About Yazdanyar Law Offices

Ms. Mehrnoush Yazdanya, Esq. graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of California, Los Angeles with a B.A. in Political Science and a Minor in Near Eastern Languages. She obtained her J.D. from the University of Southern California’s Law School. She has been a member of the California State Bar Association since 2005. She opened own private practice in 2009 and her firm currently has offices in Beverly Hills, Irvine, San Francisco, and Sherman Oaks. Her firm, Yazdanyar Law Offices, specializes in assisting clients nationwide to comply with and address issues related to the sanctions programs administered by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). More specifically, her practice focuses mainly on assisting Iranian-Americans and Legal Permanent Residents of the United States with the legal and transparent transfer of assets from Iran to the United States and/or obtaining specific licenses from OFAC authorizing otherwise prohibited transactions. Ms. Yazdanyar has successfully defended federally prosecuted clients on issues relating to U.S. trade sanctions, handled OFAC matters arising before the Federal Bureau of Investigations, as well as successfully assisted hundreds of clients throughout the U.S. with the transfer of assets from Iran to the United States. As such, her practice encompasses the regulatory, enforcement, and criminal aspects of sanctions law.

 

Iranian-Americans woke up yesterday morning two major announcements made by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as well as from Iran’s Central Bank. Here’s how this news can impact you:

 

Snapping Back of Sanctions by U.S. Government

In accordance to President Trump’s May 8th2018 decision to cease the United States’ participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, yesterday marked the last day of the 90-day wind-down period. As a result, the President issued an Executive Order that snapped back into place certain sanctions relating mostly to what non-U.S. persons and other countries could do vis-à-vis Iran.

Our firm has received thousands of calls, emails and social media inquiries asking, “so what happens with the U.S. withdrawal of the nuclear deal, and how does this impact a U.S. person’s ability to bring their money to the United States from Iran?”  The truth is, there is no direct impact on most U.S. persons looking to bring personal funds from Iran.  Most of the changes in regulations announced on August 6, 2018, have nothing to do with the transmittal of personal assets or what is called noncommercial personal remittances, such as a gift or inheritance from Iran. Similarly, the sale of real property and the transfer of real property proceeds remain, for the most part, legal under the regulations. 

However, as many of you have experienced these past few months, while the transactions remain legal, finding U.S. dollars in Iran has become increasingly difficult and for some, impossible. The drop of Iran’s currency coupled with the fact that you could not buy U.S. dollars on the open market have made logistically sending funds from Iran to the United States extremely problematic for Iranian-Americans.  The only people who have been able to successfully transfer funds are those who 1) have a connection to a broker who is willing to sell to them on the open market and 2) those who can afford the egregious jump in exchange rates.

As we all have witnessed, Iran’s currency was already at an all-time low even before the Trump Administration announced that the United States government would withdraw from the nuclear deal.  Since this announcement, we witnessed a spiral in the value in the Iranian currency against the U.S. dollar.

The Iranian government tried to combat the plummet of the toman/rial by setting a fixed exchange rate and making the exchange of U.S. dollars outside of this rate by brokers illegal. However, this just resulted in individuals buying U.S. dollars from the black market at all time high rates.

The news from clients who recently traveled to Iran and those who have family in Iran is that the socio-economic situation “has never been this bad before.” The recurring story you hear played out in one form or another is that people don’t have money to buy bare necessities and those who do are hoarding them because they are unsure of what the future holds. There is an air of uncertainty, fear and desperation in the words of anyone you speak to who has recently visited or been to Iran.

 

Central Bank of Iran’s Decision to Legalize the Purchase & Sale of the US Dollar

So, what is the Iranian government doing to curb the plight of Iran’s economy? The Iranian government and the new head of the Iranian Central Bank announced that the ban on buying and selling U.S. dollars in Iran would be effectively removed. Therefore, licensed currency exchange brokers are once again allowed to purchase and sell U.S. dollars in the open market. Furthermore, there will be no fixed exchange rate and no differentiation of the rate based on the purpose of the exchange (commercial or personal). In other words,except for vital goods and medicines that the government will provide necessary funds for, the market will determine the exchange rate for all U.S. dollars to be bought and sold in Iran. The hope is that this move will level out the surging currency exchange rate.

