US Investor Visa Solutions for Foreign Dairy & Swine Farmers

It is the best kept secret in American farming: foreign investors are coming to the US to start mega farming operations in all aspects of the farming industry including dairy, swine and poultry. For instance, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan have witnessed the migration of at least 80 families to operate multimillion dollar dairy farming operations during the previous decade. Most of these families entered the US on a treaty investor “E-2” visas or Intracompany transferee “L-1” visas.

The declining dollar value has provided European farmers with stronger purchasing position in the face of a significant US recession and dwindling real estate values. European farmers come to the US armed with formal agricultural education and mastered techniques in their respective industries. No wonder European farmers are better equipped than their US counterparts as they are used to working in adverse farming conditions in their homeland dealing with more restrictive environmental, zoning, as well as quota production regulatory systems than in the US. Hence, the US offers a freer and more favorable working environment. These conditions lead foreign farming investors to cause a recent spike in applications for treaty investor (E-2 visa), alien entrepreneur (EB-5) as well as Intracompany transfer (L-1) visas for farming investors.

The Dairy & Swine Farming Experience

About 80 European families entered the US within the last 10 years to operate multi-million dollar farming operations in the midwest alone. These farmers moved to Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. The typical dairy farm operation included 1500 to 3000 dairy heifers with a value between 5 to 12 million US dollars. In many instances entire families moved in to the US, including parents, grown children wives and girlfriends. Our law firm has applied innovative ideas to bring an entire family into the US to operate such farms. Most families initially entered the US on treaty investor visas (E-2) visas. In order to bring in their grown children and their wives, our law firm had to spilt their operation into several pieces (real estate, crops & feed operations, etc.) in order to create separate self sufficient entities to sponsor the various family members. For instance, the parents may retain ownership over the real estate operations including farming, manure hauling and structures into a separate leasing entity, while the grown children may partner on a company that will own the inventory, equipment, feed and other components of the operation into one entity. By bifurcating the operation in this manner, we were able to bring in several extended family members under the treaty investor visa (E-2) visa vehicle.

The problem with the treaty investor visa (E-2 visa) is that it somewhat difficult to move such investors to permanent residence. The E-2 visa requires the foreign investor to maintain non-immigrant visa intent. Hence, careful planning must be undertaken when applying for permanent residence through the alien entrepreneur program. Certain alien investors are able to take advantage of the lower investment threshold ($500,000)if their farms are located in lower population area.

The Intracompany Transferee Alternative

Certain farming investors are able to take advantage of the more practical Intracompany transferee visa (L-1A). This visa scenario allows for the change from non-immigrant visa to permanent residence in a more efficient and cost effective manner. In order for this work, the US entity must be a parent/subsidiary, affiliate or joint venturer with an overseas company and the foreign investor must had worked for the overseas company for at least one year during the three years preceding his entry into the US. Most of these requirements are not difficult to meet in most instances. The more difficult requirement is that the foreign entity must continue to provide a product or service after the foreign investor’s entry to the US. In most scenarios this is not possible because the foreign investor will have liquidated the bulk of his or her foreign assets to facilitate the investment of the farming operation in the US. I cannot but stress that early planning and consultation with a competent corporate and immigration counsel can make a big difference in the success of an investment operation in the US.

The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA has represented dozens of multimillion dollar farming investors in all aspects of the farming spectrum. The lawyers of Shihab & Associates bring about innovative solutions for their clients that help them meet their objectives. Contact one of their lawyers at (800) 625-3404.