Virgin Islands Law Blog

Virgin Islands Law Blog

U.S. Virgin Islands law & politics

US Naturalization Process Involves Several Key Residency Requirements

Posted in Immigration

US PassportFor foreign nationals who wish to become naturalized citizens of the United States, the process is often long and somewhat challenging, and applicants must meet a variety of requirements to qualify. One of the most complex sets of requirements, and one that makes a great deal of difference in the outcome of your application, relates to your residency.

 These residency requirements take into account the duration of time you’ve lived in the U.S., as well as your immigration status — as you must be a lawful permanent resident. In other words, you need to have a green card, which clears you to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis, as long as you do not commit a serious crime. You must be a lawful permanent resident to apply for naturalized citizenship.

Meanwhile, the requirements related to the amount of time you have spent in the U.S. are slightly more complicated. For starters, you have to be able to establish that you’ve held continuous residency in the country for at least five years, and that you’ve been physically present in the country for 30 months during this same time period. A big reason these and other requirements are in place is to ensure that only those individuals who are committed to living in the country are granted citizenship.

 Some exceptions possible

 There are some exceptions that can help hasten the process of becoming a naturalized citizen. The chief factor when it comes to these exceptions is marriage. For instance, instead of having to live in the U.S. for five years prior to filing your application, married applicants are only required to have lived in the country for three years. Similarly, the requirement for being physically present in the U.S., if you are married, drops to 18 months within the three-year period prior to applying.

 Additionally, there are exceptions related to employment that will not affect your meeting the residency requirement, provided you apply ahead of time for the exemption. Working for the U.S. government, some international organizations and companies active in research, trade or commerce overseas may result in your residency requirement being waived, although the physical presence requirement remains in effect.

 This is by no means a thorough accounting of every aspect of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. If you are interested in going through this process, it’s important to remember that it takes time and can be discouraging at times. To help ensure you’re taking the proper steps and to get answers to any questions or concerns you may have about the process, it’s a good idea to consult an experienced immigration attorney, who can provide the information and support you need.

 BoltNagi is an established and widely respected immigration law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

Are You Properly Documenting Your Corporate Decisions?

Posted in Corporate & Financial Services

Corporate BuildingIf you run a corporation, there are rules by which owners must abide in order to remain in compliance with territorial and federal laws. A failure to do so could result in serious issues for the corporation and its owners, who could suddenly find themselves liable for the business’s debts. Thus, it’s important to keep thorough records of all official corporate decisions.

The process of making decisions within a corporation can actually be somewhat complicated, as it depends on the different roles played by different people within the organization. The key actors in a corporation are the shareholders, the board of directors, the officers and the employees. The board makes many of the important decisions, and it tends to have control over large swaths of the organization and its business transactions.

 It’s also important to note that the size of the corporation can make a difference in how the different roles are enacted. In larger corporations, different individuals generally occupy the various roles, but in small closely-held corporations, it’s fairly common for multiple roles to be occupied by the same people, which means there are not as many individuals involved in decision-making processes.

 Although a good rule of thumb is to keep written records of all decisions made by actors at any level of the corporation, documenting formal decisions that the shareholders or board of directors make is crucial. Typically, these records are kept in the form of meeting minutes or consent resolutions, both of which help protect the status of your corporation and provide evidence that the corporation is making decisions in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. Some of the situations in which written documentation should be kept include annual meetings, stock issuances, property purchases, loan or credit approval and tax-related decisions.

In most corporations, a secretary or other officer will be charged with keeping written minutes during meetings, but other members of the corporation may also be responsible for keeping records and holding onto documentation. It is in the best interest of the corporation itself, its owners and others within it, and it’s also just good business policy.  The principals at the corporation shall also ensure that board and shareholders meetings are regularly held, with proper notice given, in accordance with the corporations bylaws.

Keeping records of your corporation’s decisions is only one aspect of your company’s recordkeeping. Others, of course, include keeping accurate and thorough financial records and personnel records. In general, your corporation will benefit from responsible and consistent recordkeeping, and having systems in place that foster a culture of documentation can play a major role in keeping your corporation in compliance.

 BoltNagi is a widely respected and established business and corporate law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

St. Thomas Business Camp Helps Entrepreneurs Learn Valuable Strategies

Posted in Community Affairs

Community LogoA recent weekend training program drew more than 100 current and aspiring small business owners to the Cardiac Center at the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix, where participants received instruction and advice from a charismatic and renowned lecturer. Small Business Camp Weekend is held regularly on the island and directed by Andrew Morrison, President of Small Business Camp and formerly the head of a direct marketing firm that worked with Fortune 500 companies.