Although is difficult to predetermine the exact rate, once the exchange of the US dollar resumes in Iran’s open market, we are likely to see fall of in the exchange rate. We will keep you updated as soon as we receive any additional substantial information.

As always, please feel free to contact our firm with any questions.

Introduction

Because of the sanctions and regulations that remain in place governing transactions between the United States and Iran, individuals are rightly careful when transferring money between the two countries. In particular, the United States has prohibited the use of the hawala system to transfer funds to and from Iran. But because the hawala system takes its name from the general word for an ordinary wire transfer or deposit, many people think that any form of “havala” (or “hawala”) is prohibited as well. This is not the case, as the United States has authorized certain types of transfers to and from Iran

“Havala”: a General Verb

The confusion about the types of permitted fund transfers stems from the use of the Persian verb “havala” to describe the informal fund transfer system hawala. “Havala”, from the Arabic verb tahweel, has the general meaning of “to transfer”, and Persian speakers use “havala” to describe any fund transfer, for example, through Western Union, Venmo, a third country bank or any other type of deposit into a bank account. The United States government permits transfers to and from Iran through third country banks for certain types of transactions, such as remittances, inheritance, or sales of real property. The verb, however, could also denote a transfer through the hawala system, which is not allowed under the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR).

Hawala System: a Specific Method of Transferring Money

As many are familiar, the hawala system is an informal method of transferring money between countries that relies on personal networks and trust. For example, Customer A in Iran wants to transfer money to his family in the USA. He goes to a hawaladar (or broker in charge of arranging these types of transfers) in Iran and gives him a sum of money to transfer.  The hawaladar then finds a customer in the USA who wants to send money to his/her family in Iran. The hawalader then deposits the funds he received from Customer A into an account Customer B provides in Iran. The hawaladar in return asks Customer B in the USA to deposit the dollar equivalent of that amount to Customer A’s family member’s account in the USA. Therefore, both customers A and B are able to successfully send funds to their families through this system without ever actually moving money across borders or through banks.

Many prefer the hawala system to formal banking options because it is often more convenient, quicker, and requires less documentation than banks for legitimate transfers between expatriates and their home communities. Moreover, hawala networks thrive where the formal bank sector is weak or where no formal banking relationship exists, such as between the United States and Iran.

The very features that make the hawala system attractive for users are also the reasons why authorities are concerned to scrutinize and regulate these sorts of transfers: because of their opacity hawala transfers could facilitate the financing of terrorism, money laundering, or the circumvention of sanctions. For these reasons, governments have started asking hawaladars to record their transactions and have even prohibited the use of hawala to transfer funds between certain countries, as the United States has with Iran. Moreover, the use of hawala for illicit activities means that individuals making innocent use of the hawala system may unwittingly be implicated in a criminal conspiracy. For example, settling liability between transferring and receiving hawaladars may involve serious illegal activity, such as fraud, sanctions evasion, or narcotics trafficking.

We, therefore, strongly discourage the use of the hawala system to transfer money between the United States and Iran. When sending or receiving funds to and from Iran, you should only work with currency exchange brokers who send funds through third country banks and you should never allow direct deposits of any kind into your account from within the United States. And, as always, please be sure that your transfer is compliant with current U.S. sanctions law and that you submit all the proper documentation to your bank prior to each incoming wire.

It has been brought to our attention that many individuals are routinely mistaking a “return-without-action” letter from OFAC for an OFAC license. Please be advised that a one page letter or response from OFAC is often a RWA Letter and not an actual license. This is merely a correspondence from OFAC. This IS NOT an OFAC license and will not be treated as such by your bank or by OFAC should any problems arise with the underlying transaction(s).

