Florida Immigration Attorney Chimes in on US Visas for Real Estate Investors

I had the pleasure of sitting down with attorney Fernando Perez, of Perez and  Associates in Tampa, Florida this week to discuss immigration issues with real estate investors.  Mr. Perez has been practicing immigration law since 1982.  He is a regular contributor on FOX News and Univision related to immigration issues.  He is a “go-to” guy in Florida when it comes to business and commercial immigration.

I attended the recent OPP LIVE conference in London, UK this past October and was asked repeatedly about the process of acquiring a visa by those interested in managing distressed properties in Florida or buying investment properties to manage.  With the  currently weak  dollar and the depressed real estate prices  in the State of Florida, I certainly understand why there was such keen interest.

While this interview focuses on commercial real estate investment, many of the points Mr. Perez covers can be utlized for other purposes, such as buying or starting a business in the US, or a buying a beach vacation home.  The important point I took from our discussion is the US is open for business  and investment from foreign investors, but one needs to understand the visa laws and work with a professional that can help them guide the way.

Mr. Perez’ website is a  wealth of information about visa requirements.  Click here for more information.

Full Transcript

INTERVIEWER:       Eric W. Odum, Lic. Real Estate Broker,  Net Lease Commercial Advisory, Inc.

INTERVIEWEE:       Fernando Perez, ESQ.

Eric:    Hello, and welcome to another series from Net Lease Commercial Advisory.  Today we have with us Fernando Perez.  Thank you very much for joining us Fernando.

Fernando: My pleasure.

Eric: Fernando is an attorney that has been specializing in immigration law over the past 27 years.  We’re very fortunate to have him sit down with us today to talk a little bit about some of the investment and visa requirements for investments, primarily with real estate, but also in covering a wide range of other types of activities in terms of buying business and whatnot.

Fernando has been a consultant in both the State Department and Congress, and he also has a face for television.  We know he’s been on FOX news and Univision, in terms of consulting on immigration matters, and so we’re very fortunate to have him with us today.

So hopefully you will be able to get a lot out of this and it will be able to help you make some decisions.  Thanks again Fernando.

Fernando: My pleasure.

Eric: Let’s talk a little bit about the immigration visa.  Typically, what people understand is that to get into the United States when you’re buying real estate or a business, you’re going to have to put down a million dollars—invest a million dollars, and hire 10 employees.  When I go out and I speak to people, that is the common perception, is that really accurate?

Fernando: Well it depends, which is a great lawyer answer.  What happens, Eric, is that there are two separate investment visa categories under the immigration laws, and people tend to confuse the two.  Now, there is a visa category which is called the EB-5.  It’s also been referred to as the Employment-Creation Visa or the Immigrant Investor Visa.  Now, the characteristics of that are that persons from any country can qualify, but it does require in most instances, an investment of at least a million dollars in a US business, and as a result of that investment, 10 jobs for US workers have to be created.

Eric: Okay.

Fernando: Now, while we’re talking—

Eric: Which is not really ideal for a real estate investor—

Fernando: Exactly.  It’s not going to be feasible in a lot of situations.  Now, there is a new variation that I will touch on with the EB-5 before I get into the Treaty Investor category.  There is a variation of the EB-5 that is an investment in something called a regional center.  Those are areas of the United States that have been designated by the government as distressed.  Now, if somebody makes an investment in a regional center, the investment amount is reduced to $500,000 and there is no requirement that you create employment because the investment itself, which has been pre-qualified, is already structured to create employment in the local community.  So that’s the EB-5.

The other investment category, and this is the one that really is the most practical to most individuals, is what’s called the Treaty Investor Visa or the E-2.  The differences are that the E-2 is only available to nationals of countries with which the United States has a qualifying treaty.

Eric: Generally, what kind of countries are they?  How many are there, do you know?

Fernando: There’s probably, off the top of my head, over 50 or 60.

Eric: It’s a lot, close to half of—

Fernando: It’s a lot.  Most of Europe qualifies.  England, Spain, France, Italy; all those countries qualify.  Canada and Mexico qualify.

Eric: Those are the big three that are investing in the United States.  It’s the UK, Canada, and Germany.

