US Visa scams & Florida Brits on TV

One of the UK’s most popular documentary television programmes ‘Tonight with Trevor McDonald’ featured a documentary concerning US Visa scams where the majority of the victims were the British. The programme also bought into question the immigration policy where Brits who had bought Florida property and invested in the region where not guaranteed the right to live in the state. It featured one couple who ran a company employing American citizens and who had settled into Florida life but lived with the uncertainty every two years about their status in the country.
Tonight with Trevor McDonald
The Television programme which currently goes out  twice-weekly, on Monday and Friday evenings at 8.00pm, runs human interest-led current affairs to investigative journalism.
Visa Scam 
The programme highlighted a city businessman Mick Leggett  who is awaiting trial in the US over an alleged visa scam, it was revealed he is one of many trying to con Brits out of money. One example saw John Sewell pay a company Royal Development $120,000 in May 2004 after selling his house to invest in the venture which he was told would secure his Visa. The 50-year-old builder has seen no return on his money or a visa and has since been embroiled in a legal battle with Mr Leggett to get his money back. Mr Sewell, from Kent, said: “I want to see Mick Leggett go down for a very long time because he has totally destroyed my family. I am pleased this documentary is investigating him.”

The programme prompted the following response from the US Embassy
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your concerns about the processing of E-2 Investor Non-Immigrant visas at U.S. Embassy London.
It would be useful to give a sense of perspective on these cases. In 2006, U.S. Embassy London processed 2707 E-2 Investor Non-Immigrant visa applications. Of these, 2363 were approved and 341 refused indicating an approval rate of 87.39 per cent.
We review every case to determine the eligibility of the applicant under U.S. immigration law. When an applicant fails to meet the legal requirements for the issuance of a visa we are obliged to refuse it.
We regret some British citizens appear to have been victims of unscrupulous individuals offering investments purporting to qualify applicants for E visas.
Law enforcement investigations are continuing, and we urge any individuals who believe they may have been the target of a visa scam to report this to the Embassy.
When the Embassy learned of these apparent scams, we began to examine all E visa applications more scrupulously. This review, combined with a substantial increase in E visa applications in the past two years, resulted in a temporary backlog of cases. However, we anticipate waiting time for initial review should decrease to 12 weeks by the end of May 2007.
A Non-Immigrant E visa is not a good option for someone who intends to reside indefinitely in the United States. The treaty investor visa program was designed to enhance commercial interaction between the US and other countries.
It is not intended as a means of self-employment or immigration. Should an E-2 visa holder retire or sell his or her investment, the visa status lapses and he or she must leave the US.
The more secure option for those who wish to reside indefinitely in the US is a permanent resident visa of “green card”.
These visas are based on a relationship to a US citizen or permanent resident, or on specialized employment skills.
Many British citizens purchase homes in Florida or other sunny locales in the US and legally spend up to 90 days per visit without a visa or up to 180 days with a B1/B2 visitor visa.
In fact, many British “snow birds” have been buying vacation homes to temporarily stay in Florida from October through April every year for the last decade.
However, there is no US retirement visa, even for applicants who are financially independent. Those who seek to reside in the US permanently must pursue an appropriate immigrant visa.
Prospective investors should be cautious about claims from agents or salespeople that an investment will assure their qualification for an E-2 visa, particularly if the other party has a vested interest in the sale. Only a consular officer may approve a visa.
Prospective investors should review the information on the Embassy website and consider seeking advice from a US immigration law professional prior to making a financial commitment to any investment for the purpose of obtaining a visa.
Property in Florida
Prices are low and this could be the best time to buy Florida property
Useful Resources

Expats’ Voice is a place for expatriates of all countries to come together, socialise and exchange help and advice. is a website devoted to Brits in Florida and those thinking of moving to or setting up business in the Sunshine State.

Florida Association of Realtors.

British American Business Council .

Compare listings