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Ma back from China next month, faces visa issue

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OGDENSBURG — Businessman James Ma is facing a visa conflict as he plans to return next month to the United States from his native China to resume plans to open an English-as-a-second-language school in the town of Oswegatchie.

In an email from his home in Shandong Province, Mr. Ma said he has been told by U.S. officials to change his visa status from B1/B2, which is for business and tourism/nonbusiness, to EB-5, which provides a method of obtaining a green card for foreign nationals who invest money in the United States.

“When I went to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for a re-entry visa, I was told that I should apply for a green card through EB-5 for my investments instead of using a business visa,” he said. “However, I do not want to become a green card holder or citizen yet because my wife and I still have factories and other properties in China. We also have family members here.”

Mr. Ma is planning to open next fall an English-as-a-second-language school at the former Academy at Ivy Ridge in the town of Oswegatchie, which he bought in 2011 for $1.5 million. Qingdao University in Shangdong Province and another college in Shanghai are considering setting up U.S. campuses there.

Mr. Ma said that participation of the other two schools is still on the table.

“No further news yet,” he said. “I need to be back to the U.S. before we can make further progress. I will go to U.S. Embassy again soon and try to get my B1/B2 visa. I hope to be back to the U.S. by the end of February.”

The two visa categories are often combined and issued as a B1/B2 visa. It is suitable for a temporary visit for either business or pleasure, or a combination of the two.

Mr. Ma said he was confident his visa issues would be resolved.

“This is not a serious hurdle,” he said. “The projects will not be jeopardized because we have other people there to take care of them.”

Mr. Ma’s other investments in the town include 102 acres of land off Route 37 by Lee Road he purchased for development of a 20-home subdivision. That would be for his Chinese friends who want a second residence in the United States, employees of the school and visiting parents of the students there. He also owns the former United Helpers Cedars Nursing Home, on Route 37, and plans possibly to convert it to a hotel or office space.

Mr. Ma also owns the former Sholette’s Steak and Ale restaurant at 1000 Linden St., where he plans to open a Chinese restaurant and specialty shops.

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