By EB5 Investors Magazine Staff
Mengci Samantha Shao, 28, filed the I-526 petition together with her husband in 2015. After college, the couple was lucky enough to both get H-1B visas but are still waiting for their EB-5 green cards.
“I decided to use the EB-5 program because of the flexibility it brings to my family,” said Shao, who earned her B.S. magna cum laude in Business Administration from University of Denver and her law degree from The George Washington University Law School. “When I was a student and by myself, $500,000 was a lot of money and I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to immigrate. After getting married, however, my husband and I soon decided to do EB-5 because we made the decision to settle down in the U.S. and build a family here.”
What did you choose to invest in and where are you at in your EB-5 journey?
I invested in a multi-use commercial real estate development project in Washington, DC because I was attending law school in DC, and it just felt good that I was familiar with the project location. My $500,000 investment was through a regional center.
Unfortunately, soon after I invested, the retrogression started. My I-526 was approved under normal processing time, but I am still in line waiting for my priority date of January 2015 to become current.
What was the biggest challenge during the EB-5 process?
It was the decision-making process. My parents put me in charge of choosing the investment project. Given the big investment amount and the fact that I was a full-time law student then, it was a lot of pressure on me.
How is your life now once you moved to the United States?
We’ve settled down in Silicon Valley, CA. Although we have yet to file our adjustment of status applications, we know that it will be our turn soon. We made some other investments here in CA, and started a life here. I have become a licensed attorney in CA and work at a law firm.
What do you hope to accomplish as an immigration attorney? What services do you offer?
I work as the Supervising Attorney at American Visa Law Group, a full-service immigration law firm based in San Jose and Fremont in California. Our firm represents clients in all aspects of immigration cases, family based and employment based, removal proceedings and asylum. We also specialize in investment based immigration cases, such as E2 and EB-5. Given my background in finance and my experience with EB-5, my focus is on the business side of immigration law.
What is your professional and educational background?
I graduated from University of Denver with a BS in Finance, and I went on to law school and obtained a JD degree from The George Washington University Law School. During law school, I became very interested in immigration law, partially because of my EB-5 experience. I participated in the Immigration Clinic at GW Law, interned at various immigration law firms in DC, and when I relocated to California, I worked as a Law Clerk for a multi-national immigration law firm in San Francisco. I am now the Supervising Attorney at American Visa Law Group.
What advice do you have for other investors who wants to use this program?
Make wise investment decision, understand the risk and be patient with the current backlog for China. For many, investing $500,000 in a foreign country and in an industry, which they are completely unfamiliar with seems to be a remote and almost impossible task. Well, speaking from my own experience, it is certainly doable. The investors should be prepared to spend the time and energy to study the project, the industry, and seek advice from experts who are trained to help them in these situations. At the same time, they should understand the inherent risks associated with any EB-5 projects, and be realistic about them. Finally, although the retrogression for Chinese investors are frustrating, there is hope that the situation will change soon as law makers are already working on it. I am optimistic about it.
What is the most unforgettable memory from your EB5 journey?
We switched investment project during our honeymoon in Hawaii! I had made the investment decision and was in the process of securing documents for proof of source of fund, then during our honeymoon, I thought, wouldn’t it speed things up if we can find a project that already has I-526 approvals? So, I talked to the regional center, and luckily, there was one! I vividly remember that because of the time difference in Hawaii, we were replying to emails in the early morning. It was a very interesting experience.
How do you think being both an EB-5 investor and an immigration attorney will benefit you and your clients?
As an immigration attorney, I understand the relevant law governing the EB-5 program, the legal risks associated EB-5 cases, and of course the procedures. As an EB-5 investor, I understand the concerns from an investor’s stand point. As a Chinese investor, I have personal experience with regards to getting evidence of source of funds from local authorities, transferring funds out of the country and documenting each transaction. I think being an EB-5 investor myself, clients will have more confidence in my representation, and my personal EB-5 experience enables me to better represent my clients.
How has the retrogression and wait time impacted you?
My I-526 was approved and I am still waiting in line to adjust status. My hope initially was that I would be able to benefit from the program upon graduation from law school, so that I don’t have to seek a H-1B job, which is subject to the quota. Because of the retrogression, this didn’t happen, but luckily both my husband and I were able to find jobs and get our H-1Bs. That said, I don’t regret making the investment because we will still obtain our legal permanent residency sooner using the EB-5 program than going through the PERM and EB-2, which is an employer sponsored green card.