Fernando: Columbia, Australia; they are all over the world.  So, for somebody like that who is interested in doing something like that, just basically contacting someone like me and saying, I’m from such-and-such country, is there a qualifying treaty?  And we can tell them right away, yes there is.

So, assuming there’s a qualifying treaty, the next thing—and this is the thing that’s really important—is that when you’re dealing with the E-2, there is no minimum investment required.

Eric: A big difference from the E-5, which is a million dollars to $500,000.

Fernando: Huge difference.

Eric: I mean, really, no minimum amount.

Fernando: Exactly.  And if the investment is packaged correctly, for example, I’ve had investments qualify with an investment of $7000.  Now, that’s rare and there were a lot of other factors involved, but the point that someone needs to take away from this conversation is, don’t think that you have to have a certain sum of money ready to invest to be able to qualify for the E-2.  That’s the biggest difference between the E-2 and the EB-5.

The second thing is that with the Treaty Investor category, there is no requirement that you have employees.  If the investment in the United States, is able to generate enough income to support the investor and their family, there is no requirement to have employees.

Eric: Wow.  That’s another big difference.

Fernando: Huge difference.  Let’s just use a real example.  Let’s say that you have a British family that comes over here and buys a strip center.  It’s a commercial investment because their job is that they are renting this.  That clearly qualifies for E-2 treatment.

Now, the only “employees” they may have may be independent contractors.  Maybe they hire a company to mow the lawn to keep up the landscaping and somebody else to do repairs every now and then, but they don’t really have to have any internal employees that they, themselves, are supervising.  That’s perfectly fine.  As long as that investment generates enough money to support that family in the United States, then they are good to go.

Now, when somebody comes here in E-2, the spouse can get permission to work in the United States and the children are automatically authorized to go to school.  The children don’t have to qualify for a separate student visa, the wife doesn’t have to qualify for some separate type—it’s automatic.  Obviously there is a paper process, but it’s not going to be denied.

Eric: So let’s talk a little bit about the types of investments you can do.  If I wanted to buy a residential property down the street, am I able to do that?

Fernando: Well, yes, you can do that.  There’s nothing stopping you.  This is nothing to do with investments per say, but this is something that’s also misunderstood, and unfortunately it’s also misunderstood by immigration sometimes.

If somebody is here as a visitor, which is a B1, B2—or for a lot of Brits and people from European countries, they can come in under the Visa Waiver Program, which allows them to be here for 90 days without a visa.  Persons like that, it’s perfectly legal for them to buy a residence in the United States.  They don’t need any special permit, they don’t need to change their classification to buy that residence.

So if they want to come here and, for example, buy a vacation home, and they want to rent it out for part of the year and come back and live in it part of the year, that’s perfectly fine.  They don’t need a special category for that.  On the other hand, if they want to really use this as an investment that will allow them to live in the United States on a longer term, then simply buying a residence won’t do it.

Eric: Essentially, we talked about four options for them today.  So why don’t you go ahead and quickly summarize for our audience what those four options that we discussed—actually there are a lot of different options, but why don’t we talk about those four that we discussed, again, just to summarize things for our viewers.

Fernando: In the area of investment, and particularly in investment that’s real estate related, the four options are these:

The Treaty Investor category, which, as I mentioned before, is available to nationals of countries with which we have a qualifying treaty, requires no minimum investment amount, does not require any number of employees, and does not require the day-to-day management of the investor.

Then we have the EB-5 category in it’s purest sense, which does require a million dollar investment and does require the creation of jobs for 10 US workers.  When it is a million dollar investment, it does require the active management of the investor, it does result in a green card, and it’s available to people from any country in the world.  There is no qualifying treaty that precedes that.

A subset of the EB-5 is investment in a regional center.  The similarities are that it’s available to anyone and it still results in a green card, but if you’re investing in a regional center, the investment amount is $500,000, you do not have to create any jobs, and you’re not going to be actively involved in operation of the business.

The last area that we talked about is if somebody just wants to come here and buy a vacation home that they are going to use three to six months out of the year, even if they are going to rent it the rest of the time or just leave it closed the rest of the time.  It’s perfectly legal for someone to do that while they’re in the United States and simply a visitor for business or pleasure status, which can be someone who enters with a natural B1 or B2 visa, or somebody who enters under the Visa Waiver Program without a visa.

