Visa change­may boost tourism to the US

Ex­tended du­ra­tions will en­able Chi­nese trav­el­ers eas­ier ac­cess to the United States, but could also re­sult in a surge in wealthy na­tion­als mov­ing away for good, asWang Qian re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA -

Since she gave birth to her first child in the United States in 2011, WuNa, a 34-year-old in Beijing, has been con­sid­er­ing “buy­ing” her way into the coun­try.

How­ever, her US en­try ticket— the EB-5 Visa Pro­gram— re­quires a min­i­mum in­vest­ment of $500,000 and the cre­ation of at least 10 full-time jobs.

Un­der the pro­gram, if for­eign in­vestors fi­nance cer­tain com­mer­cial projects and ful­fill a num­ber of re­quire­ments, they and their fam­i­lies can ob­tain per­ma­nent res­i­dence in the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to the US Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices.

Wu’s hus­band owns a fac­tory in­He­bei prov­ince. The business gen­er­ates an­nual rev­enue of mil­lions of yuan, but the fam­ily is still hes­i­tant about ap­ply­ing for so-called in­vest­ment im­mi­gra­tion be­cause of the risks as­so­ci­ated with such projects and the uncer­tain­ties in­her­ent in liv­ing in a strange coun­try.

SowhenUSPres­i­den­tBarack Obama an­nounced a deal to ex­tend visas forChi­nese vis­i­tors to theUS for up to 10 years, Wu was flooded with newhopes for her “Amer­i­can dream”.

“The new visa pol­icy means I can go to the US any­time I want within a 10-year pe­riod, and gain com­pre­hen­sive knowl­edge about the coun­try be­fore mak­ing a decision about liv­ing there,” she said with a smile.

Un­der the new bi­lat­eral pol­icy, which came into ef­fect on Nov 12, China and the US have ex­tended the du­ra­tion of mul­ti­ple-en­try, short-term tourist and business visas from one year to 10, and stu­dent visas have been ex­tended from one year to five. Be­fore the change, cit­i­zens of both coun­ties had to re­new their business, tourist, and stu­dent visas an­nu­ally.

Yang Ping, a lawyer with the Global In­vest­ment Im­mi­gra­tion Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion, said the new pol­icy is good news for Chi­nese in­vestors who are con­sid­er­ing em­i­grat­ing be­cause it will helpthem­make a ra­tio­nal choice.

How­ever, he said, the new visa pro­gram doesn’t mean the stan­dards of el­i­gi­bil­ity for aUS visa will be loos­ened, and the du­ra­tion of each visit will still be de­ter­mined by US Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers.

“As a re­sult, the new visa pro­gram is not that help­ful to peo­ple who in­tend to stay in theUS for a long time, so more Chi­nese will choose in­vest­ment im­mi­gra­tion to the US,” Yang said.

The lat­est statis­tics show that of the 10,692 EB-5 visas is­sued from Oc­to­ber 2013 and Septem­ber, 9,128 went to Chi­nese na­tion­als.

John Dey­ong Hu, a lawyer with The La­wOf­fice ofHu and As­so­ciates, said most of his clients who opt for in­vest­ment im­mi­gra­tion cite bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion for their chil­dren, and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors such as safer food and cleaner air and wa­ter as the prime rea­sons, and th­ese fac­tors will not be in­flu­enced by the change in the visa pol­icy.

While some travel in­dus­try in­sid­ers be­lieve the new visa pol­icy will have lit­tle im­pact on in­vest­ment im­mi­gra­tion in China, many agen­cies be­lieve it will re­sult in a surge in the num­ber of Chi­nese trav­el­ing to the US.

Diana Dai, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor of vo­ca­tions at Ctrip In­ter­na­tional Travel Ser­vice Co in Shang­hai, said the company has no­ticed a sig­nif­i­cant rise in in­quiries about travel to the US, and there are only a limited num­ber of places left for the Christ­mas tours it has or­ga­nized.

Gao Xing, CEO of Qu­nar, an on­line travel agency, told Beijing News that the change to the visa pol­icy will make life much eas­ier for stu­dents and busi­ness­peo­ple who want to travel to the US.

With the in­creas­ing num­ber of flights and the greater con­ve­nience in procur­ing a visa, an in­creas­ing num­ber of Chi­nese will visit the US for business, study, or leisure, and Gao’s company has al­ready started to fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing new­tour pro­grams for 2015.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment re­leased by the White House on Nov 10, 1.8 mil­lion Chi­nese vis­ited theUS in 2013, con­tribut­ing $21.1 bil­lion to the econ­omy and sup­port­ing more than 109,000 jobs.

As in­comes in China con­tinue to rise, the num­ber of Chi­nese cit­i­zens able to af­ford in­ter­na­tional travel and tourism will hit about 7.3 mil­lion by 2021, con­tribut­ing nearly $85 bil­lion a year to the US econ­omy and sup­port­ing 440,000 jobs, the state­ment said, adding that a com­pet­i­tive visa pol­icy is needed to se­cure the US as the cho­sen des­ti­na­tion for mil­lions ofChi­nese trav­el­ers, who cite the ease of ob­tain­ing a visa as the sec­ond most im­por­tant fac­tor in de­cid­ing where to travel. Cost re­mains the most im­por­tant rea­son.

In ad­di­tion to the ex­pected rise in the num­ber of Chi­nese tourists to theUS, the newvisa rules will also boost the trend of Chi­nese peo­ple buy­ing real es­tate in the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to prop­erty in­dus­try in­sid­ers.

Liu Jun, a real es­tate agent in Florida who has dealt mainly with Chi­nese buy­ers in the past 10 years, said she has re­cently re­ceived a large num­ber of calls and e-mails from Chi­nese clients ask­ing about prop­erty prices.

“The hous­ing mar­ket is ap­par­ently get­ting a boost from the newvisa rules, which make it rather at­trac­tive to wealthy Chi­nese who want to re­lo­cate or send their chil­dren or fam­i­lies to theUS,” she said.

The over­heated hous­ing mar­ket in China’s big ci­ties and the ris­ing in­ci­dence of heavy pol­lu­tion are en­cour­ag­ing Chi­nese peo­ple to buy homes in the US, she added.

Ac­cord­ing to statis­tics from the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors, the largest trade as­so­ci­a­tion in the sec­tor, Chi­nese peo­ple be­came the largest over­seas pur­chasers of homes in theUS homes by dol­lar value last year, re­plac­ing Cana­di­ans at the top of the list.

From April 2013 to March, Chi­nese pur­chasers bought prop­er­ties in the US worth a com­bined $22 bil­lion, ac­count­ing for about 25 per­cent of to­tal in­ter­na­tional sales.

“That num­ber is likely to surge in the com­ing years,” Liu said.

Back in Beijing, Wu Na may even­tu­ally con­trib­ute to that surge, but be­fore mak­ing a decision about tak­ing US cit­i­zen­ship, she is plan­ning a trip to the coun­try in De­cem­ber to re­search the prop­erty mar­ket, and is hop­ing to find a good com­mu­nity with a high-qual­ity high school for her daugh­ter. Only then will she make a fi­nal decision on whether to take the plunge. Con­tact the writer at wangqian@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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