Furthermore, when an OFAC license is submitted to the government, OFAC will routinely issue a case number for that application for reference purposes. This is so one can easily reference the case when calling or writing to OFAC to check the status of the application and/or to submit any needed supplemental information. Once again, a case number IS NOT an OFAC license number and will not be treated as such by your bank or by OFAC.

Please be advised that this type of letter is also routinely sent in response to a license application submission in which the applicant is asking OFAC for authorization to engage in activities that are ALREADY authorized by GENERAL LICENSES, such as the receipt of Non Commercial Personal Remittances from Iran or the Sale of Property in Iran.  A “return-with-no-action” letter can also be sent if an application is missing certain information thereby preventing OFAC from being able issue a final decision.

An actual OFAC license will have a license number as well as an expiration date. It will also clearly outline the authorized activity. For a sample OFAC license, please clink the following link: Sample License

If you received a return-without-action letter and would like additional guidance regarding this matter, please feel free to contact our firm at 310-780-6360 or email us via our website’s contact page.

 

Because of the uncertain economic situation in Iran, many individuals who have real property in Iran would prefer to gift it to their children or other family members, including US persons, while they are still alive instead transferring title of the property as an inheritance after their passing. While this makes perfect sense if one wants to avoid possible probate and other legal issues and inheritance taxes in Iran, transferring title of real property to a US person as a gift is a violation of current US sanctions regulations.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) currently prohibits US persons from making any new investments in Iran without its prior authorization. Under OFAC regulations the acquisition of real property in Iran by US persons, including any type of title transfer or transfer of property, is considered a type of investment and therefore is prohibited. The only condition on which US persons can receive transfer of title to real property in Iran is if OFAC has authorized such a transaction.

OFAC does, however, authorize US persons to acquire and sell real property in Iran if they inherit that property. Moreover, according to Reg: § 560.543 of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regime (ITSR) US persons may engage in transactions necessary and ordinarily incidental to the sale of real property in Iran, such as engaging the services of an attorney, funds agent, or real estate broker. US persons may also transfer the proceeds from sales of real property in Iran to the United States only if they acquired the real property before becoming a US person or inherited it from persons in Iran.

Although the inheritance of real property is permitted, OFAC does not consider a gift of real property from an Iranian national who is still living an inheritance. For this reason US persons must obtain specific authorization from OFAC (i.e. a specific OFAC license) before the transfer of title in order to legally accept the gift. Furthermore, if US persons wish to sell the property they acquire as gifts, they must again obtain another license from OFAC, as that transaction falls outside the scope of general licenses issued by OFAC.

As for other forms of property, such as vehicles, coinage, furniture, and the like, there are separate licenses that authorize US persons to receive these as gifts. And as with real property, US persons may inherit these items and transfer the proceeds from sales of them to the US, provide that they have obtained the necessary documentation attesting to the validity of the inheritance, sale, and transfer. Therefore if you are planning to accept a gift of any type of property in Iran, contact our office for more information on how to acquire the necessary OFAC license, to arrange the required documentation, and to disclose any past violations to the government.

The deadly earthquake that struck Kermanshah has left the region devastated and in dire need of resources. Many individuals and entities have contacted our office asking how they can donate to the cause while also ensuring that they are complying with U.S. sanctions law.

Please be advise that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has an in place a general license, General License E, regarding the support of humanitarian activity in Iran. More specifically, General License E, authorizes nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to export or reexport services to Iran or related to Iran in support of the following not-for-profit activities that are designed to directly benefit the Iranian people.

Examples of Permitted Activities:

(1) Activities related to humanitarian projects to meet basic human needs in Iran such as donating health-related services; operation of orphanages; provision of relief services related to natural disasters; distribution of donated articles, such as food, clothing, and medicine, intended to be used to relieve human suffering; and donated training related to any of the foregoing activities.

(2) Activities related to non-commercial reconstruction projects in response to natural disasters in Iran for a period of up to two years following the natural disaster;

While the above types of activities are permitted, please be advised that the transfers of funds in support of the activities outlined above by a single NGO may not exceed USD $500,000 in the aggregate over a 12-month period.

