The American dream of the Chinese rich

By Duan Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-06 08:23
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 The American dream of the Chinese rich

A US property agent draws potential Chinese customers with promises of green cards at a real estate fair in Beijing in this file picture taken in late June. Wu Changqing / for China Daily

For many of China's wealthy, investing $500,000 in a US government program is the best way to obtain a green card - for them or their children. Duan Yan reports from Beijing.

Yvonne Liu, 22, wanted to stay in the United States after her university studies, and her mother, a 46-year-old wealthy Chinese businesswoman, figured out a way to make that happen.

Lily Zhang flew to the US to look for investment opportunities. Her plan was to move some of her international trade business from the city of Xiamen in southern China to southern California.

The American dream of the Chinese rich

She has registered a branch of her company in the US, which is a way for her daughter to stay in the West after her studies at the University of Missouri at Columbia. (Zhang would not give their real names because her project is still ongoing.)

"When it grows bigger, I can give this part of the business to my daughter," Zhang said.

According to statistics from the US Department of State, the number of so-called "investor green cards" issued to non-Americans nearly tripled to 4,218 in the 2009 fiscal year. About 1,800 of those recipients are from the Chinese mainland. South Korea is second with 903 recipients.

In comparison, just 1,443 investor visas, referred to as EB-5 visas, were issued in fiscal year 2008.

The real estate price hike and stock market boom in China has enabled the rich to spend lots of money for their American dreams. And many of them, like Zhang, are doing this for their children.

After two years of planning, Zhang's company, which makes paper out of limestone, will be an operational company in the US within six months.

"It will create at least 700 jobs for locals," Zhang said. With California's unemployment rate of over 12 percent, she found it an ideal time to invest in an American dream for her daughter, and she is willing to pay big money for it.

The $70 million investment partly comes from her pocket, as well as bank loans. Another one third of it comes from 50 EB-5 investor visas that can help 50 other Chinese wealthy people who can pay a minimum of $500,000 for permanent residency in the US. These EB-5 quotas could help her raise $25 million for her company.

Other people who own companies like Zhang's are trying to raise money from wealthy investors who want to get a green card. Regional centers, which refer to high-unemployment areas designated by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), are also eligible to receive immigrant investor money.

The number of approved regional centers has surged. In January 2009, only 30 EB-5 regional centers existed, but as of July 2010, 100 regional centers had been approved by USCIS.

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