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Citizenship by Investment: a Multi-Faceted Challenge for Lawyers

Law industry has been undergoing a fascinating development lately: people’s aspiration to obtain a second citizenship by investing in a chosen country’s economic development is steadily increasing; so is the demand for legal service in this sphere. Among the most popular and well-established schemes of this kind is the US EB-5 program. It’s especially attractive for entrepreneurs from booming economies, such as China, South Korea, UAE and others, who seek to get all the benefits granted to US citizens and ensure safety and stability for themselves and their families. However, as a rapidly developing sphere that certainly doesn’t exist in isolation and is heavily affected by any changes in the legal landscape, both domestic and international, obtaining citizenship by investment offers numerous challenges to prospective investors and legal specialists representing them. In this article, we examine the four major factors that may hinder one in acquiring the desired second nationality – and how to avoid it.

1.      Vague Terms of EB-5 Program and Its Criticism

Although the program has been up and running since 1990 and statistics showed that it’s working, it is under much criticism for being quite vague in its terms. For example, the scheme of investment in regional centers has a loophole that allows investors to withdraw their capital after two years, once they and their family members have received permanent residency rights. Such instances fuel negative sentiment and demand that the program is thoroughly reviewed – and who knows what Donald Trump’s administration’s answer to this matter will be.

2.      No Mandatory Knowledge of English for Applicants

EB-5 is so popular with entrepreneurs from all over the world mainly because it doesn’t require them to have a good command of English. Hence, often they know either just some language basics or no English whatsoever, and this may lead to misinterpretation of legal terms and conditions, general misunderstanding and consequent trouble. To avoid it, a lawyer working with clients seeking citizenship by investment has to go some extra miles and keep in touch with proficient translators who would get every detail right in any language necessary.

3.      Not Enough Adequate Information on Citizenship by Investment for Wider Audiences

It’s no secret that even developed countries today face political crises and economic recession. This makes more people, not only media, finance or industry moguls, consider relocation and getting a second citizenship. The problem is, an average middle-class representative will be quite hard-pressed trying to find reliable and comprehensive sources of information on this crucial issue, or affordable law services in preparing all the paperwork. Most firms in this sphere are oriented at a notably different audience, namely uber-wealthy Arab and Chinese investors (whose interest in the EB-5 program is unabating) – and such ‘investor demographic’ bias understandably calls for totally different arrangements than would be even remotely feasible for average citizens.

4.      US Legal System Can Be an Entirely Alien Paradigm for Foreign Investors

By this, we mean not only legislature intricacies per se but also how a person from a different culture may perceive law. By and large, US citizens are quite law-abiding because they are well aware that failure to comply is fraught with swift and severe repercussions. In many other countries, especially those of Eastern Europe and Asia, laws and regulations and actual practice exist as if in different planes – so corner-cutting, as well as tax evasion and other cases of outright foul play, are part of the course, and this can be ingrained in the individual’s cultural background. Consequently, an immigrant investor’s legal assistant must ensure that every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ crossed – and brought home to the client – in every aspect of the new arrangement.

A lawyer’s trade is one of those in which one cannot be too careful. Yet even in this tricky sphere, an ambitious, knowledgeable and shrewd enough specialist will be in his element.

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