The EB-5 Investor Visa | Silicon Valley Immigration Attorney Sophie Alcorn

Hello EB-5 Investors, this is Floyd Mitchell with Welcome to episode 4 of the eb-5 investor portal podcast recording on Thursday July 27th 2017 today’s episode is titled the eb-5 visa in Silicon Valley with special guest and immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn Sophie’s firm Alcorn immigration law helps corporations startups and small businesses in Silicon Valley sponsor the biggest talent and technical fields for u.s. immigration Alcorn immigration law has a 95% success rate in defending immigration and innovation with visas green cards and citizenship we are really excited to have Sophie on the show today and she’ll be sharing more information about her firm and the eb-5 program Sophie welcome to the show well thank you for I really appreciate it we appreciate your time today and for sharing more information about your firms approach to immigration especially the eb-5 program what is the most common question you get from your immigration clients yeah the most common question is how can I stay in the United States or how can I get to the United States there even though there are so many options and so many laws that allows for legal immigration to the United States it’s so confusing to try to decipher them and navigate them immigration law is one if not the most complicated types of law in the United States many judges have complained that it’s even more complicated than our crazy tax law system and if you couple that with the fact that most people who need to navigate US immigration law are from countries where English is not the first language that they learn and if they speak English they speak it as a Second Language it’s just so unfair and so difficult for them to try to decipher what immigration laws mean as a non-native English speaker especially so what I see my job as and and our team what we do at Alcorn immigration is really you know we come in to help understand okay what is your specific situation where are you at where you want to be in your life how do you want to get there who do you need to help like your family your company or employees and what and then we we brainstorm we use all of the tools of immigration law visas parole green cards citizenship and so we come up with a lot of creative legal options to help figure it and then we turn it over to our clients because what it’s really about is our clients figuring out what are their priorities so you know given where they are and where they want to go would they rather pick option a which has these pros and cons option B which has these pros and cons option C and to really give a lot of thought to how do I want my life to look how long can I wait for this visa do I want to try to get it inside the US or outside of the United States how much do I care about when I’ll be able to work in the United States do I just want to be here physically do my children need to go to school which type

of school do they want to go to do I need to travel a lot back and forth for business meetings or board meetings or do I need to just plant myself in the United States and not travel because my kids are really young so you know everybody’s situation is different but everybody has questions and so people are just delighted to have the opportunity to to make an intelligent decision about about their future and to feel like they have some control in choosing one of these strategies that we offer I understand that your firm’s primary focus in terms of clientele is the Silicon Valley area the individuals who have immigration needs and the companies that also have immigration needs can you tell us what’s unique about serving these clients yeah we get to help people who are coming to Silicon Valley coming to the United States who are focused on innovating and changing the world they’re they’re not just starting software companies but also biotech neuroscience artificial intelligence 3d printing robotics and the fact that we get to be a part of this process and helping so many brilliant and skilled people come here is really what gets me up every morning and gets me excited to come to the office there are amazing people and I love helping and hearing everybody’s stories and their plans for what they want to do in the United States you know and a lot of our clients just want to come to make a better life for themselves and their families and that’s pretty inspiring too the type of work you do is deeply human isn’t it your clients are really relying on you and trusting you to guide them and help them navigate a really complex system it is absolutely it’s so much about trust and relationship building and clients are my clients are they come to me scared people come we get hundreds of calls every month from people who are scared they’re confused they’re lost they know what they want but they’re not quite sure how to get it or maybe they’re not even sure what they want because they’ve they’ve even given up hope because it seems too complicated and yeah I mean the the easy scenario in which it makes sense and it’s completely obvious to say that immigration law is deeply human work would be an asylum case for example but even when I’m representing the director of a huge Museum or somebody running a publicly-traded huge Chinese company it is still deeply human deeply personal work because it’s their lives it’s their futures and and everybody cares about what the rest of their life is going to look like and especially when kids come into the picture what opportunities their children will have for growing up and with a certain way of life or culture and having opportunities resources freedom good education systems opportunity to go to college in the United States those are things that are really really important to our clients that is a really unique perspective would you say that the children of your clients are a major motivator in the eb-5 program oh it’s the primary driving factor for many people who are getting eb-5 greeting cards sometimes even families who are living abroad they have teenage children or children in college in the United States as foreign students on f1 visas often the parents are still busy working and they need to stay in their home countries such as China but they will even give their child there are 20 year old the $500,000 for a regional center investment so that their child will have the ability to live in the United States after college without needing to go through the crazy random h-1b lottery for professional visas whether there’s there’s no guarantee that that you’re your adult child will be able to stay and actually pursue a professional path in the United States so yeah what people go through for their children inspires me every day and I have two little kids and I’m just