 As a free program, Small Business Camp Weekend is able to attract attendees from various industries and socioeconomic spheres, ranging from executives and entrepreneurs to nonprofit leaders and individuals who simply have ideas for businesses they are interested in pursuing. There are also members of the general public who have an interest in small business formation.

 The focus of the event is on developing the resources and materials integral to starting a new business, with Morrison zeroing in on five steps in particular that he suggests will allow a business to grow in just 16 weeks. These steps include taking inventory, listening to opportunities, developing a business model, building a team and identifying and reaching a specific milestone within that timeframe. Participants are then encouraged to put these steps and ideas into practice as part of a 16-week challenge.

Morrison also focuses on ways in which a new business owner can promote a business, both during the initial stages and in the long term. Through strategic use of social media, the development of promotional videos, a quality website and the distribution of press releases, articles and other written materials, Morrison says a nascent business can create buzz and begin building a strong reputation.

 As president of Small Business Camp, Morrison says he finds “the U.S. Virgin Islands a particularly rich environment for growing small businesses, with its talented, educated and hard-working population.” Through its regular weekend training programs, the organization offers an opportunity for business owners and would-be entrepreneurs alike to engage with one another in a high-energy, but supportive environment.

 Morrison has an extensive background in marketing and entrepreneurial training, and has appeared on TV and been the subject of feature articles in a number of major publications. Although the next Small Business Camp Weekend has not yet been scheduled, based on this most recent event, it promises to attract a sizable crowd from the U.S. Virgin Islands business community.

 BoltNagi is a well-established and widely respected business and corporate law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Apple Case Highlights Dangers of Poaching Employees

Posted in Corporate & Financial Services

Brussels AirportA recent lawsuit filed against Apple by a company that makes lithium-ion batteries for electric cars may land the tech giant in hot water if, as is alleged, the company poached employees specifically to provide similar work on a project that would directly compete with the smaller firm.

 A123 Systems, which has its headquarters in Livonia, Michigan, specializes in the manufacturing of batteries and energy storage systems for use in a variety of contexts and products, among them electric cars. The company contends that Apple specifically targeted five of its employees beginning in June 2014, in what A123 calls an “aggressive campaign.” Apple eventually hired one of A123’s engineers, who then recruited the four former coworkers. All of them reportedly began working at Apple in January 2015.

 At issue is whether a key part of A123’s allegation turns out to be true. The company claims that Apple targeted the five workers in question because they were involved in the development of lithium-ion battery technology — and that Apple is attempting to develop electric cars of its own. In other words, in their new roles, the employees would be in violation of non-compete and nondisclosure agreements they signed when first agreeing to work for A123.

 The reason so much hinges on this part of A123’s argument is because, otherwise, the firm doesn’t appear to have much of a case against Apple. The fact of the matter is that, although the ethics involved in poaching employees may be suspect in some situations, the practice is not actually illegal unless it involves the intentional breaching of an employee’s contract under prompting by another employer.

 Legal parameters of employee poaching

 This intentional damaging of an employee’s contractual relationship is called tortious interference. To prove a claim of tortious interference, a party (such as A123) must show that a contract existed between the company and its employees, that a third party knowingly encouraged the breaching of that contract and that the employee did, in fact, breach the contract, causing damage to the original party. In its lawsuit against Apple, A123 is seeking damages, as well as a one-year injunction that would prevent its former employees from working in any way that directly competes with A123.

 Needless to say, poaching employees can be risky business, and companies found to have done so through tortious interference may be liable for damages. For organizations that believe their employees are likely to be courted by competitors, non-compete and nondisclosure agreements are absolutely critical, but it’s also helpful provide the types of intangible benefits — like a nurturing and supportive work environment — that employees won’t want to give up.

 BoltNagi is a well-established and widely respected employment law firm serving individuals, businesses and organizations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Preventing Trademark Infringement Issues

Posted in Corporate & Financial Services

Trademark logoFor those starting new businesses, one of the most exciting processes is choosing a trademark — a slogan, logo or business name by which potential customers will be able to identify the company. It’s exciting because, in many cases, it’s the first piece of information with which most people will come into contact with the business.

