【兆龙原创翻译】对于以未成年人子女作为EB-5主申请人的可能选择和建议流程

2016-07-01 美国投资移民EB5经验谈




Suggested Procedures and Possible Options for Accepting Minors as Investors in EB-5 Investment Funds

对于以未成年人子女作为EB-5主申请人的可能选择和建议流程

 

The delay in processing EB-5 immigrant visas caused by the increasing waiting line commonly referred to as “retrogression” is causing an increase in demand by parents in China to have their minor children named as the primary applicant on I-526 petitions.

随着申请人数的日益增多,EB-5移民签证申请的审理进度发生延期,从而形成了通常所称的“排期”现象,这使得越来越多的中国父母选择以其未成年子女作为I-526主申请人。

 

With estimated delays of five to six years for the processing of EB-5 immigrant visas or green cards for applicants subject to the Peoples Republic of China (“PRC”) quota, many parents are concerned their children will “age out” by reaching the age of 21 before their final green card interviews are scheduled. As a result, the children may be ineligible to immigrate as derivative beneficiaries and may be unable to join their parents and younger siblings when immigrating. Since many PRC parents are primarily motivated to obtain green cards under the EB-5 Program for the benefit of their children, these parents are requesting EB-5 investment funds to accept their minor children as investors, so that the child can file the I-526 petition as the principal applicant.

中国大陆的申请人预计将面临长达五至六年的EB-5移民签证或绿卡申请审理排期,因此很多中国父母都十分担心其子女在最终获得绿卡面试机会之前就已经处于21周岁的“超龄”状态,这意味着其子女可能无法以衍生受益人的身份移民美国,且无法随同父母以及年幼的兄妹一起移民。由于大多数中国父母主要是为了自己的子女考虑才选择通过EB-5计划获得绿卡,所以这些父母希望EB-5基金公司能够允许以其未成年子女作为投资人,从而使其子女具备成为I-526主申请人的资格。

 

Acceptance of minors as investors in EB-5 investment funds poses risks to EB-5 investment funds, escrow banks and EB-5 investors under U.S. laws.

接纳未成年人作为EB-5项目投资人将会在美国法律框架下对EB-5基金公司,监管银行以及EB-5投资人构成风险。

 

Under the laws of every state in the United States, minors under the age specified in that state’s law, normally persons under 18 or 21 years of age, are not legally competent to sign certain contracts, and many states provide that such contracts are voidable by the minor. Under these state laws, an investor who signed a subscription agreement who was not of legal age to enter into a contract would have the right to void the subscription agreement, and to make a claim against the EB-5 investment fund to return the investment funds to the investor. This may be done usually when the child reaches the age of majority. For this reason, EB-5 investment funds typically require that each EB-5 investor represent in their subscription agreement that the investor is of the required age to legally sign a contract. Some escrow banks believe they also could be subject to claims if a minor investor voids their subscription agreement and demands their investment funds be returned to them, and for this reason, these escrow banks will not accept subscription funds from investors who are minors. In addition, EB-5 investors who are minors may face a risk of denial of their I-526 petitions, although to the best of our knowledge no EB-5 investor has been denied approval of their I-526 petition solely on the grounds that the investor is not of legal age to sign a contract.

美国各州的法律都有相关规定,对于低于某一特定年龄的未成年人,通常如18周岁或21周岁,不具备签署合同的法律行为能力,而且很多州都将此类由未成年人签署的合同视为无效。根据这些法律规定,未达到法定年龄的投资人有权将其所签署的认购协议主张为无效并要求EB-5基金公司退还投资款。通常这些未成年人可以在成年后主张实现前述权利。因此,EB-5基金公司会特别要求每位投资人在所签署的认购协议中做出其已达到签署协议的法定年龄的相关陈述。一些监管银行认为他们也面临着由于签署认购协议的是未成年人从而导致投资人主张协议无效并要求退还投资款的问题,因此监管银行也不会接受未达到法定成年年龄的投资人。此外,未成年人作为EB-5项目投资人可能会面临I-526申请遭拒的风险,尽管根据我们所了解的情况,目前还没有因为投资人未达到签署合同的法定年龄而导致I-526申请遭拒的案例。

 

There are immigration issues, including the ability of a minor to fulfill management responsibilities to the extent required, and whether the investment funds of a minor investor are irrevocably committed to the EB-5 investment fund, that have not yet been considered by USCIS, because until now there has been no need to have the derivative child file as the principal applicant. On the positive side, USCIS allows only “children age 13 or younger” to file a Form I-485 Application to Register for Permanent Residence or Adjust Status paying the reduced fee for children, while persons aged 14 and over must file the full adult fee for the Form I-485 application. In addition, USCIS has accepted minor children as principal applicants in other Employment Based (EB) categories such as for EB-1A extraordinary ability aliens.

