Lin was born in Taiwan, Taipei, in 1973 but grew up in the United States. At the age of nine, he moved with his family to Orange County, California. He attended UC San Diego and later transferred to UCLA Film School. It's there that he met fellow graduate student Quinten Lee and the two would later collaborate on two films together, the 1996 movie "Flow" and the 1997 movie "Shopping For Fangs". The pair shared directorial duties on the latter film which was screened and well-received at international film festivals. Lin's solo directorial debut was the 2003 film "Better Luck Tommorow". He went on to write and direct the 2006 film "Annapolis" and followed that up with "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift". The success of that film led to him directing the sequels "Fast & Furious", "Fast Five" and "Fast Six".