 For that reason, it’s also extremely important, not just because making a strong first impression is crucial, but also because a strong trademark can help your business establish its place in the market, and hopefully lead to growth.

 Coming up with a good trademark isn’t just about being catchy or clever — at least not for its own sake. It’s also about making the trademark difficult to steal or otherwise infringe upon. Trademark infringement can create a real headache for a business, and the best defense against it comes through establishing a strong trademark during the creation stage. Several approaches to doing so include coming up with what is considered a “suggestive,” “fanciful” or “arbitrary” brand name, and then having your idea researched by a reputable firm specializing in trademarks. These legal professionals will help you avoid infringing on another business’ trademarks, as well.

 Protecting your company’s trademark

 Once you’ve come up with a unique and identifiable trademark, it’s important that you use it properly. A major part of this is paying the necessary registration fees to protect the mark officially, but you’ll also need to take care to identify your trademark in everyday use. When you’re preparing marketing materials or packaging your products, you’ll need to be sure you’ve included proof of trademark: an encircled “R” if it’s federally registered, a “TM” if it’s a common law trademark or an “SM” for a common law service mark. This signals that you’ve taken the steps to protect your company’s trademark and serves as a warning against potential infringement.

 Even if you believe you’ve created a strong trademark, you still need to keep an eye out for other companies that may be infringing upon it. Particularly for smaller businesses, you may be able to get a sense of possible infringement by watching your local competitors. It’s also possible to hire an outside firm to monitor the use of your trademark by searching for not just outright theft, but also modified, misspelled or significantly similar versions of your creation.

 In the event that you believe an infringement has occurred, you’ll need to determine the best course of action. An experienced attorney with experience handling trademark infringement cases is a strong source of support and guidance. In addition to having the ability to draft appropriate legal documents, a lawyer will also evaluate the relative strength of your case and help you take the proper steps to put a stop to trademark infringement, thus allowing you to proceed with the ongoing work of managing your business.

 BoltNagi is a widely respected and established intellectual property law firm serving businesses and organizations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Virgin Island Port Authority Aims to Expand Airports

Posted in Community Affairs

AirportThe U.S. Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) recently announced plans for projects designed to improve the Territory’s airport infrastructure in 2015. These efforts are expected to cost more than $130 million over a five-year period.

Among the upgrades VIPA announced are improvements to the Gallows Bay Marine Terminal, the development of a paid parking facility for Cruz Bay and the establishment of a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility at the Urman Victor Fredericks Marine Terminal at Red Hook.  The majority of the funds over $100 million will be spent on expanding the St. Croix and St. Thomas airports.

Why airports are important

Particularly in a tourism-driven economy such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, the role of airports in promoting and contributing to economic activity cannot be understated. By connecting tourists and other travelers with distant or otherwise hard-to-access locales, air travel encourages travel and commerce that wouldn’t be possible through other means. In addition, operating an airport, with all the roles directly connected to air travel as well as security, retail, restaurant and other service positions, creates an infusion of jobs that might not otherwise exist.

Although a thriving airport may constitute a sizable sub-economy on its own, the benefits of having a major airport in a given location also boost the local economy well beyond the airport’s perimeter. Increased air travel promotes the construction of hotels, restaurants, retail stores, convention and conference facilities and more, all of which result in the creation of new jobs, both during the planning and construction phases and while those facilities are in operation.

Another key benefit of airports within a tourist economy is that they provide opportunity for service workers to travel themselves. In other words, airports don’t just benefit the economy in the places people like to travel to — they also open up other parts of the world. Airports do much more than link one tourist hub to another — they truly provide for greater global connections.

As the U.S. Virgin Islands’ economy continues to transform after the shuttering of the HOVENSA oil refinery, there has been much discussion on improving infrastructure and making investments in the medical and education industries, and residents and investors alike should consider these airport developments as one more key move in the revitalization of the territorial economy. Although these projects are still in their early stages, there is much to find encouraging about the commitment of VIPA, the Government of the Virgin Islands and other organizations to making the airports — and the economy in general — much stronger and healthier.

BoltNagi is a well-established and widely respected business and government relations law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Key Steps to Take to Protect Your Business from a Lawsuit

Posted in Corporate & Financial Services

17602-a-golden-gavel-pvFor business owners, the ability to continue and expand their operations is always of the utmost importance, and anything that could jeopardize it should be avoided. Especially in these litigation-happy times, the threat of a lawsuit is not something you just need to keep in the back of your mind — it should be something you’re actively trying to prevent. Fortunately, there are some precautionary measures you can take to reduce your risk of getting involved in business litigation.