美国移民局目前还有一些尚未列入考虑的移民问题,包括未成年投资人还是否有能力承担起所要求的管理责任,以及其资金是否能够不可撤销地投入EB-5基金公司中,因为截至目前还没有由随同未成年子女作为主申请人的必要。从积极的方面来看,美国移民局允许13周岁或低于13周岁的儿童以更低的申请费递交I-485永久居留登记或身份调整申请,而14周岁及14周岁以上的申请人则必须根据以成人价格全额支付I-485申请费。此外,美国移民局接受以未成年人作为其它职业类移民申请的主申请人,如EB-1A的杰出人才移民计划。


Chinese law may allow minors to legally sign subscription agreements with EB-5 investment funds with the consent and co-signature of their parents.

中国法律可能允许未成年人在其父母同意并同时签名的前提下与EB-5基金公司合法签署认购协议。

 

The General Principles of the Civil Law of the Peoples Republic of China provide that: (i) a citizen aged 18 or over has the full capacity for civil conduct; (ii) a citizen aged 16 until the age of 18 whose main source of income is his own labour also has the full capacity for civil conduct; (iii) a minor aged 10 or over has limited capacity for civil conduct and may engage in some civil activities appropriate to his age and intellect, and in other civil activities must be represented by his agent ad litem or participate with the consent of his agent ad litem; and (iv) a minor under the age of 10 has no capacity for civil conduct and must be represented in civil activities by his agent ad litem. The General Principles also provide that the parents (or other designated persons if the parents are not living or competent) of a minor shall be his guardians, and that the guardian of a person without or with limited capacity for civil conduct shall be his agent ad litem. According to these General Principles, it appears that a parent (or other legal guardian) may represent the child in civil activities, including the execution of contracts.

中华人民共和国《民法通则》规定:(i)18周岁或18周岁以上公民具有完全民事行为能力;(ii)年龄在16周岁到18周岁的公民,其主要的收入来源是自己的劳动力也具有完全民事行为能力;(iii)10周岁或10周岁以上的未成年人为限制民事行为能力人,可以从事适合其年龄和智力的民事活动,参与其他民事活动由其法定代理人代理,或者征得其法定代理人的同意;(iv)10周岁以下的未成年人没有民事行为能力,必须由其法定代理人代理民事活动。《民法通则》还规定父母(或因父母死亡或无法胜任法定代理人职责而指定的其他人员)是未成年人的监护人,且无民事行为能力人、限制民事行为能力人的监护人应该是其法定代理人。根据这些规定,父亲或母亲(或其他法定监护人)可以在民事活动中代理孩子行使权力,包括合同的签署。

 

EB-5 investment funds may select PRC law as the governing law for purposes of execution of a subscription agreement and other legal documents required for an EB-5 investment, to permit the parent or legal guardian to co-sign the documents on behalf of a minor investor.

EB-5基金公司可能选择中华人民共和国法律作为适用法律,从而允许父母或法定监护人代表未成年投资人共同签署EB-5投资所要求的认购协议和其它所需法律文件。

 

EB-5 investment funds which desire to accept minor investors who are citizens of the PRC may wish to specify PRC law as the governing law for purposes of determining the capacity of the minor to legally enter into a subscription agreement and other agreements required for an EB-5 investment. In that case, the EB-5 investment funds would provide for the subscription agreement and other agreements to be signed by both the minor investor and the parent of the minor investor. The parent of the minor investor should also sign an attestation representing that the signer is the parent of the minor investor, the parent and the minor investor are citizens of the PRC, the parent has reviewed and approved the EB-5 investment on behalf of the minor investor, and the parent has provided the funds used to make the EB-5 investment. Courts in the United States will generally accept the choice of law specified by the parties to a contract, unless the law specified has no connection with the parties to the contract or there is a strong public policy of the state that would be violated by the choice of law. It is possible that, upon a legal challenge, a state court could hold that a choice of PRC law in a contract will not be accepted by the court, but if the parent and the minor are citizens and residents of the PRC, the primary purpose of the contract is to allow the minor to qualify for a United States immigrant visa, and the parent has reviewed and approved the investment and provided the funds for the investment, there would appear to be sufficient reasons for a court to accept the choice of PRC law for the purpose of recognizing the validity of the choice of law in the subscription agreement.

