Department of State Transitions to DS-160 for K Visa Applications. Effective immediately, all K visa applicants are required to complete the DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. The DS-160 replaces forms DS-156, DS-156K, and DS-230.

For K visa cases already in process at a U.S. embassy or consulate, the DS-160 is not required when, prior to October 7, 2013, one of the following situations exist:

- The K visa applicant is already scheduled for an interview.

- The K visa applicant has already been interviewed and has been requested to submit additional documentation or is pending administrative processing.

- The K visa applicant has already submitted a valid, signed, unexpired DS-156, DS-156K and/or DS-230 or received instructions to do so.

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is highly experienced in working with employment-based visas, adjustment of status, green cards, and PERM labor certification. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are jointly issuing this Investor Alert to warn individual investors about fraudulent investment scams that exploit the Immigrant Investor Program, also known as “EB-5.”

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) Office of Investor Education and Advocacy and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) are aware of investment scams targeting foreign nationals who seek to become permanent lawful U.S. residents through the Immigrant Investor Program (“EB-5”). In close coordination with USCIS, which administers the EB-5 program, the SEC has taken emergency enforcement action to stop allegedly fraudulent securities offerings made through EB-5.

The EB-5 program provides certain foreign investors who can demonstrate that their investments are creating jobs in this country, with a potential avenue to lawful permanent residency in the United States. Business owners apply to USCIS to be designated as “regional centers” for the EB-5 program. These regional centers offer investment opportunities in “new commercial enterprises” that may involve securities offerings. Through EB-5, a foreign investor who invests a certain amount of money that is placed at risk, and creates or preserves a minimum number of jobs in the United States, is eligible to apply for conditional lawful permanent residency. Toward the end of the two-year period of conditional residency, the foreign investor is eligible to apply to have the conditions on their lawful permanent residency removed, if he or she can establish that the job creation requirements have been met. Foreign investors who invest through EB-5, however, are not guaranteed a visa or to become lawful permanent residents of the United States. For more details, read the EB-5 Immigrant Investor section of USCIS’s website at www.uscis.gov.

The fact that a business is designated as a regional center by USCIS does not mean that USCIS, the SEC, or any other government agency has approved the investments offered by the business, or has otherwise expressed a view on the quality of the investment. The SEC and USCIS are aware of attempts to misuse the EB-5 program as a means to carry out fraudulent securities offerings. In a recent case, SEC v. Marco A. Ramirez, et al., the SEC and USCIS worked together to stop an alleged investment scam in which the SEC claims that the defendants, including the USA Now regional center, falsely promised investors a 5% return on their investment and an opportunity to obtain an EB-5 visa. The promoters allegedly started soliciting investors before USCIS had designated the business as a regional center. The SEC alleged that while the defendants told investors their money would be held in escrow until USCIS approved the business as eligible for EB-5, the defendants misused investor funds for personal use such as funding their Cajun-themed restaurant. According to the SEC’s complaint, the investors did not obtain even conditional visas as a result of their investments through the USA Now regional center.

In another case, SEC v. A Chicago Convention Center, et al., the SEC and USCIS coordinated to halt an alleged $156 million investment fraud. The SEC alleged that an individual and his companies used false and misleading information to solicit investors in the “World’s First Zero Carbon Emission Platinum LEED certified” hotel and conference center in Chicago, including falsely claiming that the business had acquired all necessary building permits and that the project was backed by several major hotel chains. According to the SEC’s complaint, the defendants promised investors that they would get back any administrative fees they paid for their investments if their EB-5 visa applications were denied. The defendants allegedly spent more than 90 percent of the administrative fees, including some for personal use, before USCIS adjudicated the visa applications.

As with any investment, it is important to research thoroughly any offering that purports to be affiliated with EB-5. Take these steps:

- Confirm that the regional center has been designated by USCIS. If you intend to invest through a regional center, check the list of current regional centers on USCIS’s website at www.uscis.gov. If the regional center is not on the list, exercise extreme caution. Even if it is on the list, understand that USCIS has not endorsed the regional center or any of the investments it offers.

- Obtain copies of documents provided to USCIS. Regional centers must file an initial application (Form I-924) to obtain USCIS approval and designation, and must submit an information collection supplement (Form I-924A) at the end of every calendar year. Ask the regional center for copies of these forms and supporting documentation provided to USCIS.

- Request investment information in writing. Ask for a copy of the investment offering memorandum or private placement memorandum from the issuer. Examine it carefully and research similar projects in evaluating the proposal. Follow up with any questions you may have. If you do not understand the information in the document or the issuer is unwilling or unable to answer your questions to your satisfaction, do not invest.

- Ask if promoters are being paid. If there are supposedly unaffiliated consultants, lawyers, or agencies recommending or endorsing the investment, ask how much money or what type of benefits they expect to receive in connection with recommending the investment. Be skeptical of information from promoters that is inconsistent with the investment offering memorandum or private placement memorandum from the issuer.

- Seek independent verification. Confirm whether claims made about the investment are true. For example, if the investment involves construction of commercial real estate, check county records to see if the issuer has obtained the proper permits and whether state and local property tax assessments correspond with the values the regional center attributes to the property. If other companies have purportedly signed onto the project, go directly to those companies for confirmation.

- Examine structural risk. Understand that you may be investing in a new commercial enterprise that has no assets and has been established to loan funds to a company that will use the funds to develop projects. Carefully examine loan documents and offering statements to determine if the loan is secured by any collateral pledged to investors.

- Consider the developer’s incentives. EB-5 regional center principals and developers often make capital investments in the projects they manage. Recognize that if principals and developers do not make an equity investment in the project, their financial incentives may not be linked to the success of the project.

