E2 Visa – Liza and Shakkel’s British Tea Room
Shakkel and Liza are an awesome couple. When you think about it, it’s not easy to make the decision to pick up sticks, leave the country you’ve built a life in and then venture to the “New World”, America and do it all over again. I’ve done it with my wife and three children coming form the UK and all these years later I still wonder how we did it.
We’ve had a great life in the US and I’d do it again in a heart beat. Easy to say now, years after everything has worked out, but back then nothing in our future was crystal clear. Shakkel and Liza are pioneers and pursing their dream, here is their amazing journey.
Tell me about where you are from and a little bit about the entities of your business.
Shakkel and Liza both lived in London, UK and ran a successful hardware business in Central London. Having three daughters and with Liza being originally from the Caribbean, city life had lost its appeal. The family visited Honolulu in 2011 and put it on their to-do list as the perfect place to raise their family, change the pace of life and embrace outdoor living.
Shakkel travelled to Honolulu in 2013 to establish the business opportunities that would fit the requirements for the E2 visa. Honolulu is an expensive city and with a fixed budget, it meant that there weren’t many affordable businesses for sale that ticked the necessary boxes. Being an entrepreneur, Shakkel began to establish viable start up ventures. We put together a proposal for a tea room in the heart of Honolulu. The tea room would be located in an open air shopping mall within a native Hawaiian store and would be the first Hawaiian Tea Room in Hawaii. Liza had her Tea Master Certificate from the UK Tea Council and had been introduced to some of the finest blenders in the US to supply the tea room with premium teas.
Have you ever lived in the US before? If so, under what circumstances? If not, what aroused your interest in a move to the US?
Shakkel and Liza had a bee in their bonnet about living somewhere warm for several years. Shakkel travelled to Honolulu for business in 2006 and said that it was the most beautiful place that he had been to; the people were warm and welcoming and the culture was family, food and fun oriented – right up our alley! It remained a fond dream until 2011 when the family holiday really opened everyone’s eyes and the place took firm root in everyone’s heart.
How did you decide to pursue an E2 Visa?
Having a restricted budget, this was our family’s only real option. In a financially ideal situation, we might have applied for an EB-5 visa. We searched across the internet and on the British E2 visa forum for references and experiences of good immigration attorneys. Our decision to go with Chris Ingram and his team was down to the following inimitable attributes:
- His website provided the most detailed information about the process and experience.
- The real life testimonials of previous clients confirmed an impression that the firm was authentic and genuine in dealing with their clients and their issues.
- After our first consultation meeting, there was immediate clarity in the conversation and Chris Ingram’s skill and technical knowledge attended to each and every of the many questions that we had.
What was your experience with the E2 Visa process? Did you ever consider giving up? What was your motivation to keep pressing on?
The process is extremely thorough and demanding. The London Consulate is known for being relentless in their interrogation, so we were bringing every skill that we had to the table to ensure that all bases were covered (and more!). It was especially important for us to justify our idea as we were only meeting the minimum investment requirement, so we definitely had to come with a winner!
As part of the E2 visa process, we wanted to go as a family in February for 2 months to establish where we would want to live, test drive what it meant to live there (rather than visit) and work out the logistics of school, housing, and setting up a business. All of this hands-on information would feed into our application. We applied for the B2 (business visa) that would allow us to stay for these purposes and were denied. While we had to prove that we had the funds to cover our stay for two month, they felt that there was a risk that we would apply for the E2 visa from the US. This was extremely disheartening for us and because the information was imperative, Shakkel went on his own for two months and our family was separated for the duration. It was a very difficult period and we went through many doubts about what we were doing and if it was worth the sacrifice. We kept pressing on because we really felt that we were onto a life-changing opportunity and the worse that could happen was not nearly as awful as giving up.
What kind of relationship did/do you have with Chris (and his team)?
The team at the firm were super supportive. They were always available, clear and quick to respond and we felt that any request that was made was prioritized. Apart from being extremely professional, they were also importantly personable. This made dealing with them really easy.
Chris Ingram is clearly passionate about what he does. Not only is he experienced and well informed, but he has an excellent ability to grasp complicated issues and put them into context straight away. Conversations are friendly and to the point. Questions, misunderstandings and concerns were always dealt with professionalism and timeliness. Chris has organized his private online client site with great precision and attention. This allowed us to have a current view of our application at any time and to keep a track of all correspondence with the firm. We were able to upload and update documents and the design allowed us to have a very transparent understanding of what was required of us as applicants. I don’t think that they could have made it easier or facilitated it better.
We kept in touch with Chris after we moved to Honolulu and our rapport continues to be friendly and sincere.
What was your immediate reaction upon being approved at the U.S embassy by the adjudicating officer? How did you celebrate?
It took some time to sink in. The officer at the Consulate was friendly and not at all intimidating. In hindsight he seemed to have made up his mind already and was asking the questions only to justify his decision. Our business plan was detailed and presented a really good business case. We were advised that most start-ups are given two years before they have to re-apply. Imagine our surprise when he didn’t hesitate to give us the visa for the full five years? We were so chuffed with ourselves and the efforts that we had put into it. We must have skipped out of the building. We celebrated with a dinner and calling friends and family. I think it must have been a shock to them as most people felt we were pursuing a pipe dream. The idea of moving to Hawaii was so remote from people’s reality that they never truly believed that we could do it. It was satisfying to announce it to the world that we had really done it.
What are you looking forward to most about your move to the US?
A new beginning for us all. The opportunity to have an outdoors lifestyle, more family time together.
What do you think you will miss the most when you leave your home abroad?
We were not overly concerned about the things that we were leaving behind. We were just too excited and busy about getting everything together for the move. We would definitely miss the friends that we have in London. We would also miss the opportunities to celebrate important events with Shakkel’s family in Manchester and the parks and museums that had become part of our lives. But we would not miss the weather. Not one bit.
What advice would you give to any immigrant considering starting the E2 Visa application or who is already in the process?
Be absolutely clear and informed about what you are getting into. You must talk through every aspect and every question with your attorney. Be totally immersed in the process, from the paperwork to the business plan, to the way you communicate and conduct yourself. Challenge your business plan every chapter and chance. Have a good accountant who can support you in getting the financials in order for the application. Own the information. Don’t wait for confirmation from the attorneys or the accountant to be confident in your application. A fine tooth comb is necessary to ensure that you tick every box. If you don’t have what it takes – be it qualifications or finance – find a way to get it. Support your application with as much local information to justify your business case – the internet is the most amazing tool. Be prepared to live, breath and eat the process for months. It’s not an easy commitment. Be prepared that if/when you get the visa and make the move, things are NOT going to go according to plan. The E2 Visa application process is just the tip of the iceberg. The real challenge is in making it happen once you make the move.
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