Conduct business in a smart, friendly and professional manner: Many lawsuits arise from simple misunderstandings, partnerships that don’t go well and breach of contract. Through good communication, avoiding poor partners and paying attention to the finer points of your business, you can reduce your odds of finding yourself facing legal challenges.

Understand and act in accordance with the law: This should probably go without saying as well, but understanding and obeying the laws relevant to your business is a great way to avoid all but the most frivolous lawsuits. Although staying on top of current federal and U.S. Virgin Islands law can take some effort, having an experienced business lawyer at your side can relieve a lot of the pressure.

Document everything: The days of having file cabinets lining the walls of your office may be long gone, but you still need to keep track of all records related to your business. From emails and memos to signed contracts, everything should be kept, backed up and well organized so that you can access it quickly when a dispute arises.

Make sure you’re insured: On a basic level, a business with an office or other property should purchase liability insurance. It is just good practice if you want to avoid disaster arising from a slip-and-fall or other accident. More broadly, you should consider insurance typically carried by businesses within your industry, which is something a skilled attorney can help you figure out.

Establish good legal contacts ahead of time: It’s always a good idea to establish and develop strong legal contacts in your area that specialize in issues related to your industry in particular and business ownership in general. A knowledgeable business attorney can provide much-needed guidance and counsel when various situations arise, and it’s better to be prepared than to find yourself scrambling to find and develop a relationship with a legal professional in an emergency.

Dealing with legal challenges doesn’t have to spell disaster for your organization, and while it’s certainly best to avoid attracting a lawsuit through your own actions, there’s no perfect way of preventing an unhappy client or customer from targeting your business. Even the most scrupulous business owner may still be sued. When that happens, it’s all the more important that you have an experienced and highly skilled legal team working for you.

 BoltNagi is a widely respected and established business and corporate law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Companies Face Big Data Legal Issues

Posted in Corporate & Financial Services

BigData_2267x1146_whiteThe power technology has in our lives seems to be increasing with each passing year, and the capabilities of our technology are greater than ever. As technology proliferates — not just through its reach into new markets, but also through the ever-greater number of devices most people in the developed world use on a regular basis — and as the devices themselves become increasingly powerful, there are both opportunities and risks.

This is true for businesses as much as it is for individuals. Although technology and the data it yields can provide substantial market advantages, it also puts companies at risk of running into legal trouble related to privacy, regulation and the responsibility to protect those represented by the data.

The key issue with big data from consumers’ point of view is privacy. As data is used in market research or provided to third parties, companies face the challenge of needing to sufficiently anonymize the data to avoid revealing customers’ identities. Unfortunately, making sure data is truly anonymous is very difficult, as a number of major companies, including AOL and Netflix, have learned the hard way.

Furthermore, consumers have to be assured that their personal data is not being misused or used without their consent. Typically, the best approach is to notify consumers ahead of time of the ways in which their data may be used and to obtain proper consent. This is often done through collecting a virtual signature or other type of consent on a privacy statement.

Proactive thinking is key

Another challenge companies face in regard to data collection is that, because technology is changing so rapidly, the regulatory system is in a constant state of flux. Not surprisingly, this makes it difficult for organizations to know for sure whether or not they are in compliance. Adding to the confusion is the fact that data must be physically stored, and often this happens in a number of different locations — each of which may have its own regulatory system in place. This is especially true when data is stored overseas.

Finally, there is the question of whether companies ought to proactively look to identify risks that could compromise consumers’ privacy before any problems actually arise. Many would say that looking for problems with data collection, anonymization and dissemination practices would be to the companies’ benefit, but even this may not be enough. In the event that there is a data breach and privacy is compromised, would a company then be considered liable? As the law changes, this question is on the minds of many corporate managers and business owners.

As technology continues to change and becomes ever more capable of revealing the most intimate and specific details about people’s lives, businesses and organizations are faced with the urgent need to ensure that they are well protected against the potential repercussions that could arise from the misuse of data. A skilled attorney can help with this process on an ongoing basis.

BoltNagi is a widely respected and well-established corporate and business law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Top Cyber-Security Issues for Finance and Law Firms

Posted in Corporate & Financial Services

Author_Hariom_Chaudhary_Advance_Ethical_Hacking_and_Cyber_Security_Boot_Camp_at_Delhi,_IndiaWith the signing of an executive order on February 13, 2015, President Barack Obama encouraged companies within various industry sectors to better combat online security breaches through the formation of organizations dedicated to the sharing of information related to threats. Although some industries — including the financial sector, through its Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center — already have these types of organizations in place, many others do not.