-Look for warning signs of fraud. Beware if you spot any of these hallmarks of fraud:

- Promises of a visa or becoming a lawful permanent resident. Investing through EB-5 makes you eligible to apply for a conditional visa, but there is no guarantee that USCIS will grant you a conditional visa or subsequently remove the conditions on your lawful permanent residency. USCIS carefully reviews each case and denies cases where eligibility rules are not met. Guarantees of the receipt or timing of a visa or green card are warning signs of fraud.

- Guaranteed investment returns or no investment risk. Money invested through EB-5 must be at risk for the purpose of generating a return. If you are guaranteed investment returns or told you will get back a portion of the money you invested, be suspicious.

- Overly consistent high investment returns. Investments tend to go up and down over time, particularly those that offer high returns. Be suspicious of an investment that claims to provide, or continues to generate, high rates of return regardless of overall market conditions.

- Unregistered investments. Even though a regional center may be designated as a regional center by USCIS, most new commercial enterprise investment opportunities offered through regional centers are not registered with the SEC or any state regulator. When an offering is unregistered, the issuer may not provide investors with access to key information about the company’s management, products, services, and finances that registration requires. In such circumstances, investors should obtain additional information about the company to help ensure that the investment opportunity is bona fide.

- Unlicensed sellers. Federal and state securities laws require investment professionals and their firms who offer and sell investments to be licensed or registered. Designation as a regional center does not satisfy this requirement. Many fraudulent investment schemes involve unlicensed individuals or unregistered firms.

- Layers of companies run by the same individuals. Some EB-5 regional center investments are structured through layers of different companies that are managed by the same individuals. In such circumstances, confirm that conflicts of interest have been fully disclosed and are minimized.

If your investment through EB-5 turns out to be in a fraudulent securities offering, you may lose both your money and your path to lawful permanent residency in the United States. Carefully vet any EB-5 offering before investing your money and your hope of becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

USCIS and the SEC have in recent years built a strong partnership with an emphasis on fostering EB-5 program integrity. The two agencies coordinate on issues at the case-specific and programmatic levels, and have participated in joint public engagement events to raise awareness among EB-5 developers and investors as to these issues. This Investor Alert is another example of our coordinated efforts regarding EB-5 program integrity.

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is highly experienced in working with employment-based visas, adjustment of status, green cards, and PERM labor certification. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.

A Pakistani citizen unlawfully residing in Cheshire, Conn., was sentenced Friday to 15 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiring to bribe an immigration official in order to obtain lawful permanent residence and employment authorization documents.

Amjad Israr, 46, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Baltimore District Office and the Baltimore County Police Department.

According to his plea agreement, Israr operated multiple convenience stores called Krauszer’s in Connecticut. In 1994, Israr entered the United States using another person’s Pakistani passport that he had purchased in Pakistan. Israr has no legal immigration status in the United States.

Beginning in December 2011, Israr began working with a Maryland attorney who told Israr that he knew an immigration official who was willing to provide immigration documents, which would permit Israr to legally live and work in the United States in return for payments of money. Unbeknownst to the attorney and Israr, the attorney’s immigration contact was actually an undercover federal agent posing as a public official.

Israr agreed to pay the attorney approximately $30,000 for the immigration documents, knowing that a substantial portion of the payment would be provided to the purported USCIS official in exchange for the immigration documents. On Aug. 25, 2011, Israr and the attorney met with the undercover agent and during the meeting, Israr’s fingerprints and photos were taken in order to prepare the immigration documents for Israr. On one of the immigration forms later submitted to the undercover agent by the attorney, Israr falsely represented that he was married to a U.S. citizen and the wife’s name and personal identification information provided on the form were all fake. In January 2012, Israr received a lawful permanent resident card issued by the undercover agent, which he used to enter the United States Feb. 4, April 12 and July 17, 2012.

The case was prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys Harry M. Gruber and Gregory R. Bockin.

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is dedicated in its advocacy and community involvement efforts towards achieving effective comprehensive immigration policy reform. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.

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Houston immigration attorney Emily Neumann met with Congressman Ami Bera, MD (D-Ca.) during a fundraising event on September 21st to voice concerns regarding the issues her clients face in navigating the current business immigration system as well as some of the problematic provisions of the bipartisan reform bill passed by the Senate. As an attorney dealing with the immigration red-tape on a daily basis, she welcomed the opportunity to comment on various reform proposals as well as highlight several ways in which the broken immigration system affects businesses today.

Congressman Bera is the only Indian-American in the House of Representatives today. The Congressman is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Committee on Science Space and Technology. Earlier this month, he traveled to India where the Senate’s Immigration Reform bill was a topic of discussion.

Congressman Bera indicated that immigration reform will likely take a back seat to more pressing issues on the congressional calendar, including the budget, Syria, and the debt ceiling. In a further blow to the prospects of immigration reform, the House’s “gang of seven” appears to have fallen apart due to a lack of support from GOP leadership. Several individual immigration bills have already been passed by the House Judiciary Committee, but a continued sticking point is the possible path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Previously, action from the House on these bills was anticipated sometime in September. That timeframe now appears to be unworkable. If the topic gets pushed into 2014, it becomes even more difficult to get something passed as election year politics will force some supporters of reform to take a step back for fear of losing potential votes. Further, even if the House is able to pass its own bill, the debate is far from over as the next step would be for both the House and Senate versions to go to conference committee for a final compromise bill.

 

Emily Neumann has practiced immigration law in Texas since 2005, representing both employers and immigrants. Neumann writes a blog on immigration law (immigrationgirl.com) and shares updates on Twitter (@immigrationgirl) and her Facebook page to help her clients stay informed of the latest news. She is a partner in Reddy & Neumann, P.C. in Houston and Dallas.

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is dedicated in its advocacy and community involvement efforts towards achieving effective comprehensive immigration policy reform. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.