Fraud on Investors in EB-5 Investments: Caveat Emptor! Part 8
A Better Way: Walking Alongside the Investor Start to Finish (Continued)
This brings the post to the steps that EB-5 investors should take to protect themselves. The current model for immigrant investors is broken. EB-5 immigration lawyers should not be simple petition preparers or form generators. However, this is how they are used by the vast majority of EB-5 investors. For $15,000 to $20,000, EB-5 investors get petition preparers, but do not get specifically tailored advice from a professional that is 100% dedicated to advancing the investor’s interests in obtaining a Green Card, in obtaining a reasonable return, and in advancing the investor’s business interests. There is no reason why $15,000 to $20,000 is not enough to obtain a fierce advocate and defender of the immigrant investor’s goals and rights.
The immigrant investor should not select an immigration attorney because a regional center or project recommends a specific attorney. While a recommendation from a regional center, project developer or migration agent should not disqualify an attorney, and can serve as a starting point, an immigrant investor should immediately walk away from any immigration attorney or law firm which also works for or is in any way associated with a regional center or project. An excellent explanation of why attorneys should never represent both a regional center or project and the investors in that project can be found here (http://www.eb5investors.com/magazine/article/dangers-dual-representation)
Ideally, the EB-5 investor initiates his or her search for investment based immigration projects by searching for a competent U.S. based immigration and corporate attorney who can guide the investor through the project selection process. One must be careful here to ensure that the attorney will not receive any compensation based on what project the investor selects. This is important for a myriad of reasons, but for the investor’s purposes, only one such reason is of the utmost importance. That reason is the investor should desire an unbiased opinion as to the bona fides of the project to be selected, both as to likelihood of obtaining a Green Card, and as to likelihood of obtaining the promised return on the investment. In order to obtain such an unbiased opinion, the attorney should not receive compensation from any other participant in the investment. Further, the investor can test the trustworthiness of counsel by demanding fierce allegiance to the investor in the form of a guarantee that the attorney is not accepting any other compensation from anyone who may have an opposing interest in the project, such as a migration agency or project promoter, a regional center or a project development company.
This is not to suggest that an investor should avoid projects for which an attorney has worked in another capacity, but rather that the attorney should not receive any compensation in relation to the specific investor or number of investors brought to a project. Further, the selected attorney should clearly indicate that he or she cannot provide a recommendation to a potential investor as to the wisdom of investing in a specific project for which the attorney has provided services to the project developer or regional center. Should an investor independently determine that he or she should invest in such a project, without the assistance of the attorney, the attorney should recommend a different attorney for completion of the I-526 and I-829. If the investor does not receive such a recommendation, he or she should not place his or her trust in the attorney.
Selecting the right project involves gathering more information and advice than a migration agency, regional center and project developer can provide. While consulting a local attorney can be helpful, it is no substitute for engaging an attorney licensed to practice within the United States (note that attorneys in the United States are licensed by states or state bar associations, and not the federal government). Attorneys in the United States are bound by many duties and obligations to their clients, and must always advise any client in relation to the individual client’s best interest.