By EB5 Investors Magazine Staff
Thao Nguyen didn’t just wait for good fortune to find her. She went in search of it.
At every point in her EB-5 journey to immigrate to the United States, she sought out the most viable option to make her dream come true of raising her children in the land of the free.
It was online research that led her to the migration agent she used and who helped her choose the project she would invest in.
Nguyen, 46, was one of the first clients of Chris Loc Dao of USIS in Vietnam to obtain green cards for her family. Two weeks before the final interview, she had received a refund of her total $500,000 investment. She believes she is the first EB-5 investor from Vietnam to get her money back, which was invested in CMB Regional Centers.
PLANTING ROOTS IN THE U.S.
From her apartment in a trendy high-rise, she looks out over the buildings of east Hollywood in Los Angeles. Nguyen’s grown daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend play with a Pomeranian as scents of pho drift from the kitchen.
“It’s my second home now,” said Nguyen through her daughter, Trinh Hoang, 24, who was translating. “I’m so happy that back then I made the right decision to do EB-5 and invest in CMB, because all the members of our family legally stay in the U.S., and of course we will be investing in the U.S. in the future.”
Nguyen decided to pursue U.S. permanent residency through the EB-5 program because she wanted her four children to get a better education than they would in Hanoi. Her oldest child came to the U.S. for college, and the family was considering applying for an H-1B visa for him so he could stay in the country after graduation.
But since he was under 21 at the time, Nguyen learned she could apply through the EB-5 program so the whole family could receive green cards.
She went online, researched the program and found USIS, a firm with offices in the U.S. and Vietnam that coordinates investment through EB-5. She traveled from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City in October 2010 to visit the firm’s office there and attend a seminar put on by Chris Loc Dao, USIS’ Vietnam chairman.
CMB started in 1997, investing in infrastructure construction projects in California communities devastated by the closure of military bases. It has grown to assist needy communities and their related local government agencies in 11 states. Because CMB targets high unemployment areas, its investors contribute $500,000 rather than $1 million.
SUCCESSFUL EB-5 JOURNEY
In 2012, the family received their green cards. Nguyen’s husband had been skeptical about the EB-5 process, but once the cards arrived, he was eager to show them off.
Nguyen was happy her family could move to the United States and her children could go to public school. The family first settled in New York, where her oldest son attended Baruch College. He has since graduated and co-founded a sportswear manufacturer.
Her daughter graduated from New York Institute of Technology in hospitality management and opened a tea shop in Los Angeles after the family relocated. There are more Vietnamese in the Los Angeles area and the schools are better, Nguyen said.
Nguyen’s third child is in a medical magnet program in a high school in Los Angeles and the fourth is in middle school in Vietnam. He will relocate to the U.S. for high school next year.
Nguyen and her husband travel between the U.S. and Vietnam, where they own restaurants and a convention center. She spreads the word in Vietnam about her immigration experience and has even been voted president of an EB-5 group there.
Nguyen didn’t know anyone in Los Angeles when the family moved there, and she has made just a couple of friends. But she doesn’t feel lonely, she said. Cooking and cleaning for her family keep her busy.
“During my free time at night, I check my business in Vietnam,” she added.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
After Nguyen’s youngest son relocates to the U.S. next year, she plans to begin studying English and move to Orange County, south of Los Angeles, which has the largest population of Vietnamese outside Vietnam. The family is eyeing Irvine, which is known for its excellent school system.
Nguyen and all her family members intend to apply for U.S. citizenship.
Nguyen and her husband will invest in property in the U.S. and plan to open a restaurant, though New York might lure them back. After their two younger sons finish high school, the couple will decide which coast they want to settle on.
“My parents love New York,” said their daughter. Hoang has sold her L.A. tea shop and is scouting for opportunities in Irvine.
Nguyen hopes to get involved in charity work, which she enjoys in Vietnam. “That will make her happy,” said her daughter.