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15 January 2007

US: British investors urged to choose carefully

Britons looking to invest in the United States are being urged to be extremely cautious about who they hire to find a business in America, after dozens were caught in an alleged visa scam.

United States Police and the State Department are investigating several companies to whom British investors have lost millions of pounds and seen their hopes of emigrating to America dashed.

A BBC investigation centred on two companies that claimed they could help would-be emigrants find both a business in America and organise their visas has found more than 50 families have been affected, losing an estimated $7m.

The companies claimed to be able to help clients attain an E2 visa (Treaty Investor) for applicants who have or intend to invest in a business in America, allowing them to live and work in the US. Nearly three thousand Britons gain this visa every year.

The advice from the US in London was for Britons to be cautious about companies who claimed they could find a business in the United States and organise an E2 visa.

"Don't get the same person who is sorting out your visa to find a business for you," consul general John Caulfield told the BBC.

"If they want you to invest in their business they are not going to be realistic about the realities involved in obtaining an E2 visa."

The American Visa Bureau recommends that anyone seeking help with emigration to the United States gets assistance from a qualified immigration lawyer, preferably one who is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.