When Immigration Matters

Karen-Lee Pollak Offering U.S. Immigration Consultations in South Africa from April 13th - 23rd

Posted by Michael Pollak on Sun, Mar 19, 2017 @ 10:29 PM

E--Documents_and_Settings-mpollak-My_Documents-My_PowerPoints-World_Map__Statue_of_Liberty-resiz.jpgWant To Live and Work in the USA? 

ImmigrationWe all hear scary stories of attempting to emigrate to the United States. From what one hears and reads, immigration to the United States is not for the faint hearted. However, a lot of misconceptions exist about this process. The secret to success in a smooth transition to moving to the United States, whether permanently or temporarily, is often just a mixture of understanding how the immigration process works and gaining knowledge on the best type of visa for you and your family.

Pollak PLLC will be in South Africa providing immigration consultations in Johannesburg from April 13-19th and Cape Town from April 20-23rd. Complete the form below or mail us at [email protected] to schedule.

She will be providing consulting services at the Hyatt Regency Johannesburg located at 91 Oxford Road, 2132, Johannesburg. Location in Cape Town to be determined shortly. 

FATCA Tax Reporting for US. Residents with Foreign Bank Accounts

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 @ 5:48 PM

permanent resident, H1BToday I asked my colleague and friend International Tax Attorney Richard Rubin to explain in an article the new FATCA tax reporting rules that goes into effect on June 30, 2015.  FATCA impact US citizens, Green Card holders and other US tax resident individuals who have accounts with non-US banks or financial institutions.

"Bank accounts in countries outside the US can cause headaches when owned by US taxpayers. While owning foreign accounts has always entailed a reporting headache for US taxpayers, the problem has recently heightened as a result of the FATCA legislation that is being implemented in a number of countries outside the US.   

FATCA is a set of US tax reporting rules that impact US citizens, Green Card holders and other US tax resident individuals who have accounts with non-US banks or financial institutions.

An acronym for the Foreign Account Transactions Compliance Act, FATCA requires banks and financial institutions in countries outside the US to provide the IRS with details of accounts that are owned by US taxpayers. Although the mechanism varies slightly by country, in most countries where FATCA has been implemented banks and financial institutions are required to report these details to the Revenue Authority of that country, and the Revenue Authority is required to pass this information along to the IRS.

Foreign banks are generally required to report accounts known to be owned by US citizens and Green Card holders, as well as accounts owned by anyone who is potentially US tax resident, as indicated for example, by an associated US address, US telephone number, or US person with signing power or other authority over the account. 

For those US tax residents who have duly reported their non-US bank and other accounts on their US tax returns (and on their Foreign Bank Account Reports or “FBAR’s”), FATCA has little practical significance. Conversely, FATCA is directly relevant to US tax residents who have not reported their non-US accounts.  FATCA is also potentially relevant to individuals living outside the US if they intend immigrating to the US or otherwise becoming US tax resident.

Compared to the Revenue Authorities of most other countries, the IRS tends to take non-compliance far more seriously, as is evident from the IRS penalties that are generally imposed for non-compliance, especially non-reporting of foreign bank accounts.  As a result, individuals who are required to report their non-US bank accounts, but have not done so, typically face heavy penalties and in some cases criminal prosecution when the IRS discovers their foreign accounts through FATCA reporting.

FATCA is at varying stages of implementation in a number of countries.  Take for example South Africa:  in June 2014 South Africa signed an agreement with the US (a so-called Intergovernmental Agreement or “IGA”), in terms of which South Africa undertook to implement FATCA according to a timetable. Although the dates originally agreed have been extended, in February 2015 South Africa enacted legislation giving effect to FATCA.  As things currently stand, South African banks and institutions are obliged to commence reporting client account details with effect from June 2015. While certain implementation issues and dates remain to be clarified, one thing is clear; that in time to come South African banks and institutions will routinely be rendering details of accounts held by US taxpayers.

As with most other jurisdictions, South African institutions are required to provide details of accounts known to be owned by US citizens or Green Card holders, as well as accounts owned by anyone who is potentially US tax resident, as indicated for example, by an associated US address, US telephone number, or US person with signing power or other authority over the account.  In some cases, an “in-care-of” or “hold mail” address is sufficient to require reporting, if this is the sole address on file with the South African bank. 

