Berkeley Dog Investor From Communist China Loses U.S. Immigration Request

A People's Republic of China businessman seeking special entry rights to the United States after investing $1 million in Berkeley Dog, Inc. restaurants in Orange County has lost the appeal of a Department of Homeland Security rejection of his “Immigration by Alien Entrepreneur” request.

Lianming Zhao wanted to take advantage of a 1990 law that grants immigration rights to foreign nations who make significant U.S. business investments that create at least 10 new, full-time jobs.

In May 2011, Zhao invested $1,000,100 in Berkeley Dog and three months later filed his immigration petition while asserting he'd create more than 20 jobs.


But, though the Chinese national owned more than 46 percent of the expanding company, federal officials rejected his petition in 2012 because they believe he didn't satisfied all of the requirements, including proving the creation of new jobs or that his investment capital had truly been at risk.

U.S. officials may have been suspicious because a different foreign national from China tried but failed to gain immigration rights by investing in Berkeley Dog in 2010; Zhao submitted that man's specific investment plans to the government with his own petition.

The rejection of his immigration request prompted Zhao–who received his investment funds as a gift from his father, the owner of Hong Shun Holding Company, Ltd. and Hongshun Furniture Ind. Co.–to file a federal lawsuit in 2013 inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.

On March 31, U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna determined that Zhao had not provided adequate documentation of his claims and the Homeland Security's U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) made a “reasonable” decision to reject his petition.

The judge pointed out that government officials found “discrepancies” in Zhao's business plan for Berkeley Dog's present locations in Irvine and Brea, including that eight of nine employees holding the alleged new jobs were “using alien registration numbers assigned to other lawful permanent residents.”

Zhao believes he was misled by U.S. officials about their demands and insists he was unaware of the discrepancies in his filings, but those claims didn't impress Selna.

“The USCIS has established that the alien cannot satisfy the 'at risk' requirement simply by depositing funds into an account held by the new commercial enterprise,” he wrote in his 22-page ruling. “Instead, the alien must provide evidence demonstrating how the new commercial enterprise will use the deposited funds.”

OC Weekly food writers have repeatedly honored the food at Berkeley Dog.

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