While thousands of foreign nationals apply for the E-2 nonimmigrant visa every year, thousands more are deterred due to the fact that there is no clear path to permanent residency. However, with some creativity, it is possible for an E-2 investor to acquire permanent residency.
The E-2 Treaty Investor visa is intended for foreigners who are nationals of an E-2 treaty country. The United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation with 80 countries. These include not only many European countries but also the Philippines, Japan, Croatia, Bolivia, and many more. Some Arabic countries included are: Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan.
The E-2 is unique in many ways. For example, unlike some other business visa petitions, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is not required to approve the petition; instead, the Department of State, through their many embassies and consulates adjudicates the E-2’s. Basically, the entire process is handled outside the U.S. through the U.S. embassy/consulate located in the foreign national’s country of residence. Upon approval of the E-2, the investor, the spouse, and children under 21 are issued E-2 visas which allow them to come to the U.S. for 2 years. Extensions are typically granted in increments of 2 years. The spouse of the investor is permitted to apply for work authorization while the children are permitted to attend school.
Many E-2 investors work hard to build successful U.S. businesses and decide they would like to remain. However, the law does not directly have an avenue to residency for E-2 investors. As a contrary example, the L-1A intra-company transferee which is also a nonimmigrant visa can lead directly to legal permanent resident status (i.e. a green card) through EB-1C.
Something that many individuals and even immigration lawyers do not know is that an E-2 nonimmigrant may be eligible to apply for a green card. Although the law does not have a direct path, with some creativity, anything can be done. For example, an E-2 investor may be able to expand their business. If the investor can reach a $1,000,000 (only $500,000 if the business is in a targeted employment area) investment and create ten full time jobs, he or she may qualify for the EB-5 category.
Similarly, there are other creative ways for an E-2 investor to acquire residency without making a large investment. It is crucial that if you are considering your options for acquiring immigration status in the U.S. that you consult about all of your options with an experienced immigration attorney.