It’s the closest major ski resort to New York and Boston. It’s well-established, and has been operating for over half a century. It boasts an elaborate snowmaking system, and popular terrain parks for snowboarders and skiers. But while Mount Snow, located in southern Vermont, has much to offer winter vacationers, the resort has been waiting more than two years for the federal government to approve EB-5, or foreign investor, funding to complete some updates, which include a new ski lodge and snowmaking upgrades. Now at least one of the resort’s EB-5 investors is locked in a battle with the government over what he calls a “continuing and inexcusable delay.”
EB-5 funding background
The EB-5 visa program guarantees permanent, legal residency to qualifying foreigners who make a monetary investment of at least a million dollars in a commercial enterprise; in addition to this monetary requirement, the investment must yield at least ten full-time, domestic jobs. In some circumstances, the minimum million dollar investment is lowered to $500,000 — in cases where the project is located in a Targeted Employment Area, or one that is rural or suffers from high unemployment. Mount Snow, for example, is situated in a TEA, so EB-5 applicants choosing to invest in this project are required to meet only that lower threshold.
Mount Snow investor versus the federal government
While Mount Snow has concrete plans for upgrades to its snowmaking and lodge facilities, as well as a committed pools of investors, the federal government is holding $52 million intended for the resort’s Carinthia LP project in escrow. Mexican citizen Mario Kahn, who invested half a million dollars into the EB-5 project at Mount Snow and submitted an I-526 visa petition to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2014, is now suing the government… and says the delay could force him to leave the country.
Kahn is a Florida resident who says he is an “experienced businessman,” and owns and manages an extreme-sports company called XTreme Planet S.A. He and his wife came to the country in 2007 on an E-1 visa, and have had two children since that time. Kahn’s lawsuit says he sought “to continue to develop business and trade here,” and decided to become an EB-5 investor — and if approved, a permanent resident of the United States.
In addition to the I-526 visa petition and $500,000 investment, Kahn alleges he also submitted sufficient documentation to prove to USCIS that the program satisfies mandatory job creation requirements. His suit says, “The new commercial enterprise (and one additional limited partnership) would create more than 1,200 jobs throughout the U.S. economy based on an investment of $500,000 each from 104 individual investors in addition to capital provided by the owners of Mount Snow.” But two years later, Kahn is still waiting for approval, a delay he calls “unreasonable.”
The reason for the holdup is unclear. Despite inquiries from Kahn’s attorney and Florida Senator Bill Nelson (D), USCIS has yet to provide a concrete explanation. Mount Snow officials have cited a backlog in the EB-5 program as a potential reason, one backed up by statistics that show more than 20,000 I-526 visa petitions are pending.
State and federal officials earlier this year announced a wide-scale fraud scheme at EB-5 funded resorts in Northern Vermont; Mount Snow though had no connection to that incident.
In the meantime, investors like Kahn continue to wait for word from the government, and the improvements at Mount Snow have slowed. Kahn says the situation has been a source of “significant uncertainty … which has caused him to forego attractive investment opportunities that could create U.S. jobs.” And if his visa isn’t approved soon, he fears he and his family may be forced to leave the country.
How an immigration attorney can help
While many EB-5 visa holders have been approved successfully for the program, it’s advised that applicants use an experienced immigration attorney who can guide interested parties through a process that involves finding a suitable project, and gathering and submitting documentation that proves the individual and the project meet USCIS requirements. Failure to submit the correct materials could result in denial or delay of the EB-5 visa.
For more information
To learn more about U.S. visas and the immigration process, and to take advantage of our array of immigration services, please contact KPPB Law at (703) 594-4040 or send us a message online to request a consultation.