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Temporary Extension of EB-5 Visa Program Triggers Action in South Florida

With a potential government shutdown looming at the end of September, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution that funded the government through Dec. 11. As a part of this legislation, the EB-5 visa program, which had been set to expire on Sept. 30, also got extended to mid-December. With this six-week extension, several developers have taken advantage by pursuing building projects with the use of foreign investor funds through the EB-5 program.

One such project is the 83-story Panorama Tower in Miami. On Oct. 20, the South Florida Business Journal reported on an announcement from the tower’s developer, Florida East Coast Realty, stating that it was now allowed to accept EB-5 investor applications through the program’s regional center in Miami. The $800 million project would erect one of Miami’s tallest buildings. Earlier in the year, the Journal reported on a Canadian investor planning to invest $500,000 in the Panorama project, with hopes of then immigrating to the United States and securing a job in Silicon Valley. The realty company’s initial plans called for $160 million of the project’s funding to come from the EB-5 program, but they recently amended that number to roughly six percent, or $48 million.

Earlier in October, the Journal also reported on the upcoming projects of Driftwood Hospitality Management. Driftwood, based in North Palm Beach, stated that it planned to build two or more new hotels each year with the help of EB-5 funds. Driftwood stated that its business plan differed from others in that it only sought EB-5 investors in order to lower costs, not as a substitute for its own capital. Others “are expecting to capitalize their deals through these investors. In those kinds of deals, the investor is running the risk. For us, EB-5 just lowers costs. We have the capital no matter what,” Carlos J. Rodriguez, executive vice president at Driftwood, told the Journal. Driftwood’s existing hotel projects included the Residence Inn Flagler Station in Miami, along with a Canopy by Hilton near CityPlace in Palm Beach County.

In Driftwood’s business model, it identifies an investor, who is typically from Latin America. Once the investor expresses an interest in investing one-half to one million dollars, the two sides do more than just work together on one project. Driftwood intends to foster a long-term relationship with the investor even after the investor obtains a green card, according to the Journal report.

Under the EB-5 program, foreign investors (and their spouses and unmarried children under age 21) can become eligible for green cards if they make a sufficiently sizable investment in a qualifying commercial enterprise in the United States. The investment must involve creating or preserving 10 or more US jobs within two years of the investor’s making the investment. A created job can be one directly within the business in which the EB-5 investor had invested, or it can be an indirectly created job, if the project led to the creation of other, collateral jobs. Investors are only allowed to count indirect jobs if they go through EB-5 regional centers like the one located in Miami.

Generally, EB-5 investors must invest a minimum of $1 million. However, that minimum drops to $500,000 if the project is located in a targeted employment area. These are rural or high-unemployment areas. A high-unemployment area is one where the local unemployment equals or exceeds 150% of the national unemployment rate. For example, in 2014, the national unemployment rate was 6.2 percent. Two local areas cleared the 9.3 percent minimum for qualifying as high-unemployment:  Miami Gardens and North Miami.

For advice and representation that you can count on regarding your EB-5 visa or other immigration issues, talk to the Florida business visa attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman. Our dedicated immigration attorneys have extensive experience dealing with the legal processes involved in EB-5 and other visas.

Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation.

More blog posts:

Labor, Homeland Security Departments Issue Interim H-2B Visa Rule in Wake of Florida Federal Court’s Ruling, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, July 21, 2015

New Agency in Miami-Dade Using Lure of Immigration to Draw Investors to Area, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Jan. 8, 2015

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