希望接受未成年中国大陆公民投资的EB-5基金公司可能会希望将中国大陆法律作为适用法律,从而据此判定未成年投资人能够合法有效地签署EB-5投资所需的认购协议和其他协议文件。在这种情况下,EB-5基金公司会要求未成年投资人及其父母一方共同签署认购协议和其他协议文件。未成年投资人的父母一方还需签署一份宣誓文件,以保证签署人是未成年投资人的父亲或母亲,保证未成年投资人及其父亲或母亲均为中国大陆公民,并且其父亲或母亲已经代表未成年投资人对EB-5投资项目进行审阅和认可,同时其父亲或母亲已经提供EB-5投资所需资金。美国法院通常会接受合同当事人选择的适用法律,除非所选的适用法律与合同当事人没有关联,或所选的适用法律与该州任何强力推行的公共政策相违背。虽然某些州立法院有可能会质疑并选择不接受中国大陆法律对于合同方面的适用规定,但如果未成年投资人与其父亲或母亲都是中国大陆公民并居住在中国大陆,合同签订的首要目的是使未成年人具有美国移民签证的申请资格,且其父亲或母亲已审阅和认可投资项目并提供了投资资金,那么这些理由应该已经足以使美国法院接受为签署认购协议而选择将中国大陆法律作为适用法律的有效性。

 

EB-5 investment funds could alternatively consider allowing parents to make a gift to a minor investor under the Uniform Gifts or Transfers to Minors Act that applies under state laws of the United States.

EB-5基金公司还可以考虑根据美国各州法律规定施行的《向未成年人赠与或转移财产统一法案》,允许父母向未成年投资人做出赠与行为。

 

If EB-5 investment funds do not wish to rely on PRC law to accept minor investors, another possible option might be to use the Uniform Gifts or Transfers to Minors Act that is in effect in the state where the EB-5 investment fund is located, and select that state’s choice of law for purposes of execution of the subscription agreement. A similar version of this Act has been adopted in every state within the United States. This Act allows any person to make a legal gift of any form of property or cash to a minor, without the adoption of a formal trust agreement. The Act provides that the person making the gift, who is normally the custodian of the property that is gifted to the minor, will control the property until the minor reaches the age of majority, which is normally either the age of 18 or 21, at which age the minor automatically becomes the control person of the property. The only requirement for the gift is that the instrument that confers the gift contain the appropriate language specified by the applicable state Act, which is normally stated as “[Name of Custodian”] as custodian for [Name of the Minor] under the [Name of State] Uniform Gifts [or Transfers] to Minors Act.” There may be some reluctance to use this alternative because the name on the Subscription Agreement will be both that of the Custodian and the Minor, and this may create a greater risk of denial of the I-526 petition. To our knowledge, no reported I-526 immigrant petition has been filed using the Uniform Gifts or Transfers to Minors Act, but this may be due to the fact that the age out issue did not become a serious concern until the retrogression policy was announced commencing in May 2015. It would be difficult to use both this method and the PRC law method of subscribing for an EB-5 investment, because each method would require a different choice of law and a different method of signing the subscription agreement.

如果EB-5基金公司不希望依赖中国大陆法律接受未成年人投资者,那么另一个可能的选择就是利用EB-5基金公司所在州施行的《向未成年人赠与或转移财产统一法案》,从而通过该州的适用法律选择规定实现未成年人对于认购协议的签署。类似于该法案的其它版本已经在美国各州得到施行。该法案允许任何人在不签署正式信托协议的前提下向未成年人合法赠与任何形式的财产或现金。根据该法案的规定,通常作为财产保管人的赠与人将在未成年人达到法定年龄,即18周岁或21周岁前,拥有对赠与财产的控制权,而未成年人达到法定成年年龄后将自动获得财产控制权。这种赠与的唯一要求就是赠与财产的法律文件必须包含适用州法律规定的适当措词,通常如:根据《【州名称】向未成年人赠与【或转移】财产统一法案》,由【监护人姓名】作为【未成年人姓名】的监护人。但EB-5基金公司可能不太情愿使用这种方法,因为认购协议中将同时包含监护人和未成年人的姓名,这可能带来I-526申请遭拒的更大风险。据我们了解,目前还没有利用该法案进行I-526申请的先例,但这可能是由于在2015年5月排期开始前超龄问题尚未成为一个令人极其关注的问题。同时利用该法案和中国大陆法律实现EB-5投资项目认购将很困难,因为两种方法涉及不同的适用法律选择规定和不同的认购协议签订方式。

 

EB-5 investment funds may need to accept minor investor subscription funds outside of escrow unless the escrow bank approves the acceptance of minor investors.

EB-5基金公司可能不得不接受未成年投资者的认购资金不受第三方监管的情形,除非监管银行认可接受未成年人投资者。

 

EB-5 investments funds should discuss the procedures for acceptance of minor investors with their escrow banks and administrators to determine if the escrow bank will accept those subscriptions. If the escrow bank will not accept those subscriptions, the escrow bank may be willing to allow the EB-5 investment fund to accept subscription funds from minor investors outside of escrow, subject to some conditions, such that those investors will not receive any repayment from the escrow holdback account if the investor’s I-526 petition is denied. In that case, the EB-5 investment fund will need to prepare a separate agreement with the minor investor and his or her parent, under which they agree to waive the deposit of their funds in the escrow account, and waive any other benefits that would apply if their funds were held in the escrow account.