awed by by the love in families of my clients it’s very selfless I’ve heard stories of entire families pooling funds so that one child can have an opportunity to get an education in America and then pursue a life and career in America after graduating from school can you speak about what that may look like for the international students who are also applying for the eb-5 program absolutely it’s a huge advantage for example there are many well there amid tons of international students from all around the world who live in the San Francisco Bay Area which is where my practice is located so young Indian software engineers looked to many countries to have the opportunity to have good jobs when they after college when they’re adults and there is migration out of India for example to Australia and Canada and the United States so if somebody is trying to go as a young professional to Australia or Canada those immigration systems are point-based their merits based you calculate how many you know what your education is what languages you speak what professional certifications you speak and if you get enough points then you have a chance to go live in that country well that’s that’s great for a lot of people they like that but a lot of people really want to come to the United States whether it’s for the culture the work environment the opportunity to start a business and have that business thrive the resources in Silicon Valley there are a lot of laws here that are favorable to business so for many many reasons people really want to come to the United States but our immigration system is set up differently so it and its it’s kind of crazy if you think about it in a way so for somebody to come to a United States University to get a bachelor’s degree they typically would get an f-1 student visa and in order to do that they have to prove to the US consular official at the Embassy or the consulate in their home country where they’re going for the interview they have complete ties to their home country they’re just coming to be a student and after they graduate they’re going to go back home to their home country they have money there they have property they have family all of their ties are in their home country and they have no intention of staying in the United States after they graduate and that’s just completely crazy because if you’re going to spend a hundred thousand dollars so that your child can go to college in California maybe it’s 200 thousand now I don’t even know you want your child you want your your adult son or daughter to be able to actually live in the United States and practice the profession that they’ve studied so hard for and that you’ve put so many resources into and so what happens for f1 students is when they graduate if they get a bachelor’s degree or master’s or even a PhD they get one year of optional practical training so they get a one-year work permit and they’re allowed to stay here and they’re allowed to get a job and make money and they’re allowed to just work for one year and then they have to go home if they’re lucky and they made the choice to study in a stem field which is science technology education or math they can get an additional work permit for two years so that means on the outside you’ve got three years to work after you get your degree and then what’s your next move well you have basically one of three options in that situation either you find an employer who you like who isn’t mistreating you happy to sponsor you for a green card and invest you know ten or twenty thousand dollars if not more into your immigration process they sponsor you for an h-1b h-1b visa you’re lucky enough to get selected in the lottery that only happens once a year and only has a one in three chance of you getting selected and then the employer is still happy with you they haven’t gone bankrupt they don’t have layoffs and then they sponsor you for the green card process you know this could easily take 15 years if you’re from India or China so that’s one option that has a lot of uncertainty another option is fall in love and marry US citizen and intend to spend a life

together and get a green card that way but I’m guessing most parents of 22 year olds who have just paid for their son or daughter to go to a u.s. university do not want them to follow that path and so the third the third option where you actually have some control in the matter is the eb-5 route because if you can give your son or daughter the investment capital as a gift they can apply as an investor themselves into a regional center to get a green card and so we’ve helped people do that and the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you’re in control of the process is huge because this is the stress of the other routes can can really where we’re on people psychologically there may be people in our audience listening today that are unfamiliar with eb-5 can you give us a general overview of the program for example what does eb-5 stand for and how does the program work in layman’s terms so eb-5 stands for employment based fifth preference and there are three types of green cards in the United States there’s the there’s the