Individuals who obtain Green Cards are often unaware that if they spend even a short period in the US they typically become US taxpayers; and being unaware of their US taxpayer status, they generally don’t file US tax returns or FBAR’s, with the result they also fail to report their non-US accounts. In cases such as these, FATCA reporting may cause the individual’s foreign bank to render their account details to the IRS before the individual gets to file the necessary returns and make the necessary disclosures.

In most cases the headache of unreported foreign accounts can be relieved - and generally cured - by taking appropriate corrective measures.  This often includes some form of Voluntary Disclosure to the IRS, and in certain cases may include other forms of disclosure.  There are a number of categories of Voluntary Disclosure, and the various options entail different qualifying criteria as well as different consequences. In certain cases, the risk of criminal prosecution may favor a solution that focuses on reducing the chances of criminal indictment; while in others, the risk of criminal prosecution is sufficiently low allowing focus on a solution that reduces or eliminates civil penalties.

While the remedy always depends on the specific facts, one principal is almost universally true; that doing nothing about foreign unreported accounts is not a solution". 

If you have international tax questions call Richard


International Tax Attorneys

USA - SA Tax & FATCA Advisors




Newsweek Promotional Feature Spotlights Karen-Lee Pollak

Posted by Michael Pollak on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 @ 7:00 AM

Karen-Lee PollakImmigration Attorney, Karen-Lee Pollak, of the law firm Bell Nunnally & Martin was recently featured in Newsweek Magazine's July 16th 2012 Issue, in the Leaders in Immigration Law Showcase.  The section is a part of Newsweek's 2012 Leaders promotional section - which  features the leading individuals or group practices in various specialties of law and healthcare.

Karen leads Bell Nunnally's immigration practice, providing full-service legal immigration advice and representation. She focuses her practice on both family and corporate based immigration representing Fortune 1000 corporations and individuals with their immigrant and non immigrant visa needs, including professionals, athletes, spouses and family members of current U.S. residents, authors, students, investors and entreprenuers. As an immigrant herself, Karen understands what a critical decision it is moving family or employees to the United States.

Why I Became an Immigration Attorney

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Mon, Mar 12, 2012 @ 5:55 PM

immigration to the usa

Everyone in America has come here from somewhere else.  Ask anybody living in America and they will have at least one family member who moved here from another country.  Everybody has a story to tell.  For some, the story is simple.  For others the story is gut-wrenching and difficult to tell.  No matter what the story—most people leave their homelands and immigrate to the United States (or anywhere for that matter) for one or more of three reasons:

1. Adventure

2. To escape religious or political persecution

3.  Better opportunities in a new land

I fall into the third category and maybe looking back-- the first category too.  It has definitely been an adventure.  So what has this got to do with being an immigration lawyer?  Often I have been asked the question ”why did you become a lawyer?” I bet you’ve been asked the same.

So, here’s my story. I’d love to hear yours, too…

I arrived in the United States in 1995 from South Africa.  I went to law school in South Africa and got my feet wet as a commercial litigator.  I had no intention of living here and was simply coming over to visit my father and brother.  But then I met my US. Citizen husband who had no intention of moving to South Africa 

I was still paying off student loans in South Africa and could not afford nor did I want to go back to law school.  I discovered that you do not need a U.S. law degree to sit for the California Bar so I took the California Bar exam and eventually the Texas Bar exam as well.  I started my practice as a commercial litigator.  However, because I had a different accent and was an immigrant, people started asking me questions about immigration law and I started to help family and friends with their immigration cases and since then my practice has flourished.

I am passionate about my practice because I am an immigrant too.  I feel the same rush of adrenalin when each case is approved as I did when I first received the news that my own petition was granted.  I really am able to change people’s lives for the better.  I am able to reunite families, to bring the best and the brightest to the United States to share their ideas and inventions and to help people build businesses.  This country may not be perfect but it is the best country in the world.  I can say first hand that I am living the American Dream.

The United States is a place of improbable stories, of lives that never could have been realized anywhere else in the world.  I do not believe that my life as a lawyer and all the possibilities that have grown from my career would have been possible in any other country. You cannot choose the country where you are born. But a lucky few have the opportunity to choose the country where they live. I am privileged and grateful to my clients for allowing me to guide them in this choice. 

