Family Immigration Led To John Tu’s Billion Dollar Company

John Tu created wealth, shared that wealth with his employees and demonstrated people can achieve the American Dream while also fulfilling the dreams of others.

Immigrant entrepreneurs possess relatively few options for starting a business and remaining in the United States. There is no startup visa that allows individuals to receive permanent residence specifically for starting a business. Once someone acquires permanent residence (a green card) he or she has the freedom to start a business in America. That is why the stories we hear about successful foreign-born entrepreneurs come almost exclusively from individuals sponsored by an employer or family member. John Tu is a great example of this.

John Tu was born in China in 1941, where he lived with his parents and sisters. He describes himself as a mediocre student unable to attend the best Chinese colleges. He was denied a visa to the United States and instead applied to a college in Germany, where in 1978 he earned a degree in electrical engineering.

“My dream of coming to the United States persisted,” said John in testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration. He recalled visiting his sister, who was living in Boston. She had come to America as a student and married a U.S. citizen born in Taiwan. That trip reignited his dreams. “My experience brought me to the conclusion that in the U.S. one can be anything he wants. I decided right then that I would find a way to make my home in America.”

His sister, who became a U.S. citizen, sponsored John for immigration through the immigrant preference category for the siblings of U.S. citizens.

As someone willing to take a chance on a new country, it’s not surprising John Tu quickly became an entrepreneur. He started a one-man gift shop in Arizona, where his sister had moved to, and sold collectables imported from China. A few years later, John ventured into commercial real estate, eventually buying a condominium in Los Angeles.

By Stuart Anderson for FORBES
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