Eric: Perfect.  So that summarizes, essentially, the four options that we have   for real estate investors to get involved in the United States.  Certainly, Fernando, as an attorney, has a considerable amount of experience in this area.  We’re very thankful he was able to join us today.  So Fernando, again, I appreciate your time, and hopefully our viewers got something out of it.  I’m sure they did.

Fernando: My Pleasure Eric.

Eric: Maybe it will help some people in the future.  Thank you very much.

Fernando: Thank you.

Eric: All right, take care.  Bye-bye.

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Phillipe January 20th, 2010 at 12:52 / #1 / Reply / Quote

Thanks so much for this interview. While I really would have appreciated Mr.Perez’s views on a possible lowering of the dollar figure needed to satisfy the requirements of the eb5 visa program, I appreciate his comments on the assorted visas. I had no idea an investment anywhere near 7,000 could secure the EB-2. Good to know.

Mary Odum January 21st, 2010 at 10:48 / #2 / Reply / Quote

This is excellent information for folks who may not understand the complex visa requirements in order to open a business or need assistance when purchasing real estate in Florida and the USA. Thank you.

sivanadipatham March 3rd, 2010 at 19:46 / #3 / Reply / Quote

Sir, I am in Florida under L1 visa . As I already have a business here for the last 6 years with 10 local workers . I also had invested in real estate . Can I qualify for the E5 visa?

Fernando Perez March 4th, 2010 at 11:06 / #4 / Reply / Quote

Dear Sir:

In response to your questionn about qualifying for residency (green card) under the EB-5 program through your current US business with 10 employees, to qualify you would have to show that you have invested at least one million dollars into the business. The key word here is invested. Even if the business is worth more than a million dollars this would not be enough. My question to you is why you haven’t applied for residency as a multinatonal executive based on your L-1A structure? You will need to do something soon because, as you probably know, you can only use the L-1A for seven years and according to your comment you have already been here six.

Fernando Perez March 4th, 2010 at 11:18 / #5 / Reply / Quote

Dear Phillipe-

What specific questions do you have regarding the EB-5 program? There are only two investment options with the EB-5. One eaither makes a one million dollar investment or one makes a five hundred thousand dollar investment in a Regional Center. If you really meant to ask about lowering the investment amounts on an E-2 Treaty Investor investment, the amount that must be invested is determined by the type of investment. For more details about this visit my web site at http://www.easyvisas.net.

Terrence May 10th, 2010 at 15:45 / #6 / Reply / Quote

I had thought the program was going to see some changes as well. I heard they were going to reduce the minimum investment, and change some of the job requirements. I think, however, those changes have been implemented into the Startup Visa, which will officially be known as the Eb6 visa.

Daniel July 12th, 2011 at 17:50 / #7 / Reply / Quote

Is it possible to apply for a green card while having the E-2 visa?

Fernando Perez July 13th, 2011 at 13:59 / #8 / Reply / Quote

Hello, Daniel. As long as a person is eligibe, there is no problem with applying for a green card while in E-2 status. If I can help you with either of those please get in touch.

George Parvis Vafa August 11th, 2011 at 07:46 / #9 / Reply / Quote

Dear sir i am living in France though i grew up and graduatate from Warwick high school Virginia i have been in France for some time but now want to go back to the usa to live and buy property .Would i be entitled to a visa to live back in the Usa best regards George vafa

Dee August 14th, 2011 at 17:14 / #10 / Reply / Quote

Mr Fernando Perez,
I am a non-European, Canadian or an Australian who requires visa even for one day stay in US. I am planning to invest around $100,000 initially in realestate in Florida and possibly more later depending on how things work out. I had no idea that one needs certain types of visa to invest in US. My son is an American citizen over 21 years but I am not. What visa category do I fall into?