Furthermore, NGOs who engage in conduct pursuant to this general license must submit reports to OFAC on a quarterly basisproviding information including but not limited to a detailed description of the services exported or reexported to Iran, any Iranian NGOs, Government of Iran entities, Iranian financial institutions, or other Iranian persons involved in the activities; the dollar amounts of any transfers to Iran; and the beneficiaries of those transfers. Reports must be filed with the Licensing Division of OFAC.

Please be advised, that individuals MAY NOT fundraise on their own for the purposes of sending funds directly to Iran as General License E provides authorization for NGOS and not individuals. Therefore, individuals should work with and donate funds through non-profit organizations to assist with the earthquake relief effort in Iran. However, individuals in the U.S. may send non-commercial personal remittances to Iran to their own family and friends provided that the transfer complies with sections 560.516 and 560.550 of the Iranian Transactions Sanctions Regulations (ITSR).

And finally, donations of articles such as food, clothing, and medicine intended to be used to relieve human suffering are exempt from the sanctions on trade between the United States and Iran, as long as the donations are not being sent to the Government of Iran or any Iranian individual or entity on the List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List).

If you have any questions regarding this matter or if you are a non-profit organization and would like additional information or guidance regarding how to legally raise funds for the Kermanshah relief effort please feel free to contact our firm. It will be our pleasure to provide you with pro bono assistance.

On Friday, October 13, 2017, President Trump announced that he will decertify the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal.

By way of explanation, as part of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, the administration must recertify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is complying with its obligations under the JCPOA. Absent this certification, Congress has the option to re-impose nuclear related sanctions. Therefore, although Friday’s announcement does not withdraw the United States from the Iran Deal, it does open the door for Congress to impose legislation that could potentially undermine the integrity of the deal.

Please keep in mind that the nuclear sanctions primarily impact non-U.S. persons and other countries. Therefore, even with the lifting of the nuclear sanctions in 2016, U.S. persons and U.S. companies continue to be broadly prohibited from engaging in transactions or dealings with Iran and the government of Iran unless such activities are exempt from regulation or authorized by OFAC.

Although the re-imposition of nuclear related sanctions may not appear to have direct legislative impact on what U.S. persons can do vis-à-vis Iran, it is unclear whether such additional sanctions could soon follow. What is clear, however, is that such an act could have grave consequences from a foreign affairs standpoint and will undoubtedly undermine U.S. national security and credibility. This is especially true since the administration has offered no evidence that Iran has violated the deal. Furthermore, a bipartisan group of national security leaders have verified the success of the program and have urged the United States to continue implementing the deal.

If you would like to help protect the Nuclear Deal and encourage Congress to uphold the agreement, please contact your representative today via the following link: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

If you have trouble finding your representative, please contact our office today.

On September 24th, the Trump administration introduced a series of new travel restrictions on eight countries. Travel ban 3.0, for clarity sake, was in many ways predictable, but also contained a few significant surprises.

The bottom-line for Iranian Americans and their friends and family abroad is that travel ban 3.0 continues version 2.0’s suspension of entry in the U.S. by Iranian nationals (among others) who lack a bona fide relationship with a U.S. person or entity. On October 18th, however, a new, indefinite suspension of entry into the U.S. by Iranian nationals will come into effect. Iranian nationals will no longer be permitted to obtain immigrant and non-immigrant visas for entry into the U.S., even including those who have a bona fide relationship with a US person or entity. Important exemptions remain, but travel ban 3.0 represents a near total denial of entry for Iranian nationals and others.

 

Travel Ban 2.0

Travel ban 3.0 is the result of a Department of State review set in motion by travel ban 2.0. Recall that version 2.0, officially Executive Order 13780, ordered the Secretary of Homeland Security to determine “a comprehensive set of criteria” against which the Secretary would evaluate the capabilities of foreign governments to help the U.S. government to identify which of their nations attempting to enter the U.S. pose national security threats. The Secretary of Homeland Security came up with the following three criteria:

1. The integrity and rigor of the country’s travel documentation;
2. The willingness of the government to share information on its nationals with the U.S. government; and
3. The presence of terrorists in a country’s territory

These criteria, as version 3.0 repeats, would enable the U.S. government to achieve its “foreign policy, national security, and counterterrorism goals.”

