EB5 Investors Magazine "Top 25 Awards Edition" Volume 8 Issue 1 | Page 65

WINNERS LISTED ALPHABETICALLY ROBERT BLANCO TOP EB-5 INDUSTRY RISING STARS RISING STARS EB5 INVESTORS MAGAZINE R obert Blanco is a senior associate at Darren Silver & Associates and specializes in business and employment immigration cases. He prepares cases for individual investors and advises U.S. businesses on how to structure EB-5 investment projects. Robert also prepares both immigrant and non- immigrant petitions for skilled workers, executives, high-net- worth investors, and people of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, and business. His experience enables him to develop creative solutions for clients with complex immigration cases. Robert has served in various liaison roles for AILA and is invited to speak on immigration panels at conferences around the world. WHY DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE EB-5 INDUSTRY? WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE? EB-5 is an extra tool in my immigration toolbox for clients who otherwise would have a longer and more uncertain immigration journey. For some, it is the only viable option. I have successfully used EB-5 in many situations. For example, students have gained permanent resident status before graduation, avoiding the H-1B lottery. Long-time nonimmigrant workers have bypassed lengthy backlogs in other immigrant categories. And retirees have followed their children and grandchildren to the U.S. without needing employer sponsorship. EB-5 continues to be a creative solution for my clients when other options are inadequate. HOW DO YOU THINK THE PANDEMIC HAS IMPACTED THE EB-5 INDUSTRY? As an immigration attorney, the most noticeable impact of the pandemic has been the delays in government processing at USCIS and consular posts worldwide. Although the EB-5 category was specifically excluded from the presidential proclamation banning immigrant visas, consular closures worldwide made the EB-5 exclusion largely irrelevant. However, the pandemic did result in a substantial increase in employment- based visa numbers for FY 2021, significantly increasing the available EB-5 visas. As vaccinations increase and government resources return to full capacity, I am optimistic that the EB-5 industry will greatly benefit from the additional visas and will soon return to pre-COVID operations. PHUONG LE RISING STARS EB5 INVESTORS MAGAZINE P huong Le has extensive experience representing parties on all sides of EB-5 deals for over 14 years, including regional centers, project developers, agents, and investors. His clients span the entire EB-5 industry and previously he was in-house counsel for a regional center with over half a billion in EB-5 funds under management and since then has successfully advised on over $2 billion in EB-5 deals across the U.S., including luxury hotels, mixed-use and multifamily, charter schools, and restaurant franchises. He has successfully advised on over a thousand EB-5 petitions, including hundreds of families from China, Vietnam, India, and Latin America. WHY DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE EB-5 INDUSTRY? WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE? As the child of Vietnamese refugees, never in a million years did my parents ever think I'd return to Asia and Vietnam for any reason, much less several times a year to represent agents and hundreds of EB-5 investors. A year or two ago we were negotiating third-party sponsorships, writing expert witness reports, and getting multi-state regional centers approved. Now there's increased demand for structuring compliant EB-5 redeployment deals that preserve developer flexibility (and investor eligibility) as well as private lenders/funds to allow RCs and issuers to help investors fund their EB-5 investments and overcome currency restrictions. HOW DO YOU THINK THE PANDEMIC HAS IMPACTED THE EB-5 INDUSTRY Not only did we see the number of I-526 petitions drop worldwide, but for the first time ever, America was arguably no longer the shining destination it was in years past . However, it also gave a chance for more creative stakeholders to reassess how they'd conduct business and support their EB-5 partners worldwide. We found increasing success (and gratitude from our agents/ partners) with using webinars as both a promotional tool and a one-on-one consultation tool. I see no reason why Zoom/ Whatsapp/Wechat/Google Meet will fade away anytime soon. In addition to the big flashy seminars of the past, I see these as convenient overlays to keep deals going even as we return to our countries. EB5INVESTORS.COM 65