Monthly Archives

May 2017

Investor Visas – Where to Invest in Florida

By | International Law | No Comments

Investor Visas

There are several types of investor visas that international citizens can apply for in order to conduct business in the state of Florida. Two of the most common visas are the E2 Investor Visa and the EB5 Employment Creator Visa. These visas allow foreign investors, their spouses, and any unmarried children under 21 to take up residence in the state of Florida.

In order to qualify for the E2 Investor Visa, you must be a citizen of a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. Successful applicants for the E2 Investor Visa must be willing to create and maintain a bona-fide enterprise in the state of Florida, as well as make a substantial investment in the company. This investment must be considered a “real” investment, meaning that you may be subject to partial or complete loss of your investment.

Unlike the E2 Investor Visa, the EB5 Employment Creator Visa allows you and your immediate family members to obtain green cards and permanent residency in the United States. You may apply for this visa regardless of your country’s treaty status with the United States. To obtain the E2 Investor Visa, you must invest at least $500,000 in a business located in a rural or high unemployment area, or at least $1 million if the business is not located in one of these areas.

Investing in Florida

Florida businesses are incredibly diverse, and the state’s tax environment is a large draw for both domestic and foreign investors. Additionally, Florida is very welcoming to foreign investors and corporations – total holdings by non-U.S. companies in the Sunshine State currently exceed $40 billion.

Where to invest depends largely on your strengths and business interests, as well as the Florida region that is best suited for those enterprises. For example, if you have experience in real estate you may consider that South Florida communities – especially those in the Miami area – have particularly strong real estate markets. Miami is also considered the leading center of international banking within the United States, making it a smart location to invest if you are interested in opening a stateside branch of an existing international banking corporation.  For those interested in a tech-related investment, metropolitan Orlando is emerging as a major player in this market.

Florida’s low sales tax and zero income tax make it incredibly appealing to entrepreneurs and investors in many industries. Regardless of the enterprise you invest in, you will find Florida to be a welcoming state with plenty of lucrative investment opportunities for foreign investment.

Foreign Corporations in Florida

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What is a Foreign Corporation?

A foreign corporation is any business whose initial incorporation was filed in a foreign country or in a state other than Florida. Limited Liability Companies and Partnerships can also be considered foreign corporations. Businesses with foreign corporation status must achieve Foreign Qualification in order to conduct business in the state of Florida.

Qualification for Foreign Corporations

Foreign Qualification is the process of registering a business or Limited Liability Company as a foreign entity in the state in which it would like to operate – in this case, Florida. Foreign Qualification in Florida is necessary even if a company operates entirely online, so long as your company has servers or conducts banking business in the state.

In order to formally register your corporation in Florida, you will need an original copy of your company’s articles of incorporation (no more than 90 days old), a cover letter, a completed “Application by Foreign Corporation for Authorization to Transact Business in Florida” and a registered agent located in the state of Florida. This agent will be the only person that Florida recognizes to receive important documents including legal documents, statements from the IRS, and official communication from state agencies. The agent must have a Florida address other than a P.O. box and must be available for communications during normal business hours. It is highly recommended that your foreign corporation’s registered agent is a lawyer or attorney – this is especially useful in the event that your corporation encounters legal complications or is sued in Florida.

If you are registering a Limited Liability Company in Florida, you must include “Limited Liability Corporation,” “L.L.C.”, or “LLC” in your company’s official title. Your company must also be distinguishable from other companies by name in the Florida Department of State. If your company name is already in use, you must adopt another name in order to conduct business in Florida.

Operating a Foreign Corporation in Florida

It is important to note that you will be required to file an annual report in order to retain “active” status in Florida. The first report will be due between January 1st and May 1st of the year following your foreign corporation’s registration in Florida, and there is a $400 fine imposed for failure to file this report in a timely manner. Other than this mandatory report, operating your foreign corporation in Florida will be much like operating your business in your home state.

Domestication of Foreign Judgements in Florida

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What is a Foreign Judgement?

A foreign judgment is defined as a legal judgment made in a jurisdiction outside of your own. A judgment made in a state outside of Florida is considered a foreign judgment, as is a judgment made in a country other than the United States. Under the Florida Domestication of Foreign Judgements Act, a Florida court has the ability to enforce or “domesticate” a judgment made in a state other than Florida. Florida’s Uniform Out-of-country Foreign Money-Judgment Recognition Act ensures that Floridian courts can enforce judgments made in foreign countries.