green card lottery which is only for certain countries and which is very random there are family based immigrant visas or green cards which depends on your and mom dad sister somebody in a certain with a certain relationship to you sponsoring you for a green card or there are employment-based green cards which is what the EB comes from and employment-based green cards could be for brilliant scientists with extraordinary ability that could be for university researchers they could be for multinational executives transferring from one branch of the company to another they could be for professionals with advanced degrees they could be for skilled workers so those are all the Preferences number one through four and then eb-5 the fifth preference is the investor green card option and this originally started back in the 90s with a route for which you invest 1 million dollars in a new US company that creates 10 jobs for Americans and if you do this then you’re able to get a green card and live for the rest of the of your life in the United States as a permanent resident and that once you’re a permanent resident you have a green card and you could potentially apply for citizenship one day and then a little bit later on there was a new variation that came out which is with regional centers and so it has some benefits it’s a lower financial threshold it’s only five hundred thousand dollars and you also don’t have to actively run the company you can be a passive investor and the ten jobs don’t need to be created directly by the company they can be created indirectly nearby in the geographic area in which you’re locating your project so that opens up the possibility of having construction land development projects that use a lot of contractors construction workers as contractors instead of directly employed employees and those project can qualify for this eb-5 regional center so so yes with the eb-5 you can invest $500,000 into a regional center it creates indirectly 10 jobs in the local economy and the person who invests the money is on a path to getting a green card there’s some wait times but essentially you apply it could take anywhere from one two and a half or three years right now to get your first green card you have it and then it’s valid for two years as in you’re a conditional permanent resident and then there’s a filing window at the end of the two years where you do another immigration application and you’re applying to remove the conditions on your permanent residence and you’re saying hey the project did everything it said it would the jobs were created the money was invested there was no fraud everything is legitimate and if the government says yes then they say okay so you’re no longer a conditional permanent resident you did everything

you said you would you follow the laws now you are a full-fledged permanent resident for the rest of your life and you can live and work anywhere in America and you can become a citizen one day as you know Sophie there’s always new people discovering eb-5 so thank you for explaining that well and I think one of the values that my practice adds to somebody who’s considering pursuing this is we do not limit ourselves to eb-5 it’s absolutely a substantial part of my practice and art and what our team does but we’re familiar with the whole range of immigration options of every type of case really and so that helps us advise our clients about is this really the best option for you you know oh did you know that you actually have this other path that could be faster sometimes people want to know that often often that’s not the case and an eb-5 really is a great and the best route but it’s important to have the whole universe of options in u.s immigration law at our fingertips so we can provide the best advice and understand the whole immigration context for our clients earlier I recall you mentioning the h-1b program and my understanding of that program is that it offers a way for America to invite and keep some highly skilled and talented individuals here from other countries in the United States with the current administration deciding to delay and possibly resend the international entrepreneurs rule how is this affecting certain people and do you have any advice for those affected I mean this is a big surprise to a lot of individuals who are here in the States on these visas what can they do thanks that’s a great question so it raises very many things which are all important to touch on I think and one of them is what’s so first let’s break it down so what’s going to happen with h-1b so the h-1b visa is for professional workers who have a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent amount of work experience in a certain field and they’re coming to the United States they’re being sponsored by an employer to do that job and and it’s required that the employer sponsored them and pay for the entire immigration process and so it’s very difficult for qualified candidates to find jobs and employers who are willing to sponsor them sometimes because that’s a lot to go through and on the other hand there are this has come into the news a lot because there are a few giant particularly Indian consulting companies that which sponsor very many Indian workers each year like tens of thousands for h-1b visas and then outsource them to US corporations in the United States for Project Work so Congress limited the number of h-1b s each year to about eighty eighty thousand I believe and last year for example there were over two hundred and thirty thousand people who applied for h-1b s which is where that lottery comes in and why there’s a one in three chance of getting selected and the eb-5 has come under fire a lot because there have been reports of some companies firing US workers and replacing them with h-1b workers there’s been a lot of rhetoric by the current political administration against this type of visa and and so you often hear about is this going to be reformed is this going to be changed and at the beginning of the most recent legislative session in January yes there were a lot of bills that were raised to reform it and some of them talked about increasing the minimum salary for h-1b s to make it more prohibitive for companies to sponsor them some of them I think mentioned reducing the total number of h-1b s other other bills have proposed requiring the employer to go

