The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa is a non-immigrant (temporary) visa program for foreign citizens seeking business investment opportunities in the United States. Generally, individuals choose to enter the program because it has a shorter approval period and there is no limit to the number of extensions you can petition for.
However, to be approved for an E-2 visa, there are a lot of initial and ongoing requirements an E-2 petitioner needs to meet. First, the petitioner’s country of origin has to have a valid treaty of commerce with the United States. If your nationality permits you to enter the program, you then have to invest a “substantial amount” in a commercial enterprise that can support you and your family. You also have to obtain 50% ownership of the organization and maintain your intent to leave the USA in the event your E-2 visa is no longer valid.
As these requirements may create a host of unplanned problems for E-2 visa holders, many people in the E-2 program are looking to the EB-5 program as an alternative.
Here are the top things to consider if you want to know why the EB-5 program is becoming a popular option among E-2 visa holders.
The E-2 visa program allows for residency in the United States for an initial period of 2-5 years. After the initial period, you can file for an extension of your status every 2-5 years after that but before the expiration date of your visa.
However, the E-2 visa only offers you temporary status. As an E-2 treaty investor, you are supposed to depart from the United States when the visa expires.
Unlike the E-2 visa, the EB-5 visa is intended for investors seeking permanent residency (A Green Card). After your initial I-526 petition is approved, you are eligible to receive a two-year conditional Green Card allowing you to establish residence in the U.S. During this time you must sustain your investment and your EB-5 investment must meet the job creation requirement by creating 10 new full-time jobs. Near the end of your two-year period of conditional permanent residency, you are required to file your I-829 petition to remove the conditions on the Green Card. Upon approval, you will have permanent residency in the U.S., allowing you to live, work, and study anywhere in the U.S., and, if you wish, a path to U.S. Citizenship.
While there are over 80 countries currently eligible for the E-2 program, some countries do not have an investment treaty signed with the United States; this prohibits the nationals of those countries from participating in the E-2 visa program. This includes countries like China, India, and Brazil, all three among the top countries for foreign direct investment in the U.S. for 2018.
The EB-5 program itself does not prohibit foreign nationals from any specific country from participating in the program.
Both the E-2 and EB-5 programs require investment by the immigrant investor to meet their specific requirements. However, under the EB-5 visa program, you also have an option to make your investment through an EB-5 Regional Center as a limited partner.
A key benefit of this option is that you essentially become a passive investor, as the General Partner of the Partnership is responsible for managing the day to day operations. Unlike the E2 visa, not being responsible for the management and the day to day operations of the investment allows you to live anywhere in the United States and seek other employment or educational opportunities.
Your total investment in a regional center based EB-5 is a more predictable monetary amount as opposed to the E-2 where additional capital may be required. Although neither the EB-5 or E-2 can provide absolute certainty, a properly structured EB-5 investment can provide a greater level of comfort to you than the E-2. This is perhaps another reason why E-2 visa holders are considering the EB-5 visa instead.