As the next step the executive order instructed the Secretary of State to assess whether foreign countries fulfill these criteria and to request that the countries that fall short of these standards improve their practices. Finally, based on the findings of this review the Secretary of State would recommend to the president which countries to target with the new travel ban.

While the Departments of Homeland Security and State were engaged in this work, version 2.0 suspended entry into the U.S. of nationals from six predominantly Muslim countries. Several rulings by U.S. courts placed injunctions on this order, although the Supreme Court lifted these injunctions and allowed the administration to deny entry to nationals from those countries who lack a bona fide relationship with a U.S. person or entity. This suspension will remain in effect under the new travel ban.

 

Travel Ban 3.0

The results of the review by the Department of State are in, and the following countries were found to be deficient in each of the three aforementioned criteria: Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, North Korea, Chad, and Venezuela.

Starting October 18th, nationals from these countries – with the exception of Venezuela and Somalia – will be denied both immigrant and non-immigrant visas for entry into the U.S.; this ban also includes nationals who have a bona fide relationship with a U.S. person or entity. As for Venezuela the ban applies only to certain top officials, and Somalis are permitted nonimmigrant visas.

Exemptions
Although travel ban 3.0 places stringent restrictions on entry, certain general exemptions, case-by-case waivers, and country-specific exemptions are allowed.

General exemptions are made for the following categories of nationals from the aforementioned countries:

1. Persons who are in the U.S. on valid visas before October 18th;
2. Lawful permanent residents of the U.S.;
3. Nationals on humanitarian or advanced parole in the U.S.;
4. Dual nationals of non-designated countries;
5. Holders of diplomatic visas; and
6. Nationals already granted asylum or refugee status in the U.S.

Case-by-case waivers may be granted at the discretion of consular officers to nationals for whom denial would cause “undue hardship”, who do not pose threats, and whose entry would be in the national interest. Individuals in this category could include nationals who have already been admitted to the U.S. on work or study visas, or who have “significant contacts with the U.S.”, but will be outside the country on October 18th; who have “significant business or professional obligations” that would be impaired if denied entry; who, seeking to visit a family member who is a lawful permanent resident, would incur “undue hardship” if denied entry; who are seeking entry for medical care; or who are or have been employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government. If you think you might be eligible for this waiver, please call our offices, or consult an immigration lawyer.

The new travel ban also grants exemptions that are unique to the individual designated countries. Iranian nationals, for example, are permitted to enter the U.S. on a student visa (F and M) or an exchange visa (J), though they should expect enhanced scrutiny.

 

(Still) A Poorly Written Regulation

Unlike the previous two iterations of the travel ban, version 3.0 succeeds in cloaking the restrictions in a veneer of rationality, deliberation, and objectivity; however, upon a closer look it is clear that the travel ban remains a poorly written regulation.

The most glaring example is the dropping of Sudan from the list of targeted countries. While Iran is chastised as a state sponsor of terrorism, there is no mention of Sudan, which continues to appear alongside Iran on the Department of State’s list of designated state sponsors of terrorism.

Then there are the surprising additions of Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela to the list. Chad, for one, has been a valuable partner in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel, as the new ban itself acknowledges, and is not often cited as a source of destabilizing terrorism. Moreover, North Korea is not a source of immigrants to the U.S., as its government does not allow its citizens to leave the country. The choice to target certain top Venezuelan government officials, to the exemption of ordinary citizens, is in line with new financial sanctions placed on Venezuela in August, yet the rationale presented in the travel ban is perplexing. Despite the fact that Venezuela’s government is “uncooperative” and its information sharing policies “inadequate”, the text of the ban asserts that U.S. government has access to “alternative sources” to verify the identities of Venezuelan nationals. For this reason, the Secretary of State’s review recommended imposing restrictions only on the top government officials “who are responsible for the identified inadequacies”. The order does not specify what those “alternative sources” are. Nor does it defend the choice of officials’ role in setting travel policy as the criterion to determine which officials should be designated.

