Relocated parents face hard lessons

Updated: 2014-12-17 07:12

By Zhao Xinying(China Daily)

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Real estate and immigration

Tang attempted to renew her US visitor's visa in July, but her application was rejected. Although she wasn't give an explanation, Tang suspects she spent too much time in the US the previous year. Whatever the reason, though, Tang won't see her son until at least July, when she can next apply for a visa. By that time, though, she fears he will have changed beyond recognition. "My son was 1.8 meters tall last time I saw him, and I guess he is much taller now," she said. "I really long to see him as soon as possible."

Recent changes to Sino-US visa policy, announced during November's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing, may provide a sliver of hope and greater convenience for parents such as Tang.

Under the new policy, Chinese visitors can apply for visas that will allow multiple visits during a 10-year period. If Tang can secure one of these visas, she will be able to visit her son whenever she wants, free from the fear that her annual application might be rejected.

Li, of Kentrexs, said the US doesn't offer a specific visa for parents accompanying their children, so most use tourist visas, which have to be renewed annually.

"The inconvenience forced many Chinese parents to abandon the idea of staying with their children overseas," he said. "Now that hurdle has gone, we expect to see parents flooding to the US to accompany their children."

According to Ding Wei, general manager of JJL Immigration, an agency that helps Chinese citizens obtain permanent residence overseas, many parents are attempting to circumvent visa problems by purchasing real estate in the US, or even seeking a coveted "green card", which guarantees permanent residence.

"About 90 percent of our clients have plans to purchase a home of their own in the country where their child studies," he said. "A few years ago, the number was 50 to 60 percent."

According to Ding, parents prefer to buy rather than rent because it's more convenient and, ultimately, more profitable. "Traditionally, Chinese people see real estate as a symbol of security. Meanwhile, from an investment perspective, purchasing real estate is a good way of making money," he said.

Dan Healy, CEO of Civitas Capital Group, a US company that focuses on investment immigration and wealth management, said Chinese parents not only want their children to study in the United States, they also want them to be able to work in the country when their education is complete, but the new 10-year visas won't help to achieve that goal.

Against such a backdrop, wealthy parents often opt to obtain a green card through the Employment-Based Fifth Preference Investment Program, under which foreign investors that create 10 jobs in the US can be granted permanent residence, he said.

In Nov 2013, Tang's family bought a 300-square-meter house near her son's school, and her husband, who runs a company in Beijing, is now considering obtaining green cards for the entire family.

"Our son will pursue high school, undergraduate and postgraduate study, as well as work, in the US in the future, and we want to be near him as much as possible," Tang said.

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Few people find it easy to acclimatize to life in another country, but middle-age parents who accompany their children overseas find it especially difficult.

Beijing resident Wu Ping, who has spent more than a year in the United States with her 15-year-old son, said displaced parents usually encounter two main problems. "One is the language barrier, and the other is the loneliness engendered by long-term separation from families back home," the 46-year-old said.

Wu's words rang true to Tang Xiaobing, who accompanied her 14-year-old son to the US in 2013.

The history graduate speaks little English, so she relied on her younger sister, who lives in the US, to communicate with the school about her son's performance.

"I tried to learn the language by listening to tapes, but I made little progress. My poor English kept me from making friends with foreign people, and my only friends were the owner of a Chinese restaurant in town and his family," said Tang, who has now returned to China.

Wu's proficiency in English has saved her a lot of trouble, but she has other concerns. "It's extremely lonely living far from home," she said. "I feel sorry for my husband, who works and lives alone at home in China. He needs my company and care."

She's also concerned that a long separation from his father could cause problems for their son. "Young boys need a lot of love, guidance, and support from their fathers. I'm worried that a long-term separation may result in my son becoming estranged from his father," she said.


Tang Xiaobing never imagined that one day she would develop a talent for painting and win praise for her art.

Since giving birth in 2000, Tang's daily routine of housework and looking after her husband and son left little time for any other activities.

However, a yearlong stay in the United States brought the 45-year-old Beijinger into contact with the world of stone painting, and she's never looked back.

In June 2013, Tang began living on her own in Connecticut, while her son studied at a boarding school in the state. To alleviate homesickness and loneliness, the history graduate and sports fan often took walks along a nearby river, where the paths were littered with beautiful, flat stones no bigger than her palm. She decided to decorate the stones with watercolors and oil paint as a way of passing the time.

Tang says her work either expresses the affection between parents and children, or her own longing for home and family. A few paintings, featuring flora and fauna, reflect the beauty of the natural world.

Tang's work attracted the attention of art professionals, which led to her being interviewed by a Chinese art magazine, which also published photos of her work.

At a friend's suggestion, she opened an online shop for her artwork. "Many parents like the animals I paint and want to buy them for their children," she said. Each 12-stone set of paintings depicting animals sells for about 1,000 yuan ($163).

There's one painting she won't sell, though: It shows a woman and a boy sitting side by side on the grass, watching the stars in the night sky. The inspiration came from Tang's memories of stargazing with her son. "We used to watch the stars together years ago when my son was very young, just as the painting shows," she said.

Now Tang is back in China and she desperately misses her son. "Parents should treasure every moment they can spend with their children," she said.

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