Living the American Dream: The Cronje family success story

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For years the EB-5 visa has been the chosen method of immigration to the United States of America by South African entrepreneurs and business people. Regarded as the investment or business visa option for the USA, the visa provides permanent residence for its applicants upon arrival in the USA and comes with a whole list of added perks. Most importantly, and unlike most other visa categories for the USA, the EB-5 visa allows for self-petition and no sponsorship is required. It further also permits the applicant to live anywhere in the United States and the applicant is free to engage in any business opportunity of their choice.

American Dream has successfully assisted hundreds of South Africans families to apply for their EB-5 visas since 2007 and have enjoyed seeing our investors obtain new levels of success after settling into their new home countries. Since the visa does not tie an applicant to a specific job or a specific location, many of American Dream’s clients have used their EB-5 visas to explore a variety of different opportunities to provide themselves with a dollar-based income. All have done so with tremendous success!

Read also: Your route to living the American Dream

This is not surprising since research shows that lawful immigrants are generally not only educated and qualified, but also bring skills and experience to their new home countries. According to The Brookings Institute, immigrants are more likely to work than their native counterparts, tend to hold different occupations and educational degrees and despite relocating to a different country, soon display the same economic outcomes as native communities.

American Dream

As such, American Dream has decided to touch base with a couple of our investors who have successfully obtained their green cards and made the move to the USA, to share how they’re doing in their new home country. The first family we had the opportunity to visit was Casper and Ansie Cronje, who along with their two teenage sons Steven and Divan, recently made Sioux Falls in South Dakota their new home. Previously from Vereeniging in Gauteng Province, the Cronje family is one of American Dream’s many success stories. The family submitted their EB-5 application in December 2017 and received their approval notice a record 10 months later. They moved over to the USA full time in June 2019.

We sat down with the Cronje family in July 2020 to hear more about their experience and business endeavors since arriving in the United States:

Casper, you were the director of a successful engineering company in South Africa and have settled into a new job at a similar company in South Dakota. We hear that it was quite the whirlwind experience as you only got notified of your appointment 3 days before departing to the USA. Please tell us more about how you got your job and what made you decide to follow the same career path in the USA?

My single most important priority once arriving in the US was to start earning dollars as soon as possible. I didn’t want to risk any capital by investing in a new business as there is so much risk involved for someone that isn’t familiar with the country’s laws and process. So, I decided that the best way to achieve my goal was to find a job and use my current skill set. Once we had our immigrant visas in our passports, I started looking around for job opportunities and found a few on LinkedIn that I liked. I applied online and after 3 different interviews over a period of 3 weeks I received an amazing job offer from one of the leading Grain Bin Manufactures in the USA.

You also mentioned to me that you are the first South African to be employed at your company since it was started 102 years ago. Do you feel that your South African experience has been of value at your new place of employment?

Yes, I do. South Africans shouldn’t doubt their experiences and skills when coming over to the USA. I’ve learned a lot, but I also feel that sophisticated experience I had in the field have added a lot of value to the company. I brought a different perspective to some of the products and showed them a new way of looking at some things. It opened a lot of doors and I believe that there will be more opportunities for myself in this business.

In general, South Africans do very well in the USA. Why do you think that is?

South African people are hard-working and with the limited opportunities we have back in SA, we are used to always giving that extra bit of effort and that’s noticed over here. The only trouble I’ve had a work so far is for being too early for work and not taking enough breaks. I believe that says something about South Africans work ethic.

What is your advice to other South Africans coming over to the USA to follow their own American Dream?

There are so many opportunities in the US. If you set your mind to it, you can make it work.

Casper, the EB-5 visa is a popular visa choice, but many people are hesitant because they’re concerned about investing such a large amount of money. Why was the EB-5 a good choice for your family?

Immigration is stressful and applying for a visa comes with some hardship. But once that application was handed in, it was a relatively fast and easy process. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, but I was ready to depart SA 14 months after applying for the EB-5 program. We had permanent residence with working rights since the moment we arrived in the USA and this not only provided us with the  opportunity start earning US dollars immediately, but we also don’t have any worries about having to apply for further visas to stay here. Our next stop is citizenship in five years’ time.

Ansie, can you please tell us how the children are doing in the USA? Are you happy with the progress their making at their American schools?

We arrived in the US in July. So, although the kids already had half a school year behind them in SA, the school year was only starting in the USA in August. Steven had been halfway through Grade 11 and we were unsure whether he would have to restart Gr.11 or be advanced to Gr.12. Upon enrollment, the school district tested his English proficiency to determine if he could read, write and speak English and he passed that with flying colours. However, due to difference in the academic year and the insufficient number of credits awarded for his subjects completed in SA, he had to start Grade 11 again. He wasn’t too happy about it at the time, but it really has been the best thing for him. He is doing extremely well, has consistent been getting straight A’s and currently has a GPA of 4. The teachers here are so invested in their students and it’s just been a fantastic experience. Divan completed half of grade 7 in SA and ended up being put in grade 8 in the USA.  So, he’s basically doing a year and a half of school in one year at the moment. The biggest challenge for him upon arrival was that the schools here require students to work on computers more often than not and he hadn’t had much exposure to that back in SA. He got that down within 2 weeks though and now types faster than me. He scored a GPA of 3.6 this past term and all his marks are above 90%.

Considering the kids both come from Afrikaans schools, we think their progress has been nothing short of phenomenal. They’re both doing a lot better academically than they were before and they’ve handled the entire move very well.

Do you have any specific advice for other South African women and moms bringing their kids over?

The one thing I worried about the most was sending my Afrikaans kids to an English school. That turned out to be the last thing I needed to worry about. They adjust so well here and make friends so quickly. As moms, we tend to overthink everything and in the end everything works out perfectly. We are safe and we are extremely happy. Your kids will be okay.

Casper and Ansie, Immigration isn’t easy. In fact, I’ve heard many people say that it’s one of the hardest things they’ve been through. Do you agree with the statement? And after all you’ve gone through, is it something you would recommend to others?

The first 6 months are the hardest. Believe in yourself and remind yourself of why you made the move. Life in the US is better for both yourself and your family and within time, the uphill battle of the immigration process will ease up.

Within the next couple of weeks, American Dream will be sitting down with more of our investors to see what they’ve been up to since arriving in the USA. We hope that by showcasing their success, we’ll be able to provide our current and new clients going through this process an insight as to what opportunities they can look forward to once they move to the United States themselves.

For more information on the EB-5 Investor Visa Programme, please contact Pam Golding International on [email protected] or visit the website – https://www.pamgolding.co.za/international-property/united-states-of-america.

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