In short, travel ban 3.0 will significantly curtail entry into the U.S. of nationals from several countries, and its convoluted regulations will create difficulties for officials working to enforce them and for individuals specifically exempted from the restrictions. Therefore, if you or a member of your family is planning to enter the U.S., we advise that you consult with an immigration lawyer prior to travel so that you know if and how you will be affected.

On Monday June 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court made the momentous decision to review the rulings of several lower courts on the Trump administration’s revised travel ban. At the same time, the justices lifted the lower courts’ injunctions on certain key features of the travel ban, stating that the administration may enforce the travel ban on nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen who DO NOT have “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

In this article we will tell you what you need to know about the revised travel ban, the Supreme Court’s decision, and who is likely to be impacted by it.

 

The Revised Travel Ban

The revised travel ban, Executive Order 13780, was signed on March 6, 2017, revoking the first travel ban (Executive Order 13769), and came into effect on March 16th with the stated purpose of protecting American citizens and interests from terrorism. Like its predecessor, the revised travel ban orders in Section 2(c) a 90-day suspension of entry into the U.S. of nationals from the six countries listed above. In Section (6) the order also suspends the entry of refugees under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days and caps the number of refugees who can be admitted to 50,000. During this time, U.S. government agencies are ordered to review and determine what additional information, if any, they need from each country to guarantee that its nationals wishing the enter the U.S. are not security concerns, and to establish screening and vetting procedures for those wishing to enter the U.S. The executive order does allow important exemptions to the travel ban for lawful permanent residents, holders of valid, non expired visas, foreign nationals admitted on humanitarian grounds, dual citizens, holders of diplomatic visas, asylum seekers, and refugees who have already been admitted to the U.S.

 

A Poorly Written Regulation

Under the very real threat of terrorism, these provisions may seem justified. However, this revised travel ban contains some of the same fatal flaws as the one it replaced.

• The revised ban still targets the wrong countries.
It targets countries whose nationals have NEVER been linked to or charged with acts of terror on American soil, but that are BELIEVED by the administration to be acting hostilely to American interests. At the same time, it does not target countries whose nationals HAVE been linked to or charged with acts of terrorism.

• The ban may not be temporary.
We think it is unrealistic to expect 1) that the six designated nations will supply the information demanded by the U.S. government, and 2) that the U.S. government will think the information sufficiently trustworthy. This lack of trust could lead to an indefinite suspension for nationals from these countries.

• The ban disregards existing vetting processes for immigration.
Section 5 of the ban orders government agencies to establish baseline guidelines for vetting immigrants that would prevent potential terrorists from entering the United States. This requirement ignores the stringent security measures that are already in place, including extensive background checks.

• The ban is influenced by religious intolerance.

Most damaging to the revised travel ban have been the rulings of lower courts around the country. For example, U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals asserted that the ban  “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”  This ruling and others like it led to court injunctions being placed on Section 2(c), which suspended entry of Libyan, Iranian, Sudanese, Somali, Yemeni, and Syrian nationals, and Section 6, which suspended entry of refugees.

 

SCOTUS Gets Involved

On June 1st the Trump administration appealed the decisions of the lower courts to the U.S. Supreme Court, which on June 26th decided officially to review the lower courts’ rulings on the travel ban when it reconvenes in October. The Court also decided to allow some aspects of the travel ban to go into effect in the meantime. In particular, it decided that the Trump administration can enforce the travel ban on nationals from the six designated countries who DO NOT have “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” Nationals with “a close familial relationship” with a U.S. person or a “formal, documented” business relationship with a U.S. entity, on the other hand, will be allowed to enter. The Court also stated that individuals cannot establish these relationships for the purpose of avoiding the travel ban.

The Court did not define “close familial relationship”, but subsequent State Department guidelines included parents, spouses, children, adult sons and daughters, sons- and daughters-in-law, and siblings in the U.S.

