By EB5 Investor Magazine Staff
EB-5 immigrant investors move across the ocean for a myriad of reasons but the biggest draws might be to live the American dream and enjoy high quality education and career opportunities. Of the visa applicants, Chinese nationals make up over 80 percent.
An increasing trend is for young Chinese students to apply for an EB-5 visa with the help of their parents in order to make it easier when applying to college, hunting for a job or advancing in a career in the United States. One of them is Wilson Ye, a 20-year-old sophomore studying at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is one of more than 320,000 Chinese students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities. He has also embarked on a mission to make the voices of EB-5 investors heard among U.S. policymakers by performing a large survey and lobby their cause in Congress. He is using his 50-page report of more than 800 Chinese immigrant investors and their family members to highlight their concerns of the laws and regulations.
Another student waiting for his EB-5 visa is Vince Wu, a 25-year-old scholar in the doctorate program of electrical engineering at Harvard University. To be able to work in the United States in the future, he spent a year gathering the required documents to invest $500,000 in the EB-5 program. Due to the quota of the program reaching capacity so quickly, he might still need to wait a couple of years to get his green card.
Other investors opt to move the whole family to the United States to give their children unique opportunities.
One of those is Shixiong Hu, who decided to travel across the ocean with his wife in 2015 to create a better future for their daughter. The couple started to plan to invest in the American real estate market in 2012 while they were expecting their first child. When they arrived in the States, they bought a house in Seattle. While waiting for a permanent green card through the EB-5 investor program, Hu is still traveling back and forth to run his business in Beijing.
Another EB-5 investor family is Sharon Xu who decided to invest $500,000 in the Philadelphia Expo Center to give her two sons a healthier life in America. Her children’s battle with respiratory health issues each winter triggered her to leave China to raise them in a cleaner environment. After five years, her investment proved so successful that she was repaid the full amount of her EB-5 investment.
Shanghai native Jin Li, who used EB-5 to move her family to Guam, was also refunded her $500,000 investment. In 2014, her family was sworn in as naturalized US citizens and her twin daughters are now competing in badminton for the United States.
The five investors are among the about 10,000 people who annually earn their green card through applying through the EB-5 program. In 2016, about 7,800 of them came from China.
UCLA student aims to bring change for EB-5 investors through survey
Wilson Ye, a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of California Los Angeles and an EB-5 immigrant investor, is on a mission to make a change for EB-5 investors.
Wilson Ye has conducted a survey of more than 800 EB-5 investors and their family members to give the immigrant investor applicants in America a voice in Congress. The statistics student, who is still waiting for the green light after investing $500,000 in the Pennsylvania highway construction project, plans to use his survey to influence policy makers to hopefully speed up the waiting time and process of the EB-5 immigrant investor program.
“I want to represent investors because I think Congress should consider investors’ concerns because of humanitarian reasons,” he said.
Ye, who was born in Dalian and went to junior high in Shanghai, hopes that his report brings valuable info about the changing demographics of EB-5 immigrant investors. And although they do not have the same right as U.S. citizens to vote, he hopes the members of Congress would listen since the report represents EB-5 applicants who have invested more than $500 million and created 10,000 plus new jobs in the United States, he said.
At the beginning of the new academic year, Ye received an invitation to join the UCLA student government and became the first student representative to lobby for international students of the university. In March, he went to Washington, D.C. to meet with a few representatives and then brought some of the concerns regarding student EB-5 investors to the table.
YE’S JOURNEY TO A PERMANENT GREEN CARD
Ye, who has invested through the Delaware Valley Regional Center, had his I-526 application approved by USCIS in February of 2015 right before his high school graduation. However, since the demand is much higher than the allotted visa quota for immigrant investors, Wilson became one of the tens of thousands of Chinese investors who had to wait in line to receive a conditional green card. Currently, he is still waiting and live in California under an F-1 student visa.
ADJUSTING TO A NEW CULTURE
Since childhood, Ye has traveled to many places with his family to broaden his experiences. In 2011, he went to California as an high school exchange student and was confronted with a new language and learning environment. He caught on to the English language relatively quickly and performed well in school. One of his scientific research received recognition from a professor of Carnegie Mellon University who was preparing to invite him to join the university’s research team.
“Just because I wasn’t a US resident, I lost out on this opportunity,” said Ye.” I wasn’t even able to continue on as a unpaid research intern.”
Ye hopes he will be able to intern and work for one of the leading companies when he graduates college. He is part of the growing trend of applicants who have arrived in the country under F-1 student visas while waiting for their EB-5 visa approval.
This is also confirmed by his survey results. He found that more than half of EB-5 investor visa applicants or their family members are students currently holding an F-1 visas. They have high hopes in the EB-5 immigrant investor visa, especially among students who do not major in mathematics, science or engineering. For those students, the EB-5 immigrant investor visa offers an additional path to work legally in the United States after graduation.
