As the leading provider of EB-5 offerings in the South African market, American Dream has helped hundreds of South African families immigrate to the United States over the past decade. The company has aimed to not only provide its investors with access to the best EB-5 investment offerings available, but to also support them throughout their entire immigration process. Stuart Ferguson, American Dream CEO, explains, “We work with people’s dreams and hopes of a brighter future. The relationships we form with our clients are truly the heart of our business and stretch across many, many years’’.
Over the past couple of months, American Dream has been touching base with several of their investors that have successfully transitioned to life in USA and will be showcasing an interview with a different family each month. For this month’s interview, we’re talking to Rohan and Jean-Marie Viljoen, who along with their 3 young daughters, recently moved to Dallas, TX. The family may seem familiar to our audience, as they were also featured in the American Dream tv advert last year.
- This isn’t the first time American Dream has touched base with yourselves during your immigration process as you were also involved in some advertising for us last year. The setting has changed a bit in the past couple of months though. How does it feel to finally have your own immigration dreams come true?
It feels great. We’ve only been in the USA for 2 months, so it’s still early days for our family. So far, we’re very happy and we think we’re adjusting very well.
- Immigration is a time-consuming process and the adjudication process of the EB-5 process can take a couple of years. How long did it take from applying to arriving in the USA?
It was exactly two years from the time we invested and filed our immigration petition with USCIS until we entered the USA.
We should mention though that we delayed the process a bit to allow for our baby to be born in South Africa since Jean-Marie really wanted to have the baby with the same medical team and in the same hospital as where her older sisters had been born. Luckily, the EB-5 program is rather flexible in that sense and you can work with the timeline a bit.
- Speaking of the EB-5, I remember the USA wasn’t your first choice. Where did you consider going first and why did you change your minds?
Our immigration endeavor was actually a family initiative. We wanted to move our entire family, which consisted of five households, and were looking for a country and visa options that would make that possible. We initially considered Australia and spent a lot of time and money researching our options, but we went over, had a look around and had many concerns. Besides the high living costs and limited business opportunities available to us, we just couldn’t find a solid visa option that would get everyone over and keep them over. Unfortunately, not all immigration options are equal.
So, we returned to South Africa a bit despondent and one the way home from the airport, we actually heard an advert for the American Dream and the EB-5 program over the radio. We decided to look into it and as the cliché goes, the rest was history.
- What made the EB-5 program different than the other options available to you?
We never looked at the USA when we started with our immigration journey. Not because we wouldn’t want to move here, but because we thought it would be too hard to get in. We just assumed that it wasn’t even an option, so we were very surprised when we found out the criteria for the EB-5 was so simple; The investor had to be of good standing, so you can’t be a hardened criminal, and you needed to be able to prove that the funds used to make the investment were lawfully obtained.
That really evened the playing field for our family since we easily met that criteria. There were no restrictions on age, health, education or work experience. Our entire family was eligible and stood a very good chance on being approved, which is exactly what happened.
The visa also provided Permanent Residence from the onset. There were thus no concerns regarding intermediary visas or losing your visas because the company you work went bankrupt or you lost your job. It’s a straight path to citizenship. So, it met all our criteria. The EB-5 got you to the USA and it kept you in the USA.
- The only hurdle left is the high investment amount, which increased to $900 000 in November 2019. How confident do you feel that your money will be returned to you at the end of your investment period?
The EB-5 is expensive, and I think all investors ask this question many times before they conclude this process. We’re very confident that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. As you know, we did a lot of research and due diligence on American Dream and its project offerings before investing. We looked long and hard and we couldn’t find anything that even remotely compared to the company and its value-added services.
It also helps that American Dream has a long track record of investors that went before us that we could actually speak to.
- Enough on the process, how are you guys doing now that you’re finally in the US? We are very excited to be in touch so soon after your move
We are absolutely loving it and we have been welcomed with open arms. We have never met people as kind and supportive as the Texans have been. Fellow South Africans in the area have also provided tremendous support. It’s important for people that immigrate to reach out.
Everyone warns you that immigration is difficult, and I think we mentally prepared ourselves to expect a difficult time. We did a lot of research and knew where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do before we arrived. But even in doing so, we still experienced a few surprises as we learned how the American system works.
- What were your first priorities after setting foot in the USA? Were you able to achieve these quite easily?
Our first priorities were to get the basics of our new lives sorted as soon as possible and to get our children settled in school. We were thankfully able to secure a place to live prior to our arrival and that helped us a lot since you need to have a semi-permanent address for nearly everything in the USA. You will be surprised how much is done via the postal system here.
Having that settled, we set up house and bought furniture and a car. Put the kids in school and started applying for jobs. Everyone was going to school and working by around Week 6. It really helped us that we were able to achieve all of this in such a short time.
- And, what have you found to be hardest part of your move?
The loss of familiarity. Learning a completely new system and establishing a new routine in our home has been our biggest challenge. In South Africa, we had a general idea of how most things worked and where to source required services. Here, we needed to start from scratch and re-learn everything. Some changes were obvious, like driving on a different side of the road, working with the imperial measuring system and wearing winter coats in December instead of shorts and flops.
Other changes were more subtle and small things could become very overwhelming. This is a silly example, but little choices, like what butter to buy became very time consuming since you first need to establish which store sells butter and then you have 30 options of butter to choose from. In South Africa, you know to drive to Woolworths, Pick & Pay or Checkers…and you buy Stork, Flora or Rama. Here, well, let’s just say we’re still deciding whether we prefer a conventional tub of butter, a squirting bottle butter or a spray bottle of butter. Once we’ve established our preferred container, we will start focusing on the brand.
- Do you have any advice for the families following in your footsteps?
Give yourself the gift of time. You start over in the USA and you completely re-establish yourself both financially and socially. We had to consciously make the decision not to compare our lives in the USA to our lives back in South Africa.
Don’t be too hard on yourself at the beginning. Set realistic goals, but also give yourselves some grace to achieve those goals. You don’t have to get everything done in the first week, month, or even year. Take your time, enjoy where you are and know, everything will fall back into place eventually.
Regarded as the investment visa option for the USA, the EB-5 program provides its investors with permanent residence for themselves and their direct family members upon arrival in the USA. Further benefits include the ability to self-petition, which unlike most other visa categories for the USA, means no sponsorship is required. In addition, the program further also permits the investor to live anywhere in the United States and do any work they please. Please contact American Dream for more information today.