The State Department guidelines excluded grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers- and sisters-in-law, fiancées, and other extended family members.

 

Who is likely to be impacted?

The Supreme Court’s decision went into effect on Thursday, June 29th, and despite its momentous nature, many nationals from the six designated countries will still be allowed to enter the U.S, in addition to those with bona fide, close familial relationships:

• Holders of valid immigration visas issued before June 26th, 2017

• Lawful permanent residents of the U.S.

• Asylum seekers and those who have already been granted asylum

• Diplomats

• Individuals with bona fide relationship to an American entity, including students accepted at U.S. universities, employees hired by U.S. companies, and lecturers invited to address American audiences

• Refugees who were processed overseas that have family connections or connections with a refugee agency, even if the cap of 50,000 on refugees has been surpassed

 

On the other hand, other individuals may face new difficulties when trying to enter the U.S.:

• Individuals who DO NOT have bona fide relationships with U.S. persons or entities

• Tourists from designated countries

• Individuals with employment based visas that DO NOT require a petitioning employer (EB-1, National Interest Waiver), as they may not be able to demonstrate a bona fide relationship

• Individuals who establish bona fide relationships after June 26th, as such relationships could be seen by as formed for the purpose of avoiding the travel ban.

Therefore, if you, your family members, or your associates are planning to travel to the U.S., it is imperative that you understand your rights and whether documents attesting to a bona fide relationship with a U.S. person or entity are in order. Please feel free to contact our office with any questions.

Our office has received numerous inquiries regarding whether U.S. persons can use money that they have legally transferred to the U.S. from Iran as a down payment for a home mortgage in the U.S. The answer is YES. But U.S. persons should be aware that to avoid delays or additional fees from the lending bank it is their responsibility to prepare all documents attesting to their compliance with the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR) prior to applying for the mortgage.

Under ITSR money from several sources can be legally transferred from Iran to the U.S. U.S. persons are permitted to transfer non-commercial family remittances, such as an inheritance or a gift from family members, and proceeds from the sale of real property in Iran, provided that they acquired the property before becoming U.S. persons or inherited it afterwards. Additionally, OFAC has licensed U.S. persons to engage in certain other transactions in Iran and with Iranian entities. For more information on permitted transfers please consult our blog.

Although funds from these sources may be transferred from Iran to the U.S., no banking relationship exists between the two countries. This means that the only authorized way to transfer funds is through a currency exchange broker in Iran (a “sarafi”). When using a currency exchange broker, one, in essence, sells the Iranian currency (rials/toman) to the broker in exchange for U.S. dollars, which the broker delivers to the United States by one of two methods. The broker can 1) wire the funds to the United States via a third country bank, or 2) find a customer or an agent to deposit the funds directly into the recipient’s account in the United States. We STRONGLY recommend that you use the first method of transfer, because the second method is VERY dangerous and has frequently embroiled unwitting recipients in illegal activities.

The complexities associated with legal transfers of money from Iran can create additional problems when recipients try to use that money in the U.S. Though U.S. persons may to use money from Iran in the U.S. – for example, to make a down payment for a home mortgage – lending banks are cautious when accepting these funds, as it is difficult for them to verify that both the money and the transfer comply with ITSR and don’t involve designated Iranian entities. Verifying this information can create delays for the borrower, causing the house falls out of escrow. Moreover, the lending bank may charge higher fees, or in some cases even reject a down payment and refuse to issue a loan. Therefore, it is very important to prepare all the documents – including translations – attesting to the money’s and the transfer’s compliance with ITSR prior to applying for a home mortgage loan. These documents include deeds of sale and transfers of title in Iran, letters granting gifts, copies of wills, or any documents related to Iranian attorneys or courts, if they were used. Additionally, be sure to obtain receipts from the currency exchange broker in Iran and verify that the funds were transferred through a valid third country bank and did not involve any designated entities or individuals.

If you are considering transferring funds from Iran and using those funds for purchasing a home in the U.S., we advising you to consult an experienced OFAC attorney, or contact our firm with any questions at (310) 780-6360 or by email via our website.