A Harvard graduate student invests in his future career with EB-5
Vince Wu, 25, a graduate student at Harvard University, has applied for an EB-5 immigrant investor visa to better advance his career. He is on a mission to develop a new technology.
He is among many Chinese students in the United States that have started to turn to EB-5 investor visas in order to smooth their job hunting path after graduation. Even students majoring in math, science and engineering also consider EB-5 as a career fast track to be able to work after graduation. Wu comes from the Guangdong province in China.
“Even though both of my parents are medical doctors, my career goal is to invent a new technology or start my own company,” Wu said.
Wu, 25, is a student in the doctorate program of electrical engineering at Harvard University. When growing up in China, he attended one of the top tier high schools where he ranked among the top 100 of his class. He had never considered studying abroad. After high school, he enrolled at Macau University with a major in electrical engineering.
During the summer of 2011, Wu participated in an English program for international students at the University of California, Berkeley. There he experienced the American style of student life first-hand. He enjoyed the academic freedom and considered the new environment a better fit for his personality. As a result, the idea of studying at a university in the United States was conceived. He managed to transfer to the University of Washington successfully and continued to study electrical engineering there.
Wu enjoyed studying at one of the top ranked engineering programs in the United States. He was also involved in many club activities, sports competitions and had an active social life. He liked the free atmosphere, open-mindedness and diversity of the American university. He met new friends who also held a passion for entrepreneurship and formed a team to participate in Environmental Innovation Challenge. His team designed a simple device to monitor and control water usage with a mobile app. This product won third place among 23 teams and received an award of $2,500. This achievement was a great encouragement for Wu’s interest in inventing new technology.
STARTING HIS INVESTOR IMMIGRATION JOURNEY
In order to easier apply for graduate school and to be able to work in the United States in the future, Wu began preparing for his EB-5 application in 2014. He discovered there were many documents that EB-5 Investor Immigrants needed and also that the process for transferring capital from China to the United States was not simple. He spent close to a year gathering the required materials and then invested $500,000 into a CMB Regional Center project for expanding a Los Angeles office building. Wu compared the whole process of applying for a EB-5 investor’s visa to taking a high-level class without official credit.
In February of this year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services approved Wu’s I-526. When he first started the process, he thought he would have his conditional green card by this year. Due to the quota of visas granted to immigrant investors and retrogression, he might need to wait another two years.
Despite the unexpected delay in applying to be an immigrant investor, Wu has not changed his mind to stay in the United States. His current university research could be used in the design of chips that go into medical devices and he anticipates to complete his doctoral degree by 2020. When his green card is approved, he will be able to freely choose to start his own company or work in the industry to gain more experience.
Investing to give daughter the gift of the American dream
Despite having well-paid jobs in Beijing, Shixiong Hu, 36, and his wife, decided to travel across the ocean in 2015 to live the American dream with their daughter.
Shixiong Hu was born in the Shanxi province of China. He majored in Civil Engineering at university and made his way to Beijing after graduation to work as an engineer for a design company. He later moved on to join one of the top 50 real estate development companies in China where he was promoted to manager of the Research and Development Department.
Despite living in Beijing for more than ten years, he was still considered an outsider since neither he or his wife had a Beijing household residency. A situation that would cause them challenges if they decided to make Beijing their permanent home and buy a house.
While the couple was expecting their first child in 2012, they began to plan for their future. They decided the best thing to do was to apply for the EB-5 Investment Immigration Visa to immigrate and live in America.
EMBARKING ON THEIR EB-5 JOURNEY
Once their daughter was born in Beijing, the couple immediately started preparing to apply for the investment immigration program. Despite having saved funds, Hu still had to raise $500,000, which included borrowing funds from friends and relatives. At the beginning of 2013, with hopeful spirits, Hu and his wife filed their investment immigration application.
Both believed that big city projects were relatively dependable so they selected a project in Manhattan, New York managed by the US Immigration Fund Regional Center to invest their funds. One year later, their I-526 was approved while their daughter was approaching her second birthday.
To prepare for their new life, the family traveled to the United States twice before receiving their conditional green cards. They passed through ten key cities in America, hoping to find the best location to set up a home. Ultimately, they chose Seattle, located in the state of Washington on America’s west coast. Hu liked Seattle’s climate, its economic development and the lower price of real estate. He found the city perfectly suited for young couples like themselves. In April of last year, Hu purchased a house in Seattle with a yard to give his daughter a place where they could thrive and watch the stars at night.
CREATING A BUSINESS PLAN
To support his family, Hu thinks he has to restart his career from the beginning when he immigrates to the United States. While waiting for his permanent green card, he keep traveling back and forth to Beijing to work. He considers this temporary arrangement worthwhile for the sake of his family.