Determining if a Foreign Judgment Can Be Enforced

In order to be enforced, a foreign judgment must meet certain standards set forth by Florida Statutes. These typically have to do with the validity of the court system and proceedings that led to the foreign judgment. A foreign judgment will not be recognized by Florida courts if:

  • It is rendered under a system that is not impartial or is incompatible with the due process of the law.
  • The foreign court did not have jurisdiction over either the defendant or the subject matter.
  • The defendant did not receive notice of the proceedings with adequate time to defend him/herself.
  • The judgment was obtained by fraud.
  • The judgment conflicts with another final or conclusive order.

The full list of grounds for nonrecognition of a foreign judgment can be found in Section 55.605 of the Florida Statutes. If you are not sure whether you qualify for a foreign judgment, you may want to consult a lawyer who is familiar with these cases.

Claiming a Foreign Judgment

In order to domesticate a foreign judgment, the plaintiff or plaintiff’s counsel must submit certain documents to an office of the clerk of the circuit court in Florida. While this can be done in any Florida county, it is strongly advisable that you file in the county in which the assets you would like to seize or take a lien against are located.

The documents needed to claim a foreign judgment are a certified copy of the judgment from the court that awarded the judgment to you, and an affidavit with the name, social security number (if possible), and last known address of both you (the judgment collector) and the judgment debtor.

The clerk will record the judgment and affidavit and send a notice to the judgment debtor. The debtor then has 30 days after the notice is provided in which he or she can challenge the validity of the judgment. This will only happen in very rare instances. If the judgment debtor takes no action, the judgment will be considered final and will have the same effect as a judgment made in Florida. At this time, you will be permitted to follow Florida’s judgment collection procedures and the courts can place liens on real property located in the county of recording.

Florida – Cuba Relations

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The United States, and Florida in particular, have had a complicated relationship with Cuba for over 50 years. The complications began when since Fidel Castro gained control of the country in 1959, spurring millions of Cubans to immigrate to the U.S. in hopes of finding freedom and better opportunities.

Florida and the Cuban Adjustment Act

The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, commonly known for its “wet foot/dry foot” policy, is the act under which Cubans were able to immigrate to the United States from 1966 to 2017. Under this act, if would-be Cuban immigrants were intercepted en route from Cuba to the United States, they were required to return to Cuba. If they were able to set foot on American soil however, they would be permitted to stay and live in the U.S. After a year, these immigrants had the opportunity to become United States citizens. Florida was the destination of choice for most immigrants, and over 1.2 million Cuban Americans call the state home.

Resumed Relationships between U.S and Cuba

In December of 2014, President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro announced a restoration of the diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States. The effect on Florida was immediate: in the two years that followed, the Florida Coast guard reported an increase in the number of Cubans attempting the crossing between Cuba and Florida. Between 2015 and 2016, the number had nearly doubled as over 5,600 Cubans sought to reach the state of Florida. The reason for the increase was Cuban fear that resumed relationships between Cuba and the United States would also mean the end of the Cuban Adjustment Act. These fears were validated in January 2017, when the Obama administration called for an immediate end to the policy.

Cuba’s Influence in Florida

The repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act by no means lessened Cuba’s impact on the United States, however. Cuban Americans are the fifth-largest ethnic group in the United States and their influence is felt most strongly in Florida, where Cuban American voters make up the most Republican Latino group and contribute to the state’s already-unpredictable swing vote.

Floridian Cuban American immigrants have strong views about immigration policies as well as increased economic activity between the U.S. and Cuba. This means that political events in Cuba can become strong predictors of how Cuban Americans in Florida may vote in local, state, and national elections. Polls demonstrate that the political actions of the United States toward Cuba have largely been in line with the desires of Cuban American immigrants, and can perhaps attest to their influence upon foreign policy. For now, Floridians can expect to see fewer Cuban immigrants in the coming years but should keep an eye on news from Cuba during future election cycles.

Social Security Back Pay in Florida

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Receiving Social Security Back Pay

In Florida, as in most states, the process of applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSD or SSDI) can be incredibly lengthy. This means that when you successfully secure SSI or SSD, you are often owed back payments from the Social Security Administration. These retroactive payments are usually distributed in a lump sum, and there is no maximum amount of disability back payment for SSI and SSD. There are four main factors that can affect the amount of back pay that you receive as a SSI or SSD beneficiary.

Factors that Affect Social Security Back Pay

The first factor is the date that you filed for SSI or SSD. IF you file for SSI, you could potentially receive retroactive payments dating back to the first of the month after you filed for Social Security benefits. If you have what is known as a “protective filing date” earlier than your actual filing date, you may be eligible for payments dating back to that date instead of your filing date. If you are filing for SSD, you can receive retroactive payments that date back to when you first became disabled, even if you applied for Social Security Disability payments at a later date. In this case, your retroactive payments could add up to thousands and be an even more significant contribution than your monthly payments.