through like a labor certification analysis where they would have to try to recruit US workers prior to being eligible to sponsor somebody for an h-1b like they have to prove they’re no qualified willing enable u.s. workers to do that job none of those bills have actually happened yet and the only change to this process has been the ending of the premium processing service so it has made it more difficult for people to get quick responses on their h-1bs so instead of two weeks if you pay extra now everybody has to wait in the same line which takes about seven months this has made it a lot more difficult for professionals to change jobs and switch to new employers because there’s a lot more risk involved now but then a few weeks ago there was some other leaked information that Politico reported about what immigration reform that the presidential administration is actually participating in what that reform would look like and so for big likely changes that might happen if and when actual immigration reform happens with Congress will be that the overall level of immigration will be decreased so right now there’s about 1 million green cards issued each year and in the future if this proposal goes through there would only be about 500,000 they are also going to dramatically reduce family based immigration they might cancel the green card lottery entirely there might be additional options for merit-based emigration based on professional achievements this could definitely increase very long already very long wait times for people from China and India but right now this hasn’t happened the eb-5 program is still intact at least for the next couple months until the next sunset eb-5 reform will probably be addressed separately than more general immigration reform all of this turmoil and anti-immigrant rhetoric that we hear coming out of our government is leading to a lot of fear for immigrants and our clients about how is this going to affect me what is this going to mean how much are my chances for staying here how much will they be reduced and another thing you had mentioned Floyd was the cancellation of the immigrant entrepreneur rule that is significant – it was going to be a new immigration pathway that the Obama administration had created that would allow foreign entrepreneurs who have started companies and so usually in Silicon Valley they get angel investment or venture capital investment if if their company would have raised over 250 thousand dollars and they own at least 10% and they want to come here to establish the company and run it and create jobs for Americans they would have had an additional path to immigrating and to staying in the United States the Trump administration pulled that off the table they’re looking at it again so all of this is to say that an already complicated situation is becoming more complicated and so people are using the eb-5 right now in the wide variety of situations to get them an option to immigrate that they fear might be quickly disappearing and so I’ll mention two recent clients who are in unique situations and I’ll do it anonymously because I need to protect their privacy but just the general situation so you know the typical eb-5 profile over the last several years has been a Chinese family who wants to be able to get green cards and move here with a large focus on education for the children but the two recent situations that were helping people with one of them is an Indian professional on an h-1b who works at a US company and they’ve sponsored him for a green card but it’s probably going to take another 10-15 years if nothing changes but as we just talked about things are going to change and it’s going to get more difficult and he just really wants to be able to work independently from his current employer and have a startup and not not need to worry about who’s who he’s going to get a paycheck from or that it is if there’s something goes wrong with his job that that could mean that he has to uproot his entire family and go back to India so his

family is is helping him pull together money to meet the $500,000 threshold from their properties and with loans and various sources he also has savings from his job in the United States can get a home equity line of credit so so he’s being very resourceful to make this happen because he wants to take take control of his future into his own hands so that he and his wife can start a family and know that they’ll just be able to stay in the United States and then another client is a startup that had a huge amount of success with raising venture capital recently and their valuations skyrocketed and they have a somebody in another country who’s been deeply involved in creating the product and they’re going to use some of that money that the company is now worth so that the company can help this this person get an eb-5 green card because they don’t even want to deal with the h-1b lottery and they know they’re serious they just want them to be able to live here it might take a while but let’s just make this happen in one of the least risk if you find a good regional center this is one of the least risky ways to do things so there’s a lot of uncertainty the law will probably change and people who hadn’t previously considered eb-5 as an option are now seeing it as a good option are you seeing a trend with the Silicon Valley investors utilizing eb-5 to retain their executives to keep these entrepreneurs here in the States yeah I think it’s absolutely possible and that’s what’s happening with my client company they really value this high level sea level engineers