, the EB-5 would be gone today.

But, alas, as we all realize, The EB-5 is anything but gone. The demand for attorneys to form new EB-5 Regional Centers and new EB-5 projects within existing, USCIS-approved Regional Centers has never been higher. (Early in 2010, one of my more prominent colleagues told me that he was “booked solid” for the next 12 months as far as structuring new projects… can you imagine his workload today?)

As we all know, when demand for a product or service exceeds supply, the counterfeiters step in. In the case of the EB-5 Visa category, said “counterfeiters” range from unqualified attorneys with little or no immigration experience (much less, EB-5 experience) to non-– lawyers engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. (I won’t repeat my recent blogs regarding insanely high fees quoted by non-lawyers and deceptive practices including everything from unlawful EB-5 funds flow structures to deals which violate both federal securities and banking laws.). Nor is it necessary to launch into another tirade about the insanely stupid RFEs I’ve been hired to respond to after chaotic filings by lawyers and non-– lawyers alike.

The point is crystal clear: in this exploding EB-5 market, it is a very much a “caveat emptor” scenario for those who would seek to structure a viable and compliant EB-5 deal.

When Vibram, the super–successful manufacturer of the multi–toed running shoe was besieged by piracy from China as a result of its inability to keep up with demand, it responded by speaking to its loyal customers and warning them of the fraud going on out. That strategy, combined with cohesive industry efforts to police quality and prosecute violators, proved effective.

Perhaps it’s time for the unlicensed practice of law (UPL) enforcement divisions of US state bar’s in the US to stepping. While the “notarios” around the corner fleece people for hundreds of dollars, this new breed of con man is pulling hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the pockets of some very sophisticated US enterprises.

Shop carefully when looking for EB-5 representation, folks.