EB-5基金公司应与监管银行及相关管理人员探讨有关接受未成年投资者的具体流程,以确定监管银行是否会接受未成年投资人所作的认购。如果监管银行不接受未成年投资人的认购,那么在某些条件得到满足的前提下,监管银行可能愿意允许EB-5基金公司在没有第三方监管的情况下接受未成年投资人的认购,前文所述的某些条件包括投资人在I-526申请遭拒的情况下不会收到来自监管资金保管账户的任何还款。这种情况下,EB-5基金公司将需要与未成年投资人及其父母另行签署一份单独协议,以明确未成年投资人及其父母同意放弃在监管账户中进行存款,以及在其资金存于监管账户的情况下可能获取的其他任何利益。

 

These suggested procedures are new and untested, and as such there are risks that they may not work as intended.

这些新提出的建议流程尚未经过试验,因此很有可能无法达到预期目标。

 

Since the Chinese quota or waiting line only emerged in May 2015 as a result of a surge in demand from Chinese applicants, who still represent over 80% of EB-5 investors, this area is evolving. As is the case with respect to many other issues in EB-5 investing, there are uncertainties as to whether these procedures will be accepted by USCIS, or by courts in the event of a dispute. The USCIS has indicated they are preparing regulations which hopefully will address this issue. Until such regulations are adopted, there are risks to EB-5 investment funds and to parents and minors who seek to use these procedures as a means of making an EB-5 investment and applying for a visa under the EB-5 program. The alternative is for EB-5 investment funds to accept only those investors who can legally enter into contracts under the governing law of the applicable state, but in that case the parent and the minor will retain the risk that the minor will age out before the parent is able to obtain the visa. This problem could be better solved if Congress amends the Child Status Protection Act [8 U.S.C. 1153(h)] to freeze the child’s age as of the date of filing, rather than merely allowing the child to deduct the time the petition was pending from their actual age. With the September 2016 sunset of the EB-5 regional center program, Congress has a perfect opportunity to amend the law to protect children from aging out.

由于中国大陆申请人数的激增,针对中国大陆的配额限制和排期问题于2015年5月出现,但中国投资者仍占EB-5投资总人数的80%以上,因而演变产生了上文提及的建议流程和方法。如同EB-5投资中的许多其他问题一样,我们无法确定美国移民局是否会接受这些建议流程或在发生争议的情况下得到法院受理。美国移民局已经表示他们正在制定相关法规以解决这一问题。在该等法规出台之前,EB-5基金公司和寻求通过这些建议流程进行EB-5投资和EB-5签证申请的父母和未成年投资人都面临着相当风险。对于EB-5基金公司而言,他们或许可以根据所在州的适用法律选择只接受达到法定签署合同年龄的投资人,但这种情况下父母和其未成年子女仍然面临着未成年子女在父母获得签证之前就已经超龄的风险。如果美国国会同意修改《儿童身份保护法案》【《美国法典》第8章1153(h)款】,将子女的年龄在申请当日锁定,而不是仅仅允许将子女的实际年龄扣除等待申请处理所需的时长,那么这一问题就可以得到更好的解决。在2016年9月EB-5区域中心计划即将到期之际,美国国会将获得通过修改法案解决超龄问题的绝佳机会。

 

Conclusion

结语

 

While it is possible that USCIS may establish a bright line cut-off age for principal EB-5 immigrant visa applicants, it is likely that each case will be evaluated on a case by case basis providing an opportunity for EB-5 investment funds and their counsel to structure a framework that complies with state and federal law. Presently it appears unlikely that it would be necessary to file with a primary applicant “age 13 or younger” as these children are likely to be derivatively eligible for immigration benefits. Since USCIS has articulated age 14 as a cut-off age for payment of the children’s filing fee when applying to Register for Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, it would make sense to establish a transparent bright line test that investors can use when making the commitment of funds in order to obtain a green card.

虽然美国移民局可能会为EB-5主申请人设定明确的年龄界限,但每例申请个案都会根据其实际情况被予以评估,这就为EB-5基金公司及其律师提供了一个建立符合州和联邦法律的框架方案的机会。从现阶段来看,由13周岁或低于13周岁的儿童作为主申请人进行移民申请是不必要的,因为这些儿童可以作为衍生受益人享受移民利益。既然美国移民局已经明确将14周岁作为全额支付I-485永久居留登记或身份调整申请费的年龄界限,那么为希望通过资金投资获得绿卡的投资人设定一条清晰的年龄界限也应在情理之中。




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