Hu is grateful for the EB-5 Investment Immigrant Program. From age 32 to 36, he researched online every day about the program. He also checked the USCIS website regularly to learn the progress of his application. And after having waited 4 years, he hopes to get his permanent green card in 2 years.
“Even though there might be challenges ahead, we are determined to adjust to our new life and work in the United States,” he said.
From Manager of Finance to Volunteer Mom
Triggered by the ailing health of her sons, Sharon Xu decided to invest in the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program to move to the United States. Five years later, she was successfully repaid her investment.
Sharon Xu lived in Beijing for many years, working as the Finance Manager in an American commerce company while raising her two sons together with her husband. Life was prosperous and joyous. However, every year in the winter, her two sons would always get sick with the flu as well as respiratory inflammations, which when serious enough, would send them to the hospital. The health of her children worried Xu.
“I was so tired of going back and forth between the office and clinic, so I started to look for a place to relocate my family,” she said.
Considering her husband’s career development, the Xu family in 2007 decided it would be best for Xu to take the two sons and apply for the EB-5 immigrant investor visa and move to the United States while her husband stayed in China. Upon hearing suggestions by the immigration agent about investment projects, Xu set her heart on the Philadelphia Expo Center expansion plan managed by CanAm. She believed that public construction projects were very dependable, which might also be why the other 243 immigrant investor applicants joined the project. In 2009, she received her temporary green card and was able to move.
In total, they injected $122 million into the Philadelphia Expo Center, not only creating 3,000 jobs, but also giving the center a new look. All of the investors and their families have already received their permanent green cards and after the maturity of their five-year contracts in 2014, they received their $500,000 repayment. Xu happily states that, in the beginning when she filed to be an immigrant investor, she understood that this investment capital carried a risk. After having prepared mentally to accept the risk, she did not expect to be repaid.
After immigrating to Southern California, Xu started volunteering at her sons’ elementary schools. Every year during the Chinese New Year, she would hold an introduction session about Chinese culture for the whole school and also helped at bake sales and PTA fundraising events. Due to the increased volume of new immigrants coming from China, Xu, and a few of her good friends, organized an inter-school Chinese PTA to help new immigrant families understand the American educational system.
Before coming to the United States, Xu heard the American elementary and middle school load was relatively light. However, in good school districts, which have a high ratio of East Asian heritage students, the study load seemed to be the same as in China, she said.
Her sons started out taking English as Second Language classes. In order to quickly enter the normal track of classes, they completed optional courses during winter vacation. But it turned out to be relatively easy for Chinese elementary school students to adapt to the English language and the American culture.
Xu was unemployed in United States, but instead participated in charity and community events, which broadened her life. She also encouraged her children to venture outside of school to get to know the American culture.
“My circle of friends has increased since I moved to the United States due to all the volunteering,” she said.
Shanghai family use EB-5 route to invests in their twins’ future
For many Chinese EB-5 visa applicants, increased educational opportunities for their children is one of the major reasons seeking to immigrate to the United States. Jin Li from Shanghai in China is among those parents. She wanted her twin daughters to benefit from a well-balanced western education.
And that’s how her EB5 journey started.
Back in China, Li’s husband ran a successful trading company while she worked as an accountant. Their life was busy. Li hired a nanny to help care for the twins since they both worked long hours. As the twins growing up, she realized that her daughters spent more time with the nanny than their parents. Wishing to be more involved in her daughters’ lives, Li started to consider a new life style for her family abroad.
After the twins entered elementary school, the competitive education system and unnecessary peer pressure worried Li. In 2007, she decided to apply for an EB-5 visa with a $500,000 investment in a film production project managed by CanAm Regional Center.
The family received their conditional green cards in 2008. They first came to Los Angeles, but in 2010 chose to relocate to Guam, a territory of the U.S. in the western Pacific.
“We vacationed in Guam and fell in love with the island for the carefree atmosphere and its proximity to mainland China,” she said.
Direct flight between Guam and China takes only 4 hours so travelling back and forth is much easier than from mainland America, she said.
Li enrolled her twins in 4th grade while her husband, who kept running his business in China, took frequent business trips to the Asian country. In September of 2014, the family was sworn in as naturalized US citizens. That year, they also received their investment back and started a travel agency in Guam.
The most rewarding outcome of applying for the EB-5 visa was not getting the investment fund repaid, she said. Instead it was seeing her daughters’ development under Guam’s education system.
The twins, Sarah and Grace Cai, 15, not only excelled in school but also became top badminton players. The sisters dominated in double and single badminton matches around Guam and the Oceanian countries. They also served as ambassadors for Guam National Badminton Association by playing demonstrative matches and introducing the sport to students in public elementary and middle schools. This year, they represented Guam and travelled to Israel and Australia for international badminton competitions. Their goal is to compete in the 2020 Olympics for Guam.
“I am very pleased to see their persistence and effort in badminton,” she said. “I believe they can do anything and I’m proud of them.”