Immigration Lawyers Looking To Foreign Investor Visas

January 12, 2010 – In The News
The Legal Intelligencer

The downturn in the economy has slowed the demand for H-1B nonimmigrant work visas for the 2010 fiscal year, forcing some Pennsylvania immigration law firms to turn to wealthy foreign investors. The EB-5 immigrant investor program is designed to award visas to wealthy foreigners willing to invest $1 million in a commercial enterprise that will employ 10 full-time U.S. workers.

Robert Whitehill said that, beginning in 1998, the number of EB-5 cases in the country dropped sharply.

That year, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service issued four precedent decisions retroactively tightening restrictions on investments, which resulted in lawsuits and effectively halted the program until 2002.

Whitehill said it wasn't until 2006 or so that interest in the program really picked up again and, by 2008, it was commonplace to see regional center representatives at every immigration conference.

"There was a time when the EB-5 was moribund, it was dead," he said. "It has certainly come back to life."

Whitehill said he has seen a recent uptick in inquiries about the program in his own practice.

He attributes this phenomenon to a host of factors beyond the slowdown of H-1Bs, such as the diminished value of the American dollar compared to the euro and the recent emergence of newly wealthy people in China, as well as in Russia and other oil-rich countries.

"These are not garden variety cases," he said. "They are highly technical, require a particular type of client and not everybody has the wherewithal to invest the requisite amount of money."