I am also privileged to belong to the American Immigration Lawyers Association and to have some of the finest immigration lawyers as my friends and mentors.  I have never seen an organization that is so collegial.  Unlike dealing with opposing counsel in a litigation setting, my fellow immigration lawyers have always been willing to answer my questions, provide me with their opinions and represent my clients’ interests before the USCIS.  I suppose it is an “us against them” mentality, but it makes my practice so much more enjoyable.  I am excited for our annual conference in June in Nashville where I will learn from the preeminent immigration experts, meet up with my colleagues and mentors and take home what I have learned to better serve my clients.   

When I was growing up, I never imagined that one day I would be an immigrant. The United States has allowed me to shape my future and to assist many others in shaping theirs. I am so grateful for all the blessings in my life, including each of you-my family, friends, colleagues, mentors and clients.  I can truly say that I enjoy my work, I am passionate about the causes I choose to fight, and I cherish the people I get to work with and for.  Thank you America for giving me this opportunity.


Bell Nunnally Boosts Immigration Practice with Karen-Lee Pollak

Posted by Michael Pollak on Mon, Oct 31, 2011 @ 6:01 PM

DALLAS, TX, Oct 31, 2011 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- Karen-Lee Pollak joins Bell Nunnally & Martin LLP as a partner and head of the firm's immigration practice, and Cynthia Cole joins the firm as senior counsel in the bankruptcy and restructuring area.

"It's fantastic to be in a position to bring on two talented and accomplished women who will not only be assets to our clients, but who will also help mentor and serve as role models for our growing group of female associates," said James Skochdopole, managing partner of Bell Nunnally.

Karen-Lee PollakPreviously head of the immigration practice at Goins, Underkofler, Crawford & Langdon, LLP, Pollak provides business immigration advice to a wide variety of clients. She handles the full array of immigrant and non-immigrant visa needs for executives and other professionals, athletes, authors, students, investors and entrepreneurs; PERM labor certifications; and employment- and family-based permanent residency petitions and citizenship. Pollak also assists businesses with compliance audits and the formation of immigration-related policies. She handles immigration litigation in the federal court under the Administrative Procedures Act and removal defense.

"As an immigrant herself, Karen is acutely aware of the challenges of global migration and its absolute necessity in the 21st century business world. Her deep knowledge in hot-button areas, such as entry clearances, temporary work and H-1B visas and residence permits, is a vital tool for our clients and will undoubtedly help them to achieve their business goals without limitation by geographic boundaries," added Skochdopole.

Pollak is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association; the Dallas Bar Association; the Texas Women Lawyers Association; and both the Texas and California bar associations. Selected as a Texas Monthly magazine "Rising Star" in 2009, she is a graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, where she earned both an LL.B. (1993) and a B.A. (1989).

During her decade of legal practice, Cole has focused intensely on bankruptcy and corporate reorganization, developing innovative approaches to help resolve clients' business issues. She has extensive experience in all aspects of corporate restructuring, insolvency and bankruptcy and has represented debtors, creditors, trustees, examiners, official and unofficial committees, and secured and unsecured creditors across the U.S. and abroad. Cole also plays a pivotal role in coordinating counsel in other legal and business disciplines relevant to the restructuring process, including corporate, finance, real estate, employment, tax and litigation. Most recently managing member at Cole & Company, PLLC, she also practiced for more than five years with Dallas-based Neligan Foley LLP.

"Cyndee truly partners with her clients to help them achieve the best possible outcome from what can be a challenging process. Using her wealth of experience representing and working with debtors, creditors and creditor's committees, she employs a strategic, and often times creative, approach to restructuring," said Jeffrey R. Erler, a partner and head of Bell Nunnally's Bankruptcy and Financial Restructuring practice.

Named a "Rising Star" by Texas Monthly magazine in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Cole is a member of the Texas Young Bankruptcy Lawyers Association, Dallas Association of Young Lawyers, Dallas Bar Association and the John C. Ford Inn of Court. She earned her J.D. and B.C.L. (2001) from Louisiana State University's Paul M. Herbert Law Center and her B.A. (1998) from Louisiana State University.

About Bell Nunnally & Martin LLP. Bell Nunnally & Martin LLP is a premier full-service law firm serving a national client base and dedicated to delivering the highest quality legal services to clients through a full knowledge of their objectives. The firm is one of the 50 largest in Texas and has repeatedly been named a "Go-To" law firm for America's largest companies in Corporate Counsel magazine. For more information, please visit www.bellnunnally.com .