Halima August 20th, 2011 at 19:39 / #11 / Reply / Quote

Dear Sir,
Thanks for the valuable information.
My son age 31 years and I are Canadians and plan to buy a property in Texas during the next three months.The value of the short listed property is between 200 to 240K. When do we apply for the E-2 Visa? Is it before buying the property or after? We would appreciate your advice greatly.
Thanking you in advance. Halima

john August 21st, 2011 at 05:23 / #12 / Reply / Quote

john :
I am a Japanese National and planning to invest around $100,000 initially in real estate in Florida or New York Or any other state and possibly invest more later depending on how things work out. I had no idea that one needs certain types of visa to invest and stay in US. My son is also Japanese citizen over 18 years and also would like to live and study in usa anyhow we would like to move in usa with my family (with son and wife) please advice What visa category do I apply
When do we apply for visa before move USA or should move their and apply their ? Is it before buying the property or after? We would appreciate your advice greatly.
Thanking you in advance.john

Fernando Perez August 21st, 2011 at 08:30 / #13 / Reply / Quote

@George Parvis Vafa
You would have to qualify for some type of visa. Because of your degree, if you found a US employer who offered you a position that required your degree you could qualify for an H1B work visa. As a French national, you could also qualify for a Treaty Investor (E2) Visa – the visa featured in the interview you saw.

Fernando Perez August 21st, 2011 at 08:33 / #14 / Reply / Quote

Hello, Dee. You do not mention your nationality, so you may be eligible for an E2 visa depending on that nationality and the nature of your intended investment. If you wanted to move to the US permanently, your 21 year old US ctizen son could sponsor you.

Fernando Perez August 21st, 2011 at 08:39 / #15 / Reply / Quote

Hello, Halima. The first thing you need to realize is that if you are buying a home, especially if you are going to live in it, the purchase will not entitle you to an E2 Visa. For the E2 the amount you invest is only part of the requirement. Thee are limits on financing and the investment must be able to generate annual income for you that is more than what you ned to live in the US. You also need to make th einvestment before you can apply for the E2. My advice is that you visit my web site, http://www.easvisas.net, and read the information on E2 Visas before you do anything else. If, after reading this informaiton you still think your proposed investment will qualify for an E2 please get in touch and I can help you with the process.

Arun Kumar Pandey October 19th, 2011 at 16:00 / #16 / Reply / Quote

I am a 68 years old perfectly healthy and active man from New Delhi,India.I posses a 10 years multiple entry visa for USA.My many somrewhat distant relativs are also living in USA on varrious kinds of visas.
I have earned enough to sustain my life style in any part of the world;but I do notwant to lock my liquid assets in any particular country for over 5 years.
Please sdvice me:-
1-Can I purchase a vaccation home for living there for a few months?
2-What will be the expected price today for a 2 room appartment in Florida or near Sanfrancisco?I do not need to work and want to have a peaceful but active life.
3:-What will be the normal minimum money requirement for a simple vegiterian man?

Akhtar Aliman November 18th, 2011 at 05:43 / #17 / Reply / Quote

Dear Sir,

I am Pakistani residing national, doing my own business in sports goods industry for last 21 years. i have vast experience in import, wholesale, and retail in sports goods category. my question is, i can invest upto usd$250,000 in any business, franchise, commercial or real estate business in US and wants to get green card for myself and my family. my family consist of wife and three sons, ages, 20, 16, & 6 respectively. I am looking for an experience immigration attorney who can handle my case and also advice me minimum investment. can you help me on this.


Eric in Tampa February 11th, 2012 at 15:21 / #18 / Reply / Quote

Here is the continuation of our series with Fernando Perez…

Visas for Restaurants

mari May 16th, 2012 at 13:14 / #19 / Reply / Quote

I want to come to us i am in process green card through my family it takes 2 or 3years but i want to come sooner how can i apply through E2 visa pls guide me

Eric Odum May 18th, 2012 at 11:57 / #20 / Reply / Quote

Thank You for checking in with us, Mari. Mr Perez can help you with this. http://www.easyvisas.net/ 813.254.VISA (8472)

Eric October 4th, 2012 at 19:29 / #21 / Reply / Quote

Make sure you watch our other videos on investment visas


E2 for Restaurants

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  2. December 28th, 2009 at 23:09 | #2
  3. October 23rd, 2011 at 13:10 | #3
  4. December 30th, 2011 at 09:27 | #4
  5. November 23rd, 2012 at 22:41 | #5

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