Dubai-based lawyer Shai Zamanian explains how he’s helping people migrate to the United States
The decision to leave home and live and work in another continent to fulfill his dream was not difficult for Shai Zamanian.
That’s because the legal director and founder of the American Legal Center in Dubai was keen to pursue a vision close to his heart. âIn 2012, I made the choice to immigrate far from home, to follow my passion to help families build better lives through immigration. My vision was to educate the Middle Eastern market on the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program and use my knowledge and expertise to help families begin their migration journey to America, âhe explains. .
It was not the first time that Zamanian had left the house. âMany years ago I immigrated [to America] with my parents from a war-torn country hoping for a better and more secure future. Living in the United States gave my younger brother and me the opportunity to receive a quality education and build a life that was not possible for our parents, âhe recalls.
His company, The American Legal Center, is now the perfect combination of his most ardent passions – immigration and real estate. âMy first passion – immigration – is why I am here today. My second passion – real estate – arose from my experience at Rialto Capital, the financial arm of the American real estate developer Lennar. When I finished my JD at the University of Miami, the world was going through the 2008 recession. Financial markets had collapsed with the undercapitalization of banks and the inability to secure traditional loans from banks. banks, Lennar was among the first to discuss alternative forms of financing. It was there that I discovered the American EB-5 Immigrant Investor program.
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor program was launched in 1990 to promote economic growth by injecting foreign capital into the US economy. Under the program, an investor and their eligible dependents, including the investor’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21, have the option of obtaining U.S. Green Cards and subsequent citizenship by investing 500,000 $ in a new business venture in the country. An EB-5 advisor plays a crucial role in the process, Zamanian notes, because he acts as a single point of contact between the client, the regional center in which the client would invest and the registered lawyer.
An experienced advisor also presents a number of well-researched projects to the applicant. âThe most common forms of investment that we see are either in residential complexes or in hotels across the United States. We were part of the NYC Ritz-Carlton project in New York which had around 250 investors and successfully raised $ 125 million. We have also been involved in other hotel projects in the United States, such as the SF Gateway Marriott in San Francisco, California.
However, the pandemic has changed investor appetites – especially when it comes to sectors such as hospitality, he notes.
âIn 2020, we witnessed the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the tourism industry. Global travel restrictions have reduced demand for hotel projects. During this time, we have seen an increase in the demand for residential projects, especially as people all over the world and the United States have placed more emphasis on where they live. Land of Opportunity The United States is one of the most sought after countries in the world for immigration because of its political and economic stability as well as the high standard of living it offers, Zamanian explains.
âMost people who want to settle in the United States want to create a better future for themselves and their families. Relocation to the United States provides access to the world’s best healthcare system, top-notch academic institutions and excellent career opportunities, as well as economic stability and the ability to travel and enjoy a variety of locations, in 50 different states across the country.
People across the Middle East are also opting for this program because of the ease with which they can apply under the EB-5 program, Zamanian points out. His firm, which includes a team of lawyers and licensed professionals in the United States, provides services to applicants of all nationalities. Most of its regional customers are either Indian, Pakistani, Egyptian and / or Iranian nationals, he confirms.
âThe reason the EB-5 program is more popular than other immigration programs is because it provides a fast track to getting the US Green Card, which grants US citizenship. There are other programs, such as the E-2 Investor Treaty visa, which allows an applicant to obtain a US investor visa to live and work there; however, this scheme is not permanent as it only offers a renewable visa, not a green card. In addition, investors are also interested in the EB-5 program as it does not require any professional experience or language level requirements. The only prerequisites are that the source and route of an investor’s funds must be legal.
Getting there becomes difficult
However, the program has seen its fair share of challenges. In 2017, Donald Trump, then President of the United States, signed the controversial Executive Orders 13769 and 13780 – Protect the nation against the entry of foreign terrorists into the United States, commonly known as a travel ban for Muslims, which prohibited entry of certain people because of their nationality. âAt the time, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) still processed and approved all applications for the EB-5 program, as the primary criteria was the analysis of the source of funds rather than the nationality. However, the challenge posed by banning Muslims came after USCIS approved an investor’s I-526 petition, when the case was transferred to the National Visa Center, an entirely different government agency tasked with to provide consular treatment, âZamanian explains.
The solutions that Zamanian and his team had structured for clients affected by the ban included either obtaining a second passport from Commonwealth countries; obtain an exemption from the decree-law; or apply for a student visa so that the client goes through the “adjustment of status” process rather than the consular process. Another challenge posed by the Trump administration has been to increase the minimum investment amount for the program from $ 500,000 to $ 900,000 in November 2019.
âUnderstanding that price had a huge impact on our customers – most of whom were from upper middle class families – we devised a strategy to ease their burden. We have negotiated with the regional centers to allow our candidates to invest in installments rather than having to invest the entire $ 900,000 at the same time. This has provided our clients with the necessary funds to participate in the EB-5 program. “
With the EB-5 program due to be reauthorized earlier this month, Zamanian is confident that it doesn’t need a new strategy to handle the torrent of potential apps. âOur success in the rush of June 2021 was due to the fact that we had prepared our client files well before the announcement of the price cuts on June 22 of this year.
We counsel and urge interested families to work with the right EB-5 counselors to prepare their applications for the rush ahead. We were also running seminars on an ongoing basis throughout the GCC region to disseminate this information. For those of our clients who are ready to submit a request for reauthorization, we have already prepared their files; the only step that remains is the submission upon renewal of the program.
Given the opportunities presented by the world’s largest economy, will citizenship through investment programs continue to grow? Zamanian firmly believes this.
âAs it is instinctive for families to always seek a better future for their children and improve their standard of living, immigration will always be in demand. Citizenship-by-investment programs have grown in popularity in recent years and the trend is expected to continue due to the dual benefit these programs offer to migrant families as well as to the recipient country of the investment.
Â¨ Reports from the US State Department show that the number of visas approved for the EB-5 program tripled between fiscal 2008 and 2009, from 1,443 visas in 2008 to 4,218 visas in 2009. According to the Department of Trade, approximately 16 job opportunities are created by each EB-5 investor.
Its center filed 6% of all global EB-5 petitions in June in a bid to capture a bigger slice of the candidacy pie in the future. âOur growth will come from opportunities in new and unexplored territories. We will visit these cities and educate people on how to access the United States. From another perspective, we will continue to develop alternative forms of financing products for US-based real estate developers, âZamanian emphasizes.
And what is his final vision? “Our ultimate goal is to help as many families as possible access the United States for their children and for generations to come.”