 The legal industry is one such sector. However, for some time now, there has been discussion of forming an alliance between banks and law firms through the development of a legal industry counterpart to the FS-ISAC, that would allow the two industries to anonymously share information related to security threats and breaches. Given the close working relationship between the banking and legal sectors and the growing threat of cyber-attacks, enthusiasm for such a partnership is growing.

 Identifying and responding to threats

 Much of the concern stems from the fact that hackers have begun targeting larger law firms as sources of information related to major corporate clients, and that have company secrets, business strategies and intellectual property that represent attractive and valuable pieces of information. However, many such attacks are not reported because private firms simply are not required to do so.

 However, the urgency of combating cyber-attacks has grown as their frequency has increased. Furthermore, cyber-attacks on law firms and financial organizations have implications outside of those industries. Some recent attacks appear to be the work of hackers associated with the Chinese government. The potential that patents, trade secrets and even information related to military weapons systems may fall into the hands of these hackers hastens the resolve of legal and financial industry professionals to develop better and more collaborative approaches to dealing with cyber-security matters.

 Last summer’s security breach at JPMorgan, which made 83 million customers’ email addresses, mailing addresses and phone numbers available to hackers, also increased the urgency for the inter-industry partnership. Particularly when cyber-attacks make the news, as they did in the JPMorgan case and in recent data breaches at retail outlets like Target and Home Depot, it raises the specter of declining consumer confidence.

Also driving the legal industry’s interest in anonymously sharing information related to cyber-threats is growing interest on the part of banks in requiring better online security assurances from any law firms they might wish to retain. Some banks have gone as far as to require that any legal firm engaging in business with them should do no bank-related business on computers accessible through a public network.

 What becomes of the legal and financial industries’ potential partnership in combating cyber-attacks remains to be seen. That both sides appear to be taking the situation seriously, however, is good news for both industries, as well as for their clients.

BoltNagi is an established and respected corporate law firm serving businesses and organizations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

What Makes the U.S. Virgin Islands so Business Friendly?

Posted in Labor & Employment

800px-Strand_St_Frederiksted,_U_S__Virgin_IslandsWhen most people think of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the images that come to mind are beaches, relaxation, a unique island culture and a relaxing, laid-back environment. However, for those in the business community, the Territory offers much more than just a great tourist destination. The fact is that the U.S. Virgin Islands is also a great place to do business.

 One of the key advantages of doing business in the Territory is its close association with the United States. Overall, the processes related to conducting business in the U.S. Virgin Islands do not differ much from processes throughout the U.S. mainland. In addition, doing business here doesn’t require using a different currency or worrying about a different tax system. In fact, the Territory uses the same tax forms, regulations and filing dates as the mainland, with the Government of the Virgin Islands retaining the ability to tax income made within its jurisdiction.

 Meanwhile, there are other tax benefits that make doing business in the U.S. Virgin Islands particularly attractive. Organizations looking to relocate to the territory can take advantage of the Economic Development Commission’s program, which offers a set of tax incentives to qualified businesses with a presence in the Territory. These companies must help meet the Economic Development Authority’s mission of encouraging the growth and development of the economy of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 Among the benefits available to businesses in the EDC program are up to 90 percent reductions in corporate and personal income tax, exemption from business property taxes, reduced customs duty and even the ability to rent office and industrial space at significantly reduced rates.

 Strong public-private partnerships

 As exemplified by the EDC program, the U.S. Virgin Islands considers the productive partnership of the government and private organizations to be a benchmark of good economic policy for the territory. The Government of the Virgin Islands willingness to invest in private industry is just one more way in which the territory serves as an attractive place for businesses.

 Finally, doing business in the territory affords companies the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of leveraging the Territory’s well-educated labor force at their disposal. With an accredited university, quality educational system and a strong history of nurturing manufacturing and construction skills amongst its workforce, the territory offers a potential pool of employees that any business would be fortunate to have.

 Doing business in the U.S. Virgin Islands offers all of the benefits of the United States — and much more. If your company is considering opening up shop in the territory and you want to better understand the options and benefits available to you, consult an experienced business law attorney.

BoltNagi is a widely respected and well-established business law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.