contributions company and they just want this person to be able to stay here and yeah it’s completely possible it’s each company would have to make that determination but if it’s a small company that’s raised a lot of capital I’ve talked to many investors who would be supportive of using some of that for the entrepreneurs immigration process because if it’s a young company and the person even though they’re brilliant and hardworking and have a great product even if there’s not been internationally acclaimed for many years so that they can get a green card based on extraordinary ability it could be very difficult for the company in which this person has a bunch of equity to sponsor them for a normal employment-based green card so eb-5 absolutely if the company has the money and really cares about the person it could make sense for as a way for that person to getting a green card for sure I just look at this from the investor side Sophie and they’ve already made a substantial investment you know a million dollars in some cases maybe several million dollars in these startups and to retain their CEO or to keep these top-level individuals here in the United States so that they can focus and grow the company it makes sense for them the investors to maybe consider eb-5 and I talked to a lot of investors venture capitalists angel investors and when they’re going through the due diligence process scoping out these companies more and more they’re asking what is the founders immigration status are they here as a tourist for six months just trying to raise money and then at the end are they going to have to leave are they going to overstay and get deported that’s a huge risk if somebody is investing potentially millions of dollars into a new venture so so yeah if if you’re committed to making this company work then it could be an easy answer to to add an eb-5 to the mix we’ve covered a lot so far in terms of eb-5 and immigration what is the biggest misconception in eb-5 right now I think the biggest misconception is that it’s all fraud and it abuses Americans there there’s been a lot of media coverage about some very shady bad practices that are definitely illegal but you know just because there’s one bad apple doesn’t doesn’t mean that the

whole bunch is spoiled and I get the pleasure of meeting really good decent law-abiding driven hard-working people who are in the eb-5 field who really just see this as a useful legal tool to help people and so I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions which mostly comes from from from people who aren’t really familiar with it maybe have a fear of immigration in general but this this type of green card the eb-5 really provides a lot to be gained for everybody because at its core the whole point is to create jobs for Americans and put more money into the United States economy in the eb-5 program there’s the regional center route where you invest and then there’s the direct investment route where you create a company that creates ten jobs what percentage or mix would you say your firm handles between the two types we’re doing a mixture of both with a regional center it’s a little bit more replicable the main issue that we need to focus on as the immigration attorney for for the investor is to help prove the source in the past the funds and how all of the money was legally earned and can be traced and got to the United States in a legal manner for direct investment on the other hand there’s there’s a lot more questions it’s a lot more fluid and flexible obviously the investment amount is higher but we it’s it’s a more creative effort and for somebody who is an entrepreneur who has an experience doing with this we find that they’re more comfortable investing the larger amount of money or or have or locating their direct investment company in a targeted employment area to still do it at the five hundred thousand level but the differences they have to directly manage and control the ten employees and they need to be actively involved in the business so it depends on the investor but with the direct investment we do have more creativity an opportunity to structure the business in a way that makes sense for the investor and their business plan and what their goals are so it’s it’s just two different styles and under the direct investment option you’re kind of doubling your risk because you not only have the potential of getting your green card on the line but you also have to run and manage a business so you have to really know what you’re doing in business to be successful at that with the regional center route you just invest and kind of wait is that correct oh yeah you don’t do very much at all if it’s in a regional center I only recommend the direct investment if you’re a seasoned entrepreneur who’s already succeeded at establishing several companies and this is not your entire life savings and you already know what you’re doing with running a business what is it like to be an immigration client at Alcorn immigration law can you give us a bit of an idea of how you work and what someone could expect if they were to hire your firm sure so at Alcorn immigration we put our clients front and center we are our clients advocates and we work really hard to make sure that we dot every I and cross every T and for us it’s all about our clients it’s all about understanding and what are your goals what are your priorities what are your options how are we going to weigh all the pros and cons and how can we use all of the tools that are available to us and u.s. immigration law to serve you to help you find the best path for you and your family and your kids for their education and your career so how are we going to structure this in addition to the eb-5 do we need a short-term temporary non-immigrant visa so that you can start living here sooner how will that interact with the eb-5 but we’re very hands-on and we help our clients with every aspect of the process I’m sure you keep up with the latest in the immigration and eb-5 industry specifically my understanding is that September 30th 2017 there’s going to be

