People across the world dream of coming to the United States for countless reasons. However, gaining entrance to the U.S. through visas or green cards can prove difficult –– especially for the uninformed. Indeed, that’s why it’s important for all aliens seeking to move to the U.S. to identify the best visa option for their situation. Here, we’ll explore the nuances of the E-2 visa –– a popular option for foreign investors looking to relocate to the U.S. We’ll cover everything from the basic stipulations to some of the more subtle elements of applying for an E-2 visa. Consider this your definitive guide to all things related to E-2 visas:
In plain terms, an E-2 visa is an investment-based visa within the “E” family. E visas are reserved for applicants from countries that have a trade treaty with the United States. Furthermore, the E-2 visa specifically covers aliens involved in overseeing “substantial” investment in a company located in the U.S. (We’ll break down the specifics of how to qualify for an E-2 visa below.) Lastly, E-2 visas may be issued for as long as five years (depends on country of citizenship) if applied for at a Consulate or 2 years if applied for in the USA, but can be renewed indefinitely as long as the business is operating and if the applicant meets all of the qualifications. E-2 visas are not green cards; rather, they are nonimmigrant visas, and can only lead to a green card if you convert it to an Eb-5 Investment visa. Otherwise you need to qualify for permanent residency through family, job sponsorship, intercompany transfer, asylum or winning the DV lottery.
E-2 visas call for applicants to meet several major pre-required stipulations. Some of those requirements may be outside of a person’s control –– such as their citizenship in a given country, for instance. To qualify for an “E” visa in general, an applicant must meet the following criteria:
Remember, these above requirements refer to E visas in general. To acquire an E-2 visa, however, an applicant must also meet these qualifications as well:
Though the above regulations may seem straightforward, there are a few items worth focusing on. First, what qualifies as a “substantial” investment is up for conjecture. Unlike other investment visas that have a defined minimum investment amount, E-2 visas are more vague. What constitutes a “substantial” investment depends on the type of business involved, the number of jobs created, your personal assets, and more.
Additionally, it’s possible to gain an E-2 visa without actually investing any personal capital. Employees of E-2 companies may be granted E-2 visas if they are or will be engaged in duties that are executive, managerial, or supervisory in nature. If he/she is employed in a minor capacity, the employee may be granted E-2 visa if he or she has special qualifications that make their services rendered essential to the enterprise.
The U.S. has trade treaties with dozens of countries around the globe. From Albania to Tunisia, to Jamaica and Japan, citizens from many different nations have the ability to apply for E-2 visas. However, not all countries have identical agreements with the U.S. Though many would-be applicants will be able to apply for and gain the “regular’ five-year E-2 visa, some individuals from certain countries may have to clear another hurdle.
The main issue here relates to reciprocity. In essence, reciprocity means that the U.S. will match visa conditions that a given country imposes on U.S. citizens applying for visas. So if a country requires citizens from the U.S. to pay an issuance fee for a particular visa, the U.S. will also charge an issuance fee to visa holders from that country. In the same vein, some countries have a short reciprocity schedule –– in some cases, as few as three months. The good news is, though, those three months don’t refer to how long an E-2 visa is valid, but rather how much time a person has to enter the U.S. Once in the U.S., they can then convene with the USCIS to receive their “full” two-year E-2 visa.
For your reference, here is a list of countries that have E-2 trade treaties with the U.S. as of October 2018:
The application process for the E visa includes filing a petition with the USCIS or U.S. Consulate. If filed with the USCIS, the application waiting period is generally several months. The USCIS also offers an option for premium processing. For a $1,225 fee, the USCIS will process the petition in 15 days. If filed with a U.S. Consulate, it usually takes a few days for the visa to be placed in your passport from the date of the interview.
In addition, the spouse and children (unmarried and under 21) of E-1 or E-2 visa holders are entitled to the same E-1 or E-2 classification as the principal. This is true even if an E-2 visa holder’s spouse and/or children are nationals from a country that doesn’t have a treaty with the U.S. However, when children turn 21 they will have to qualify for their own visas.
While the E-2 visa only lasts for five years, there’s no limit on the number of times you can apply for renewal. When a person renews an E-2 visa, it will be renewed for 2 years if the extension is filed in the USA and 5 years if applied for at a Consulate. The duration may be less depending on the Consulate where you apply and your country of citizenship.
Renewing an E-2 visa works in much the same way as applying for one in the first place. However, in order to successfully renew an E-2 visa, an alien must demonstrate that they adhered to the conditions of the visa and still qualify for it. Some common reasons why an E-2 renewal application may be denied include:
The E-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, which means that those who apply for it won’t have the easiest path toward securing a green card. However, that doesn’t mean that individuals with an E-2 visa can’t extend their stay in the United States; nor does it mean they don’t have other methods to acquiring a green card. Here’s how you can transition from the E-2 visa to permanent residency:
E-2 visas don’t typically provide a smooth transition to residency. However, if you can get someone else to sponsor you for a green card, you won’t have to forfeit your E-2 status in the meantime. A few common sponsors include: family members currently living in the U.S, a spouse in the U.S, or an employer. Note that if you choose to try and secure a green card through employer sponsorship, your boss will need to fill out a number of legal documents, (potentially the PERM labor certification), and the U.S. Department of Labor will monitor the process.
In addition to reaching out to an employer or family member, you can also elect to “sponsor yourself,” and apply for either an EB-1 or EB-2 visa. EB-1 visas relate to professors with exceptional ability, and similarly, EB-2 visas refer to workers with advanced degrees, and again, exceptional ability.
EB-5 investment visas are similar to E-2 visas, with several major distinctions. One important difference is that EB-5 visas do allow a clear transition toward permanent residency. This is one of the main reasons why an EB-5 visa is an attractive option for E-2 visa holders who wish to extend their stay in the U.S. However, it’s important to note that EB-5 visas do require significantly more investment –– usually around one million dollars. So only consider this route if you’ve got the extra capital to pull it off.
Though E-1 and E-2 visas share some common aspects, there are significant differences between the two. Indeed, though both require treaties between the U.S. and an alien’s country of citizenship, the list of E-1 and E-2 visa countries are not identical. Here’s a closer look at what an E-1 visa entails and how it differs from E-2 visas:
E-1 visas are reserved for individuals involved in the exchange, purchase or sale of goods/services or merchandise. (In contrast, E-2 visas are reserved for individuals who own or invest in businesses in the U.S.) Services include technology transfer, architecture and engineering services, management consulting, or accounting. The trade in goods and services should be substantial, as defined by the INS, in terms of value, volume, or a large number of small transactions. The trade must also meet the following criteria:
In contrast, E-2 visas are reserved for individuals who own or invest in businesses in the U.S. As we’ve covered here, an E-2 visa holder doesn’t have to deal with the trade requirements an E-1 applicant must. Though some people may have the potential to apply for both (including as an employee conducting trade on behalf of their employer), they vary in a few fundamental ways.
Applying for an investment visa is a difficult process fraught with nuances and subtleties. Of course, the more you know about the differences between visas, how to apply correctly, and the nature of visa requirements, the better chance you have at successfully gaining a visa for yourself. Remember that you don’t have to undertake this effort alone, though. Should you ever encounter any difficulty in the application process, don’t hesitate to reach out to an immigration lawyer for assistance. Our managing attorney Karen-Lee Pollak and experienced immigration support team will work with you to submit the most complete and thorough petition, which emphasizes your education, qualifications, and experience. In addition, Pollak PLLC knows the processes and procedures to work with various government agencies to ensure the best possible outcome. Please contact us to discuss your immigration options.
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