by EB5 Investors Magazine Staff
EB5 Investors Magazine: We are very interested in hearing your story about becoming a migration agent after filing an EB-5 petition for yourself. What made you decide to submit your immigration application? When did you file your I-526 petition?
Tony Tang: I started preparing my application midway through 2013, and I filed Form I-526 in September of the same year. There are many reasons behind such a big decision, but I did this mostly for my daughter’s education. She went to high school in Virginia five years ago, and she really wants to stay in America. I do not want to be separated from her, and in addition to that I also like America’s living environment and setup. It is my belief that the purpose of immigration for most Chinese investors is for their children’s education.
EB5 Investors Magazine: How did you learn about the EB-5 program? How much time did you spend evaluating the project you invested in?
Tony Tang: A friend of mine recommended the program to me. After studying the program and evaluating my situation, I decided it was the right path for me to take. My friend also connected me with someone at Path America Regional Center. I spent nearly four months analyzing their project, and I also flew to Seattle to visit the project site. On that trip, I met with local governors and city officials to make sure the project was real and legitimate. I also met with my immigration attorney, Nelson Lee, at Lee & Lee, P.S., who filed my I-526 petition. Because of my legal background, I tried to complete the evaluation process in a very rigorous manner.
EB5 Investors Magazine: At which stage of the application process are you?
Tony Tang: I did not wait too long for my I-526 approval. I recently passed the interview at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou and obtained my conditional green card. I am planning on entering the United States next month and relocating to Seattle.
EB5 Investors Magazine: Please give us a brief overview of your professional background.
Tony Tang: After graduating from college with a law degree, I started working at Shanghai Labor and Social Security Bureau. In 2008, China introduced a new labor contract law that has resulted in long-term effects to this day. The law enhanced rights for workers, but it also confused business owners. Many of them were under investigation back then, and they needed professional employment lawyers to help them. I realized that I should make good use of my legal expertise, coupled with years of work experience in the labor bureau, to provide these people with practical guidance. So, I quit the government job and started my own firm, which is now highly reputable in Shanghai for our specialization in labor law.
EB5 Investors Magazine: What made you decide to start an immigration company?
Tony Tang: Through the process of studying the EB-5 program from an investor’s perspective, I have developed a strong interest in the immigration industry. As China’s economy keeps growing, and the environment continues to experience severe problems, there will always be people who want to leave. I think it is a trend, and that I should seize the opportunity to fulfill this demand.
I submitted the agency license application at the end of 2013, and it took approximately three months for approval in Shanghai and a half-year for Beijing. We now have about 20 employees in our Shanghai office. Immigration to the United States, Greece and Portugal are our main business lines. We are getting ready to do the Australian program as well.
EB5 Investors Magazine: What percentage of your clients chooses the EB-5 program?
Tony Tang: EB-5 clients take up one-third of our cases. We are still on the threshold of this business. We have about 20 EB-5 investors a year in Shanghai, and we are working towards the goal of recruiting 100 investors total from Shanghai and Beijing.
EB5 Investors Magazine: Do you partner with Path America after having invested in their EB-5 project?
Tony Tang: Yes. Currently, we are the exclusive agent of a Path America project in Shanghai and Beijing. We have not taken projects from other regional centers since we started, but we are open to new partnerships and new opportunities. We have not started looking for new vendors, but if there are good projects that want to work with us, I will definitely consider and discuss them with my business partner.
EB5 Investors Magazine: What is your take on the Chinese agency industry? What is the biggest challenge faced by the migration agents in the EB-5 business?
Tony Tang: I have always been familiar with this industry, mainly because I was in charge of overseas employment when I worked for the labor bureau. In my opinion, the hands of this industry are tied. First of all, the number of EB-5 visas allocated annually is far too small, while the processing time is getting longer and longer. Second, the program is more strict relative to the European programs in terms of source of funds requirements. The rules are so complex that it is hard to make investors feel secure. Although everyone wants to go to the United States, a lot of potential investors step back or choose another country after they understand the requirements and perceive the multiple levels of uncertainty that an EB-5 investor has to conquer. China’s foreign exchange control is another huge obstacle for us. There have been many times when clients had both confidence in the project and also sufficient assets, but they just could not get their money out of the country.
Although this industry has become extremely competitive, I still think there is a serviceable market. Throughout the last year, we have reached out to over 1,000 potential investors by hosting promotion seminars and making phone calls. Many investors approached us on their own initiative as well. Back to the question, I think the biggest problem is that the program set the bar too high. The strict requirements for proof of lawful source of funds have excluded so many people who really want to go to the United States.
EB5 Investors Magazine: Where do you see this company in five years?
Tony Tang: Our vision is to become more diversified and international, and to provide our clients with multiple options.
Instead of focusing on just one country, we will develop our business in an all-around way, because every client has a different taste. Aside from that, we will also work on building our brand and maintaining a steady stream of clients coming through our door.
EB5 Investors Magazine: Before getting involved in the immigration consulting industry, you established a practice focusing on labor law. Is there a large difference between these two business areas? What are your advantages?
Tony Tang: This is a good question. In fact, I do not think there is such a difference. Both industries are service-producing and require the players to place great importance on quality of service, client relations, channel management and branding.
Just like attorneys, migration agents have to increase their professional knowledge base and place high importance on credibility. Of course, agents have to put a lot of efforts into marketing. However, law firms also need to work on marketing, publicity and packaging.
Speaking of my advantages, my legal background and origin in Shanghai actually double the credibility of the company. Clients trust us as a gatekeeper on dealing with complex legal issues.