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Profiles in Immigration – Thai Couple Brings Classic Asian Cuisine to Downeast Maine

When Vee Napapornpipat opened her Blue Hill restaurant, Siam Sky in May of 2018, she did not know she would soon be opening a second. But the demand for her and husband Chalee Chaikaew’s Thai cuisine has fueled expansion of their restaurant business with the March opening of Siam Sky 2, in nearby Ellsworth.

Vee and Chalee, both originally from Thailand, worked in Thai restaurants in the past – they met when Vee was working for her uncle’s restaurant in Milford, Connecticut and Chalee was a chef. They decided to open their own restaurant and heard about an opportunity in Blue Hill.

“We were ready to be our own boss, and do things our way,” Vee said. She said they searched in larger cities but decided to land in Blue Hill when they found the perfect spot, a block from Main Street in the bustling summer community.

Working with FordMurray

Vee connected with FordMurray Senior Counsel Aga Asbury after conducting a web search and hired her right away based on her work ethic and communication style.

“She is really helpful,” Vee said. “She takes the time to explain everything and make sure we understand every form.”

Vee said she relied on Aga’s counsel during the petition process, which mandates extensive evidence and attention to detail. “She helped us prepare everything, and made the process go smoothly,” Vee said. Sometimes, that meant calling and reminding Vee about a deadline, sometimes it meant going through a form line by line to make sure everything was understood.

“It’s a lot of work,” Vee said of the petition process. “But every time we had a question, we would send an email and Aga would reply really quickly.”

About the E Visa

Vee knew she wanted to start her business using the E Visa for Investors. The E Visa allows citizens of E Visa treaty countries to live and work in the United States, provided they have a detailed business plan and a business that is ready to open, and show they have a substantial investment on hand to open the business and to keep it running.

E visas do not require sponsorship from U.S. citizens or businesses, giving foreign entrepreneurs and investors control over their own destinies. While E visas do not provide a clear pathway to a U.S. green card, they the visa status can be extended by two-year increments in perpetuity for as long as the business is in operation in the United States.

Thai Tastes in Downeast Maine

Between the two restaurants, Vee and Chalee employee more than 20 people during the height of the busy summer season. Chalee is the head chef, and trains American cooks in Thai cuisine, passing down recipes and techniques he learned while cooking alongside his mother. Vee manages the front of the house and operations for the restaurants.

Vee Napapornipat and Chalee Chaikaew in Siam Sky, their Blue Hill restaurant.
Vee Napapornpipat and Chalee Chaikaew in Siam Sky, their Blue Hill restaurant.
Photo: Stephen Rappaport/The Ellsworth American

Vee and Chalee have enjoyed getting to know their new home and the tastes of the customers.

“In Blue Hill, it’s a little bit fancier, and people really enjoy the dishes with seafood and duck,” she said. In Ellsworth, she is finding more orders for comfort foods like fried rice and Pad Thai. At both locations, the most popular appetizer is homemade Crab Rangoon – the restaurant serves more than 1,000 a week.

Even with doors of Siam Sky 2 opening right at the onset of COVID-19, Vee says Ellsworth has embraced the new restaurant. “It was a hard time to open, but we are so thankful for the support,” she said. With the support of their community, Vee and Chalee have stayed open throughout the pandemic, serving takeout 7 days a week.

For now, Vee said she is content with owning two restaurants. She said it can be hard to find staffing, especially in the kitchen. “We are so busy, and so tired, but it is good.”

Vee said her best advice to someone considering an E Visa is to find a business you want to work in and an industry where you have experience.

“We have a lot of friends who want to come to the U.S. to live and work, but if you don’t know how to cook and don’t know how to run the business, you should not open a restaurant,” Vee said. “You have to know what you are doing.”

If you are considering using the E visa program, or need help with your specific immigration needs, contact us for a complimentary consultation.