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How a New Immigration Reform Bill Would Affect the EB-5 Visa Program in Florida and Elsewhere

constructionOne of the many issues that has been a subject of federal reform legislation over the last several years has been immigration. Two senators recently introduced a bill that, if passed, would make major changes to the way the United States handles legal immigration. Among the many changes the bill would make would be to end certain aspects of the old system, including the EB-5 visa program, the Miami Herald reported. Whether Congress passes the current proposal, passes some other bill, or does nothing at all, working with experienced Florida immigration attorneys can help you be sure you are prepared for whichever changes take place.

The new bill, officially known as the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, or the RAISE Act, is designed to curtail the volume of legal immigrants entering the United States. The bill, introduced on Aug. 1 by Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue (of Arkansas and Georgia, respectively) has as a goal cutting legal immigration in half. Both senators’ offices confirmed to the Herald that the RAISE Act, if passed, would end the EB-5 program.

The bill would not kill off the EB-5 program individually but would actually cease all employment-based categories for legal immigration. In their place would be a “points based” system for determining qualification for immigration. Other countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia already use a points-based system for qualifying immigrants.

The points system offered up in the RAISE Act would still provide potential incentives for investing in a U.S. commercial enterprise, but it would work differently than the EB-5 program does. An investment of $1.35 million in a new U.S. commercial enterprise would earn an immigration candidate six points. An investment of $1.8 million would net the candidate 12 points. Whether investing at the six-point or 12-point level, the candidate must maintain that investment for at least three years, a shorter time period compared to the EB-5’s five year requirement.

The minimum investment required under the RAISE Act ($1.35 million) is a dramatic increase from the current floor of $500,000 under the EB-5 program. Perhaps the biggest new hurdle for immigrant investors under the RAISE Act is its requirement that the investor “actively manage the commercial enterprise as their primary occupation.” This would be a major departure from the standards used in the EB-5 program, under which, as the National Law Review pointed out, one of the central aspects that contributed to the EB-5 program’s growth was its low requirement in terms of the degree of management required. Under the EB-5 system, investors were not allowed to be totally passive, but they weren’t required to have the sort of direct and hands-on management role that the RAISE Act requires. The RAISE Act’s “primary occupation” requirement would essentially knock out investors and limit qualification only to entrepreneurs.

Even if the immigrant invested $1.8 million or more and actively managed the business, this would not, under the RAISE Act, necessarily mean that that immigrant would get in. That investment would earn the immigrant 12 points. The RAISE Act sets a floor of 30 points for eligibility. If the immigrant is older (above age 50 gets you zero points for your age), has more limited English language skills, or lacks an advanced academic degree, it is possible that he or she could fall short of the necessary 30 points even with the $1.8 million investment.

Despite full support from the president, the RAISE Act may not pass, since several senators, including some key Republicans, have expressed opposition. Nevertheless, immigration reform in Congress and its potential impact on immigrant investors will be an important issue to watch going forward. Whatever happens, the skilled South Florida business visa attorneys at Stok Folk + Kon are here to help you. Our attorneys have many years of experience helping clients assess and plot a path to immigration, and we can help you handle any new rules and requirements that may come. Find out how you can put our skills and resources to use for you.

Contact us online or by calling (305) 935-4440 to schedule your consultation and find out how this firm can help you protect your interests.

More blog posts:

Federal Regulators Freeze Assets of South Florida Woman who Ran Alleged Immigration Scam, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Dec. 5, 2016

Federal Immigration Authorities’ Proposed New Fee Schedule Could Significantly Affect EB-5 Applicants, Florida Investments, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Nov. 11, 2016