The second factor is known as your EOD, or the Established Onset Date for your disability. This is the date that the Social Security Administration recognizes as the day that your disability began. Your EOD may differ from the date that you personally recognize as the onset of your disability. If you are applying for SSI, this date will be set for your filing date or after your filing date (since you cannot receive benefits dating from before this date). For SSD, this date can be set for before or after your filing date.

For SSD applications only, there is an additional factor: a five-month waiting period. Whether your EOD falls before or after your filing date, you will have five months’ benefits automatically removed from your disability back pay period. For example, if your EOD were 19 months before your filing date, you would receive 14 months of retroactive payments prior to the date of your SSD application.

The fourth and final factor is the month of entitlement. This is the first month that your regular monthly SSI or SSD payments would have begun. Disability back payments start at the month of entitlement and will end the moth prior to the adjunction of your claim at which point your regular monthly payments will begin.

How a Florida Asset Protection Trust Can Benefit Your Family

By | Wills and Trusts Law | No Comments

The first step in understanding how an Asset Protection Trust can benefit your family is defining what it is. In legal terms, assets are understood to be anything you own that has monetary value. The protection of these in the form of trust aims to avoid any seemingly unnecessary financial tolls which will have a detrimental effect on the beneficiary, and on you. In other words an Asset Protection Trust is exactly as it sounds; a legal method in which to protect your assets for the future.

Many people are under the impression an Asset Protection Trust is something only extremely wealthy households need, however those of moderate earnings may benefit even more from this type of security. Asset protection works differently depending on the state. In Florida, the state has made this type of trust quite attainable (its formal name is iPug) and it is widely becoming one of the most widely used estate-planning methods.

So how does such a trust benefit your family? Well, one of the purposes of Asset Protection is to ensure that the beneficiaries (in most cases, this is your family) receive as much of your resources as possible. This means that the trust is protected in the future from creditors and it can also avoid probate. Probate is the legal process that takes place after an individual passes away, during which the court ensures all their debts are paid and distributes their assets. This can be a lengthy, expensive procedure during which the family has little privacy or control. Having a will does not always mean you can evade probate, so setting up an Asset Protection Trust can be extremely beneficial.

Another positive that this type of trust holds is it application for Medicaid eligibility, as it helps to distribute your assets so you are not over the threshold for assistance, which can financially assist your family a great deal. Furthermore, the assets in this trust can be used in your retirement to provide a higher quality of life. Finally, there are tax benefits applicable to this manner of estate-planning.

All in all, there are many positive aspects for you and your family if you choose to put your assets into a protection trust. If you want to know more information, contact your legal representative.

Social Security Disability Denial in Florida

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Applying for Social Security Disability in Florida can be a straightforward process, with an individual being deemed eligible immediately after their initial application. Unfortunately, it is rarely that simple. People usually have to go through an appeal in order to get the benefits they need.

In Florida there are some 461 hundred thousand people receiving disability benefits, for a multitude of unforeseen reasons. It may surprise you to know that around 65 percent of social security disability applications are denied at their initial application, and then a large majority are then deemed ineligible again at their first appeal. Quite often it takes being in front of an administrative judge at a hearing in order to be approved for this type of benefit.

If you are denied at the initial application stage (as most people are) it is important to take the correct route so as not to further elongate the process. This means those who choose to begin a brand new application are likely to be refused a second time and go through it all again and again. The guidelines for who is eligible for this type of benefit are fairly strict, and it is expected that the new disability examiner will come to the same conclusions as the first. This is unless there is new evidence to consider – for example a medical condition – or if there was a significant error in the first application. If you are not approved, it usually makes more sense to appeal the decision. In Florida you have a period of 60 days to do this in. This is known as the reconsideration appeal.

If you are still refused, the next step is the hearing. The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review organizes the date of the hearing – these offices are based in various locations throughout the state. You should bear in mind that this is not a quick process, and the length of time you have to wait for your hearing will be dependent on where you reside. However, you have a much higher chance of receiving benefits at this stage, with nearly 60 percent of people being approved if they bring legal representation (the figure goes down to forty for those unrepresented). In short if you are denied your application, then be sure to appeal as opposed to begin new one. You can save yourself time, stress and it is much more probable to be a success.

Applying For SSI in Florida

By | Social Security Law | No Comments

You may be wondering if you are eligible for SSI. If you are indeed able to receive it, you might not know how to apply. Luckily the process is not so complicated when you know what you need to do, and it can make a big difference to you and your families’ lives.

What is the SSI?

SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income, an organization which is run by the Social Security Administration. It is paid monthly and differs from Social Security Benefits. In fact if you are entitled to SSI, chances are you will also be eligible for the later. However the two benefits are quite different. The SSI is not based on your family history and you are still able to apply for support medically and for food assistance if you are approved.


In order to be deemed eligible for SSI an individual must be 65 years or over, blind or disabled. They must also legally reside in the United States, are the child of military parents, or be a student living abroad temporarily. The individual must also have an income and resources below a certain amount, and of course they must apply for SSI. You must also not leave the country for 30 days or more, and you have to be a US citizen (although there are exceptions for certain non-citizens).

Children are eligible for SSI if they meet the requirement as stipulated; their disability must be seen to affect their life on a day-to-day basis. In terms of your income, the amount you are allowed to earn whilst still receiving the SSI is dependent on your location. It is worth noting that not all aspects of your income are taken into account.  In Florida, the current amount available for an individual receiving SSI is $733 a month, $1,100 for couple.

How Do I Apply?

In Florida, there are a few different ways to apply for the SSI. The application can be completed at your nearest Social Security Office if this is convenient for you. It is advisable to call ahead and schedule an appointment, as you can have an individual to assist you. You may prefer to download forms from the Social Security Administration website, or you may wish to do your application online. If you opt for the later, there are requirements to be met including being between the ages of 18 and 65 and not having applied for the SSI in the past (check the Social Security Administration’s website for more details) If you are applying on behalf of a child or are over the age of 65, then the online option is unfortunately not available to you.

If your application is not approved then you do have the option to appeal, which you are also able to do online.

Social Security Benefits in Florida Divorces

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Divorce is a huge period of change in any persons’ life. There are obviously emotional changes that you are going through, as well as legal and financial. In an ideal world this process would be as simple and straightforward as possible, so as not to add further stress to an already difficult situation. It is important for you as an individual to be aware of what you/ your estranged partner are entitled to legally, so you are able to move forward with clarity – and with the correct knowledge. This is pertinent when it comes to the question of Social Security benefits.

Social Security Benefits Calculations

Firstly, you have to understand how Social Security benefits are determined. For those in employment, their benefits are calculated based on a formula of how many ‘credits’ they have earned; i.e. how any years they have been in work. As some households have a ‘breadwinner’ and a ‘homemaker’, this means that the later would not have been able to build-up their own ‘credits’, even though they have been an important part of the household. In this situation, the individual who was not in employment receives spousal retirement benefits, receiving half of their significant other’s benefit amount.

After Separation

After divorce, an individual may still claim spousal benefit based on their ex-partner’s employment. In order to be deemed eligible to receive this, they must meet the following obligations:

  • The marriage must have lasted for a least a decade
  • They must be currently unmarried
  • They must be at least 62
  • Their ex-partner must be entitled to retirement or disability benefits
  • They must not be eligible for an equal or higher amount of retirement or disability benefits

The individual will still be entitled to half of the benefits if all the requirements are met. If before the age of retirement a person wishes to apply for Social Security spousal benefits, then the amount they receive will be reduced. If the person eligible for Social Security benefits remarried, their ex-partner will still receive the full amount of spousal benefit, regardless.

Who Needs a Social Security Lawyer in Florida?

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There are many reasons you may need a Social Security lawyer. The Social Security system is put in place across the state to ensure that those who need help receive it; however there are invariably flaws and errors that can take place. Sometimes you need to fight for your case. In this instance it helps to have an expert who knows the legal intricacies and can make sure you get the right outcome.

You may need a Social Security lawyer when it comes to important events, such as the hearing of your disability benefits appeal. In these such instances, you are much more likely to be successful in your claim if you have legal representation. In other words, it pays to have someone on your side who knows how to approach these types of cases. They can advise you on the best way to move forward, as well as creating a sound case which will adhere to any requirements the court needs.

Social security lawyers differ from usual legal representation. A great deal of the legal representatives in this field are previous SSA workers or disability examiners, so they know the letter of the law and what is necessary to be successful. There is no fee to be paid upfront and the lawyer is only paid if the case is succeeds. Claimants must sign beforehand to agree to the fees as detailed below.

So how is a social security lawyer paid? Basically the amount depends on how much back-pay you are owed. If the case is won, the lawyer is reimbursed for their work by receiving a quarter of the claimant’s back-pay – up to a capped fee of $6000. This means that if your back pay is $5000, your lawyer will receive $1250.Thus you do not need to physically pay the attorney, rather the amount will be removed from your first disability check. This lack of risk on the claimant’s part makes for another beneficial reason as to why an individual should opt to have legal, expert representation as opposed to attempting to navigate a difficult process in isolation.