Today, it is paramount that you make sure you are choosing a qualified attorney which is not only licensed to practice law in the United States, but also knowledgeable enough to be able to successfully manage your EB-5 petition. The EB-5 rules are complex. The policies and laws are constantly being updated, modified, and improved. Therefore, it is imperative that your attorney is well-versed in navigating through the myriad of laws and regulations governing the EB-5 program in order to ensure a successful immigration experience. Our goal is to provide the international community and the future citizens of the United States of America with guidelines on how to securely navigate through the American immigration system, with particular emphasis in the area of law governing the EB-5 program, or otherwise known as the Immigrant Investor Visa Program.
In a highly institutionalized and regulated country like the United States, one would think that there is protection from individuals practicing law under false pretenses. The fact of the matter is, there is little oversight of these criminals for the unauthorized practice of law. In most cases, the victims are overseas, hindered by the inability to speak English and quite rightly trusting that if a person holds themselves out to be a lawyer, then they must be one. In matters where the authorities do get involved, the crime has usually already been committed, and there is little or no recourse for the victim. Individuals that are practicing law without a license are criminals, they defame the profession of law and create mistrust of the legal industry of the United States.
For this reason, we are writing this article, in order to ensure that the international community has the best information available and takes the necessary precautions through research and by performing due diligence on the legal professional they intend on hiring. Attorneys in the United States adhere to the highest standard of ethics and are held accountable for negligent acts. There are honest, capable and hard-working attorneys that potential EB-5 investors may retain for their EB-5 petition, and it is our hope that we can help EB-5 investors connect with these respectful peers and colleagues. A person whom is hiring a lawyer should be able to trust his or her lawyer with their most personal of details.
For the most part, immigration fraud is committed by unlicensed practitioners. So you should conduct due diligence to confirm the legitimacy and trustworthiness of the person you are about to entrust with your family’s future, savings and personal financial information. The steps below should help any EB-5 investor pick a suitable and experienced EB-5 attorney. If you have any doubts about any of the steps, please contact our office and a member of our staff will be available to help any investor verify the details of an EB-5 lawyer.
EB-5 Investor Due Diligence Checklist:
- Make sure you are dealing with an attorney licensed to practice law in the United States. A “Juris Doctor” by definition does not mean the individual is an attorney. It means they have attended a university and obtained a degree in law, and this does not qualify the person to practice law. Ask the attorney for their state bar license number to verify they are in good standing with the state bar. You can also ask for the state that they are licensed in and then check their name against the public record. This will also reveal if they have been disbarred or have faced disciplinary action.
- Google. Do research on the internet for the person’s name and make sure there is no public information available about them committing fraud or a crime.
- You have confirmed they are an attorney, is that all? No, that’s just the first step. EB5 law is complex, and it is not prudent to use an attorney that has never filed an EB-5 petition before. You can potentially suffer both financial and legal losses if your EB-5 petition is handled negligently. Ask the lawyer to send you an approved I-526 petition so that you know if they have successfully filed an EB-5 petition in the past.
- Source of funds. Evidencing the lawful source of your funds is critical to a successful EB-5 petition. If you are from countries that employ capital restrictions such as Iran, Venezuela, and Egypt amongst many others, it is imperative that you use an attorney that has specific experience with EB-5 petitions from such countries. China, which accounts for the majority of EB-5 cases, often has a very simple source of funds issues. In contrast, Iran has some of the most challenging sources of funds issues with the added burden of dealing with U.S. Treasury sanctions on the movement of capital out of the country.
This checklist is not exhaustive and should not be all that an EB-5 investor should rely on. Many other factors are important to consider. However, we hope that this guide creates a starting point for EB-5 investors before they entrust their family’s future to an attorney.
We wish all EB-5 investors a successful EB-5 experience.