        Traci Stuart/Michael Bond
        Blattel Communications
        Email Contact / Email Contact
        Laura Davis
        Bell Nunnally & Martin LLP
        Email Contact

What's Cooking in Immigration?

Posted by Michael Pollak on Fri, Mar 11, 2011 @ 7:29 PM

Karen returned to South Africa to meet with immigration clients.  She was interviewed by Avocado, a South African Food & Lifestyle Magazine that wanted to explore the cultural differences between South Africa and the United States, which resulted in this article that appears in the March / April issue.

USA vs. SA

In this clash of the titans, US Immigration Lawyer, Karen Pollak and renowned South African Chef, Arnold Tanzer team up to make two unique SA dishes plus two sensational dishes that are all time favorites straight from the USA.

immigration lawyer dallas tx 















Karen Pollak Offering U.S. Immigration Consultations in South Africa

Posted by Michael Pollak on Sun, Aug 29, 2010 @ 3:09 PM

We all hear scary war stories of attempting to emigrate to the United States. From what one hears and reads, immigration to the United States is not for the faint hearted. However, a lot of misconceptions exist about this process. The secret to success in a smooth transition to moving to the United States, whether permanently or temporarily, is often just a mixture of understanding how the immigration process works and gaining knowledge on the best type of visa for you and your family.

Karen-Lee Pollak, shareholder and immigration practice chair of the AV rated U.S. law firm: Goins, Underkofler, Crawford & Langdon, LLP; will be in Johannesburg to conduct immigration consultations from 20 September to 03 October, 2010.

ImmigrationShe will be providing consulting services at the law offices of Cyril Ziman & Associates, Inc., located at 43 Keyes Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg. Please feel free to contact the local office at +27 11 880 9363 or contact Karen-Lee directly via email at [email protected] in order to schedule an appointment.

Immigration Attorney Scheduling Consultations in South Africa

Posted by Michael Pollak on Wed, Aug 18, 2010 @ 7:40 PM

Immigration Lawyer Karen PollakKaren will be in Johannesburg in mid-September and will be accepting immigration consultations from September 20, 2010 through October 3, 2010.  She will be providing consulting services at the law offices of Cyril Ziman & Associates, Inc., located at 43 Keyes Ave Rosebank Johannesburg 2196.  The telephone number there is 011-880-9363.  Please feel free to call the local number to schedule an appointment or you can email Karen directly at [email protected]

Please pass this information on to your friends and family who may be considering options to live and work in the United States. 

Immigration 101: Green Cards via Trade & Investment in the USA

Posted by Michael Pollak on Mon, Aug 17, 2009 @ 1:45 PM

For most foreign nationals wanting to permanently live and work in the United States, the ultimate goal is to obtain a "green card" or permanent residency status. The most common method of obtaining permanent residency is through sponsorship by an employer or family member.

For wealthy individuals, a $1 million investment in a business that Green Cards via Trade and Investment in the U.S.creates or preserves at least 10 full-time jobs is also an option. That amount is reduced to $500,000 where the business is located in areas of high unemployment or other qualifying rural areas.

However, where these options are unavailable, foreign nationals from countries with investment or commerce treaties with the United States may still obtain a visa to live and work in the United States by either investing in a business in the United States (E-1 visa) or by conducting trade with the United States (E-2 visa). The requirements of the E visa may be found in §101(a)(15)(E) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act; 8 U.S.C.A. §1101(a)(15)(E).

The E visa category may be used by various types of companies, whether owned by individuals or large multinational corporations, and may be used by the company's principals or by its employees. Although the E visa is considered a non-immigrant visa, unlike other nonimmigrant visas, it may be renewed indefinitely and the
E visa holder may apply for a green card through the business supporting the E visa.

There are three basic requirements for obtaining an E-1 or E-2 visa. First, a treaty must exist between the United States and the foreign national's home country. Germany, Italy, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Taiwan, Pakistan, Iran, Japan and Australia are just some of the countries that have treaties with the United States. Second, majority ownership or control of the investing or trading company must be held by nationals of the foreign country. Third, every employee or principal of the company seeking E visa status must be a citizen of the foreign country where the company
is based.

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