some new things that come about in the eb-5 world do you have any insights about what we can expect or any news or anything that you could share about eb-5 that you may have learned recently well I have some some new updates that I think are interesting to share that we got last week from a USCIS stakeholder meeting and so there are you know four four important things from this July of 2017 that I thought could be useful to share with the audience so one of them is about the eb-5 backlog and the USCIS adjudicators are are trying on to work to get through the backlogs that have been caused by the continual Sun setting of the eb-5 program every five months but their goal for 2018 is to decrease the processing times for I five sixes which is the first petition that you file in that process and so hopefully that means that processing times will decrease it’s taking them about 21 months right now and hopefully that will go down next year another update is that the eb-5 backlog for China is going to increase and that US Citizenship and Immigration Services is predicting the weight for Chinese individuals who have approved I 526 –is to be eligible to get a green card based on the Visa Bulletin will go up all the way to a four year weight right now it’s about a three year weight but next year it might go up to a four year weight and then additionally they’re restructuring some things internally at USCIS and they have a new pilot program where they have a team of economists and adjudicators who are all working together on the I 829 for removal of conditions and they’re doing this to experiment with how they can reduce the processing times on the other end of the two years when you’re filing to remove the conditions after the investment has been made and then they also pointed out that there’s a part of their website online which is about how you can how you can prepare your I 526 filing to make it easier for them to process and just tips that you can do to to help streamline the process and to help make it make it faster for you so so the update from USCIS is they’re trying to do a lot of things to speed it up because they know they’ve got problems but there are so many people applying that processing times you know are going up is for China and so once again it’s just if this is something you’re interested in the sooner you start the less time you’ll have to wait so I think that’s an important tip for anybody who’s seriously considering the eb-5 a lot of people in the industry are saying that the 500,000 dollar amount is 20 years old it’s the same amount that Congress first used in 1990 when they made the program some say it’s going to go up yeah I’ve been hearing a lot about a lot of chatter about the amount increasing I I don’t know what the actual change is going to be but the numbers I keep hearing are that the regional center will go up from five hundred thousand to eight hundred thousand at least and then the direct investment will increase from 1 million to maybe 1.4 million but I’ve also heard higher numbers being tossed around so this is really important for investors too until September 30th 2017 the amount is only going to be $500,000 for regional centers so if it would be outside of your budget to get a green card by investing $800,000 you really have two months from the time of this podcast to do everything to apply and for the investors listening today if they want to take advantage of that 500,000 dollar amount before it goes up can they call you and do you have the

bandwidth to help them with their eb-5 case absolutely the sooner you decide that this is something that you want to do and let us know the better we still have capacity to take on more eb-5 clients as of July 2017 but as we get closer and closer to that September 30th deadline it’s it’s possible that we won’t so because there’s so much demand so if it’s something that you’re interested in yes we can absolutely help you we’re at Alcorn law a LLC ORN you can contact us through our website but please try to let us know as soon as you can to increase the chances that we’ll have the capacity to help you well it’s very apparent Sofi that you genuinely care about your clients and really enjoy helping people and I just want to thank you so much for all of the information you shared with me and our audience today it’s just been really great can you tell us how you got into this line of work well thank you for I really appreciate it we care a lot about our clients the way I got into immigration law is because my dad was an immigration lawyer he practiced immigration law for over 35 years during his lifetime my mom is an immigrant from Germany and so I grew up surrounded by immigrants and bridging two cultures and being exposed to two languages and so I understand what it’s like to pick up your life and start over in a new country and my dad inspired me because I saw him helping immigrants and fighting for immigrants all the time and so when I started my practice I really wanted to carry on his legacy of advocacy and compassion well that’s really really cool to hear you know more about your background and that your father did this you can just you can hear your passion for helping people and this has just been a really fun podcast and we hope to have you on again soon thank you again just thank you so much this was fun and and I like what you guys are doing and I’ve been impressed with the level of professionalism with the other podcast that you’ve done and I’m just happy to be a part of it so thank you visit eb-5 eb-5 comm today come to America live your life in America the eb-5 program offers the path to US citizenship invest in your family’s future America offers world-class health care America’s top colleges clean air and water our team of professionals are here to help contact us today the eb-5 investor portal visit eb-5 eb-5 calm today you