The recently renewed U.S. EB-5 visa, for instance, requires $1 million ($500,000 for poor or rural areas) in businesses that create at least 10 jobs.
Dozens of consulting firms with names such as Royal Way Ahead Exit and Entry Service Co. have sprung up in recent years, their websites beckoning with photographs of swimming pools and world landmarks, with the Statue of Liberty and Sydney Opera House being among the most popular. Prospective immigrants troll the Internet, browsing real estate listings and schools, examining rankings of the “World’s Most Livable Places.”
Melbourne. Mild winters. Good universities. Affordable housing. Check.
Vancouver, Canada. Dramatic ocean views. Low crime. Clean air. Check.
Los Angeles. Business opportunities. Nice weather. Beaches. Check.
“The United States is still everybody’s dream, but they worry about crime,” said Leon Zhong, president of Xinhaowei Consulting, one of the largest companies advising prospective migrants. “All in all, though, the people who want business opportunities prefer the United States. The young professionals prefer Australia.”
To a large extent, the flight reflects pessimism about China’s future. The spectacular downfall this year of Politburo member Bo Xilai and his cronies, including many businessmen still in jail, proved that shifting political winds can put anybody in jeopardy, and highlighted the instability of the system.
More immediate, there is the competition for spots in good universities, for housing, for space, for land.
“Scarcity is a very compelling reason,” said Zhong, gesturing out the oversize windows of his 30th-floor corner office at the pea soup obscuring what would otherwise be a stunning view of the Beijing skyline. “And to be frank, the environmental hazard is a factor: the air, the poisoned foods.”
Zhong, who has been in the emigration business since 1995, says that each of the hundreds of families he’s helped have its own reasons.