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Technically, the answer is no. An I-526 form is something a petitioner could fill out on his or her own. But while an attorney is not required to fill out or file an I-526 application, the process is much more complex than just a single form, and that’s the reason most investors wisely choose to work with an attorney. Complex documents, strict adherence to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations, and ever-shifting policy interpretations make working without a good immigration lawyer an extremely risky proposition.
A huge amount of money, time, and your future are at stake. So it pays to make sure you do it right the first time. The cost of a lawyer is a very small fraction of your investment amount; make sure you partner with an experienced and trustworthy immigration lawyer.
It’s not advisable and most immigration lawyers will not provide you with an opinion. Why? Because immigration attorneys are not trained to evaluate the financial aspects of an investment, will not be compensated for providing advice, and could ultimately be held liable for your losses if the investment fails. But an immigration lawyer should be consulted to assess the immigration aspects of an EB-5 investment to determine the viability that the project will meet all the EB-5 immigration requirements.
This same logic applies to your financial advisor. You might ask them about the immigration aspects of an investment, but ultimately you should involve your lawyer to review the investment from an immigration standpoint before investing.
American lawyers are governed by rules that require a lawyer to place their clientʼs interests first and above all else. Beyond this, the rules also dictate a lawyer provide his or her client with service that is competent, diligent, and honest; and that lawyer must also be honest when dealing with USCIS and other relevant government agencies. Further, a lawyer must maintain confidentiality regarding their client communications.
Yes. One of the most critical issues an EB-5 lawyer needs to deal with is to show that the applicantʼs investment funds can be traced to a legal source. Doing so demands knowledge of both the EB-5 program and the laws of the petitioner’s home country.
Do your due diligence on multiple lawyers before choosing to work with one. Critical questions to ask include how long they have worked in EB-5, how many applicants they have represented, and what are their I-526 and I-829 approval rates. A good lawyer should not hesitate to share this information — or answer any questions you have.
A worthwhile EB-5 immigration attorney will have the experience and insight to determine whether an applicant’s investment project is compliant with the most current EB-5 regulations and policies.
An EB-5 lawyer will help you provide evidence satisfying all of the program’s criteria including details regarding the lawful source of funds, a business plan, and job-creation requirements.
While an immigration attorney is not usually qualified to advise you on investment selection, he or she should be able to address potential immigration risks of your investment. For example, they should be able to understand the job-creation methodologies of the project to help determine if it will comply with EB-5 regulations.
A good attorney will also be of service by asking you the right questions, such as which country your spouse was born in, as your petition may in some cases take advantage of faster processing times using your spouse as the principal applicant. A lawyer may also guide you to work with an EB-5 investment specialist or tax specialist.
EB-5 investor applicants from different homelands will have different issues that need to be addressed, often regarding source of funds documentation — how capital was legally acquired can differ in different countries. A lawyer, ideally, should be familiar with both the laws of a petitioner’s homeland as well as EB-5 regulations.
Ask if a lawyer and his or her firm has experience, and how much, working with applicants from your particular country. And inquire if their law firm has an office in your country. Ask about approval rates specific to your country.
Successfully navigating the EB-5 process requires clear and effective communication between petitioner and legal counsel. If you are more comfortable discussing legal documents and matters in a language other than English, ensure your law firm of choice can satisfy this need.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is the U.S. national association for immigration lawyers. Though it is not required that an immigration lawyer be a member of the association, the vast majority of experienced immigration lawyers are members.
A lawyer is required to consider if a client’s interests potentially conflict with the interest of another client, or even if there is a conflict with the lawyer’s own interests.
If a lawyer receives compensation from the Issuer of an investment, this arrangement must be disclosed to a petitioner client; a lack of such a disclosure is unethical and most likely a breach of legal rules, and may be in violation of securities laws.
Before choosing your lawyer, be fully aware of whom that lawyer serves.
EB-5 is not only a highly specialized immigration field but an ever-changing one. Not only do new regulations often become implemented but the interpretations of older regulations have a history of shifting — and sometimes without official publication.
Understand that mere “project approval” from USCIS (referred to as exemplar approval) is very limited and provides no guarantee of a petitioner’s application. And realize that USCIS may suddenly change its interpretations of even established regulations. A good immigration lawyer who stays current with developments in the industry is imperative.
Fundamental to the very nature of the EB-5 program is the concept of risk; in fact, it is a USCIS requirement that a petitioner’s investment be “at risk” until the conclusion of their conditional permanent residency. Thus, no immigration lawyer should ever promise that you will receive your Green Card or the return of your investment capital.
The cost of most EB-5 immigration lawyers is usually at least $15,000 (USD) and fees can go substantially higher, depending on a particular lawyer’s experience, firm, and success rate. Once again, while your money is hard earned and should not be spent without careful consideration, understand that legal fees are just a very small portion of the overall capital you are investing. A good EB-5 lawyer is worth his or her weight in gold — or Green Cards.