By Fang Tian, EB5 Investors Magazine
Like most parents, Steve Liu always strived for the best for his child. Originally from Ma’anshan, a small town located in the middle of the Anhui Province of China, the former vegetable wholesaler and freight forwarder believed his son deserved a better life. So he moved his family to Shanghai, one of China’s most modernized and international cities with many educational opportunities. Liu enrolled his son in a reputable local school and started a new retail business.
After years of hard work, Liu’s business flourished. He crossed his fingers and wished the same for his son, but he was told that without a Shanghai household registration, his son would have to go back to their hometown and attend school there once he completed his nine-year mandatory education.
The Shanghai household registration -- which limits a family’s ability to purchase properties, receive local medical care and attend schools in the city -- is nearly impossible to obtain for urban migrants like Liu’s family. Liu knew that going back to Ma’anshan would mean a big step backward when it came to his son’s education and he would have to start his business all over again. He believed he could offer something better for his son.
“Let’s go to the U.S.,” he told the family over dinner one winter night in 2011.
The land of dreams on the other side of the Pacific used to be a far-away country Liu and his family had only seen on TV, but now he wanted to make it a reality. To prepare his son for a life in America, Liu first sent him to a school near Portland. Once his son was in America, Liu decided to embark on an EB-5 journey. He knew that immigrating to the U.S. and obtaining a green card would be his family’s golden ticket to a better life and better education.
A TWO-YEAR EB-5 JOURNEY WITH A SHORT DETOUR
In October of 2013, Liu made a $500,000 investment in a mixed-use high-rise project in New York City, sponsored by U.S. Immigration Fund. The family received their approval in early 2015 and was called to an EB-5 visa interview that April. According to Liu, the whole family was so thrilled over the approval that they started gathering necessary documents the next day.
However, days before the scheduled interview, the family was suddenly informed that there was no visa quota available at that time and they would have to wait for further notification.
The family was disappointed by the unexpected set back.
“We were not mentally prepared for that,” Liu said. “That was the most excruciating period of our EB-5 journey. We checked online every day and kept wondering when it would be our turn.”
Fortunately, six months later, they received another notice with the date of a rescheduled interview at the U.S. consular post in Guangzhou. The interview went very well, and the family successfully obtained their long-anticipated visas in October of 2015.
“It was tough, but we finally got there,” Liu said.
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN THE NEW LIFE
The family has settled in Irvine, California, an hour south of Los Angeles. The sunny locale boasts a large Asian community with a myriad of immigrant-friendly facilities and services.
Liu’s son was admitted to the University of California, Irvine and recently started his third year of study in economics. He has inherited his father’s drive and business sense, successfully passing the California real estate exam. He is now a licensed real estate broker and has completed several successful deals. He travels frequently between China and the U.S. to help potential immigrants with real estate investments on the West Coast. The family has purchased two residential properties in Irvine, and it was Liu’s son who completed all the paperwork.
“Thanks to the American educational experience, my son is much more independent and competent than many youngsters of his age are,” Liu said, proudly.
In August 2017, Liu’s family submitted their I-829 petition. As they wait for their application to be approved and for their investment to be returned, Liu and his wife are adjusting to their new lives.
“Integrating into the local society is not easy for us,” Liu said, frankly.
The first challenge is the language. With very limited knowledge of English, the couple has to rely on their son to address even the simplest everyday tasks, like paying bills and car repair. Another issue is how to use his business experiences from China in the U.S. He has found that building a business in his industry from scratch, in a strange economic environment, is complicated. As a contingency plan, Liu and his wife now provide airport shuttle services and rent out one of their properties to get income.
“The time for building a serious business is not yet ripe for us,” Liu said.
But his family’s new life in California and opportunities make Liu feel delighted and satisfied. The amicable local community and the pleasant weather also bring him great comfort in the midst of daily toils. Most importantly, he has found the perfect place for his son to thrive.
“He loves his new home and is fully prepared to build a career here,” Liu said with satisfaction. “All the efforts on our EB-5 journey have paid off.”